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Petralia is a small town in the north of Sicily on the slopes of the Madonie mountains.
The town plan is typical of those that originally developed around a medieval castle - the upper part of Petralia consists of the oldest neighbourhoods, called Pusterna and Carmine, which follow their medieval plan, and below are the more modern parts of the town that were added as the town grew during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The town falls into two distinct regions - called Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottana. The two 'Petralie' are very rich in other artistic works such as the portals of the ancient noble houses, the cobbled narrow streets, squares, stairways, palaces, villas and mansions scattered nearby.
Cathedral Church of Petralia Soprano
The visit to Petralia can start from the Cathedral Church of Petralia Soprana, dedicated to the Holy Patrons Peter and Paul. The church presents a variety of styles because it was rebuilt with two aisles by Antonio Ventimiglia in the 14th century and then enlarged in the first half of the 18th century and decorated with stuccoues in styles typical of the late Baroque period.
Outside, it has an elegant portico with twin columns, beyond which there is a 15th century portal in a Gothic-Catalan style, and two bell towers.
The interior of the church contains works of great importance, such as a wooden crucifix by Fra Umile da Petralia (1600- 1639) and valuable works of sculpture, such as the Madonna of the Audience, attributed to Antonello Gagini (1478-1536), the Madonna of the Chain by Giorgio da Milano (15th century) and a Pieta by Giuliano Mancino (died circa 1519).
A gilded wooden tabernacle by Giuliano Mancino (died circa 1519) and some precious vestments and a silver chalice of the sixteenth century, inlaid with enamels are the "treasure" of the Church. There are also some works by the so-called “Zoppo di Gangi” (1562-1630) and an organ dating back to 18th century by Giacomo Andronico.
Other highlights in Petralia Soprana
Also worthy of a visit in Petralia is the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto, dating from the 18th century and occupying the site of the ancient fortress. It has a Baroque style façade and two bell towers with multicoloured cusps. The interior has a Greek cross form, and the church holds a significant amount of works of art, such as the Madonna and Child by G. Mancini, a marble altar-piece of the fifteenth century with numerous panels with bas-reliefs of the life of Christ and an altarpiece by Domenico Gagini (1420-1492).
The Church of the S.S. Savior dates from the late 15th century and is elliptical in shape, and also contains works of great artistic value, among which stands out the marble icon of the Gagini school.
On a rocky outcrop to the left of the River Imera is Petralia Sottana, in which there are numerous churches and palaces of great value, such as the church of St. Mary of the Fountain, which holds sculptures attributed to the school of the Gagini; the Baroque church of San Francesco; and the Church of the Misericordia, with a bell tower dating back to the 12th century.
Cathedral Church of Petralia Sottana
The Cathedral Church in Petralia Sottana dates back to the 17th century. It has a Latin cross plan and three naves, and is noteworthy because it holds many works of art sculpted in marble, while the treasure preserved in the sacristy is also interesting.
The Cathedral Church was dedicated to Maria Assunta and its construction dates from the 17th century, although there are still traces of another, more ancient, sacred building such as the late Gothic portal on the right side of the building.
Its interior has a Latin cross form and three naves. Here we can see various works of art, such as a marble statue from the 17th century representing the Madonna and Child, a 17th-century painting of Christ in the Tomb and a 17th-century marble group representing 'Our Lady of the Rosary with S . Dominic and St. Catherine'.
The surrounding region
Petralia Sottana is in front of the Cave of Vecchiuzzo, which provided a large amount of pottery much of which is now exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Palermo.
Proceeding from Petralia to Piano Battaglia (about 1600 meters above sea level) the tourist who has a great love of nature will appreciate the appeal of this Sicilian landscape, rich in oak and holly woods, mountain pastures, plants and animals typical of this area.
The agricultural sector produces cereals, grapes and dairy products. Petralia is also rich in folk traditions, such as the feast of St. Peter and Paul, the patron Saint of the town.
Be sure to taste some local products, such as the so-called 'sfoglio', that is a typical sweet of the “Madonie”; it is a pastry filled with "tuma", that is mountain cheese, pumpkin, egg whites, cocoa, sugar and lemon zest, baked and served cold, and recommended!
See also history of Petralia
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.