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The Sicilian town of Castroreale is best known for the important works of art to be seen in the Civic Museum and the Pinacoteca, the churches in the town and the surrounding countryside.
The town itself extends along the brow of a hill so has far-reaching views across the surrounding landscape.
Start your visit to Castroreale in Piazza Marconi, home to the Mother Church of the Assumption. Built in the 15th century, the church was enlarged in the early decades of the 17th century. The main façade features a buttress and a 16th century bell tower dating, while the side wall has a 17th century marble portal.
The interior of the church has a Latin cross form with three naves divided by sixteen columns of gray sandstone.
In addition to four 17th century paintings by local painters Francesco Cardillo and Filippo Jannelli (17th century) on the four altars, there are also eight statues by well known artists and four sculpted fonts by Antonello Gagini and Sebastiano Ferrara (17th century).
On leaving the church continue along the Corso Umberto I to the 15th century Church of the Candelora, with a brick façade decorated with a portal of “Durazzesco” style, with a segmental arch. The church contains a 17th century wooden altar with carvings attributed to Giovanni Siracusa.
A path from here climbs to the remains of the round tower of the castle built by Frederick II of Aragon above Castroreale.
Heading towards Piazza Peculio you find the Town Hall and also the old Jewish quarter. This square is flanked by the 15th century Church of the SS. Salvatore (damaged by an earthquake) and bell tower, partially collapsed and dating from the second half of the 16th century.
Art and history in Castroreale
Pinacoteca (art gallery)
Continuing along the Via Guglielmo Siracusa you will find the Pinacoteca of “Santa Maria degli Angeli”. The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli is no longer used for worship, now being used as a very interesting art gallery containing works from the 15th-16th centuries, especially of sacred subjects.
Among the notable works are a triptych by the 16th century Flemish School; a marble statue of the Virgin by Antonello Freri (16th century); "St. John the Baptist" by Andrea Calamech; "San Lorenzo" by Brother Simpliciano da Palermo. There is also a silver frontal by Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) and a polyptych of the "Nativity" by the Neapolitan School of G.F. Criscuolo (16th century).
Continuing with the artistic treasures of Castroreale, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri contains the Civic Museum, which holds sculptures in wood and marble, among which there is the tomb of Geronimo Rosso by Antonello Gagini, and a series of remarkable paintings.
Of particular note are a Byzantine cross, a painting depicting the "Madonna and Child” by Antonello de Saliba (1467-1535), a painting by Fra Simpliciano da Palermo and a small painting depicting the “Salvator Mundi” by Polidoro da Caravaggio* (1500-1543), an artist who suffered the influence of Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520).
Returning to our tour of the religious buildings of Castroreale you can visit the Church of Sant 'Agata, also rich in works of art. This building probably dates from the early 15th century although rebuilt in the 19th century and holds the "Annunciation" by Antonello Gagini, and a statue of “Sant 'Agata” by Montorsoli (1507-1563).
Nearby is the Church of Santa Marina, which incorporates some structures from Norman times.
Along the Via Cesare Battisti you come to the 17th century Capuchin Monastery, and next to it is the church of S. Maria delle Grazie, which on the high altar has painting by an unknown artist depicting the “Madonna delle Grazie, Sant 'Agata e Santa Caterina d’Alessandria”, from the second half of the 16th century.
Explore around Castroreale
Villages: The surroundings of Castroreale are also rich in monuments and valuable works of art, such as in Protonotaro, in which the Mother Church, dedicated to “Santa Domenica”, holds a painting of the “Madonna Enthroned with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Alexandria”, by an unknown artist of the 16th century.
In the church of Saint Mary of the Visitation in Centineo there is a painting from the mid-16th century depicting the “Visitation”, and the “Madonna dell'Itria” by Giovan Domenico Quagliata (1603-1673).
In the village of San Antonino, there is the Monastery of the Friars Minor of St. Anthony of Padua, with a 16th century cloister. In the church of the Monastery there is a wooden statue of St. Francis, a 16th century crucifix and a painting by Filippo Iannelli depicting the "Madonna dell'Itria".
Castroreale is also famous for the so-called “Terme Vigliatore”, the beach resorts with their healing waters. The properties of these waters were even known by the ancient Romans.
In the village of San Biagio there are the remains of a Roman villa with a mosaic floor from the second half of the first century AD. In the villa, the rooms of which are arranged around a square peristyle, was the "frigidarium", characterized by a mosaic floor in black and white tiles depicting scenes of fishing and some species of local fish. You can also see fragments of frescoes, sculptures, and ceramics.
Castroreale cuisine and restaurants
Of course no visit to Castroreale is complete without a visit to a local restaurant or two. We suggest you try some typical local dishes such as the “maccarruni” ("homemade macaroni"), topped with meat sauce and ricotta; the "black rice", which is a traditional dish that is eaten at Christmas; and finally, among the sweets, the so-called biscotti d'a badessa*.
* Biscotti d'a badessa: (trans: cookies of the Abbess] is a recipe said to date from the 'Poor Clares' in the 19th century when they were in the Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
See also Castroreale history and etymology.
Where is Castroreale?
Castroreale is located a few kilometers from the coast of north-east Sicily to the south of Milazzo.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.