The Sicilian town of Roccamena, near Corleone, is primarily visited because of its proximity to Calatrasi castle and the archaeology site at Mount Maranfusan although the town itself also has some sites of interest while you are here.
You visit can start from the ruins of the Calatrasi castle, structurally very similar to the nearby castle of Calatubo. Compared with Calatubo, Calatrasi castle was originally very well protected because it was divided into a series of three defences that significantly increased its defensive capabilities.
The construction of Calatrasi castle has been dated to the so-called 'age of the County' (1091-1130), although it is possible that the site was already occuppied in the Islamic age. Ignoring for a moment the particular characteristics imposed by the different position of the two sites, both Calatrasi and Calatubo are very similar, consisting of fortifications with defences on three levels, that each coincide with the natural structure of the rocky hill. Still in Norman times, Calatrasi suffered significant changes that again follow very closely those found at Calatubo.
In the original plan an isolated tower defended the bottom passage of the fort, which led to the first courtyard. There was another bulwark between the second and the third courtyards of the castle, also closed by walls and crowned by a third tower.
The current entrance, flanked by towers, was reached by the addition of a second tower and a stretch of wall on which a large portal opens. The main parts recognisable today are the central courtyard, made of pebbles, the ruins of a wall and a tower forming part of a larger defense system; on the north side, at the foot of the promontory, another fortified area has been identified, while the tank for the water supply is also visible.
The ruins of other walls and towers are visible in the lower part of the fortification.
Less than a mile south west of Roccamena stands the Bridge of Calatrasi (in Arabic "Gadir Sertet" which translates to Devil's Bridge) which has been well preserved and has benefited from restoration in recent times. The bridge is located downstream of Mount Maranfusa, and crosses the right branch of the Belice River.
The bridge is presumably of Norman origin, but with important Arab influences. (Sicilian medieval structures usually consist of only one arch, possibly supported by other smaller arches.)
In Sicily the restarting of a major civil construction program coincided with the arrival of the Normans. After many centuries of Arabic domination the local skilled workers had become used to constructing the pointed arch so, contrary to what happened in the other parts of Italy, this arch type also was employed for the bridge construction.
We notice that the same pointed arch was frequently used in other European regions under the Arabic dominion (the Orense bridge over the Miño, the Devil bridge at Martorell, in Spain), and also in those places where the taste was already leaning towards Gothic architecture (e.g. the bridge at Entraygues on the Truyere river in France).
Local monuments of interest
Among the other archaeological attractions of Roccamena are an ancient water mill near the Calatrasi Bridge, that took advantage of the river Belice. The mill has a composite architectural style, since many elements were built at different times, but it seems to date in origins from the mid-16th century.
Local cuisine and specialities
Local specialities to enjoy in and around Roccamena include pasta with sardines, the cannoli, the Cassateddi, and the "cucciddati", a variety of bread. Taste also the "mulune" (melon), especially during the festival dedicated to it.
We would like to conclude with a mention of the wine area of Calatrasi, created from a very ancient tradition. In the area of Monreale one of the best wines of Sicily has been produced since ancient times. Diodorus (90-27 BC) told the story that Hamilcar Barca (275-228 BC), after laying siege to Palermo, lost the battle with the Romans because so many of his army got drunk before the battle...
See also Roccamena history and etymology.