Sperlinga, Sicily: visitors guide to the castle and troglodyte caves of Sperlinga

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Visit Sperlinga

Sperlinga is a historic village to the north-east of Sicily. Sperlinga is classified as one of the "most beautiful villages of Italy".

Explore Sperlinga

A visit to Sperlinga will usually start at the castle, situated on the remains of a 'palace' that was altered in the late 16th century during the re-establishment of Sperlinga.

Sperlinga Castle

The castle was probably built in the early years of Norman rule, but the exact date of construction eludes us. Evidence of its existence dates back to 1133 in a diploma in which Galgania is mentioned as belonging to the Hauteville family. The castle is partly built into the rock and extends over several levels including stables, prisons and forges in which weapons were made. Also in the rock, but at a lower level, are the caves that served as granaries.

Sperlinga castle

Sperlinga castle has a oblong plan approximately 200 m long by 15 wide, on top of the cliff and about 70 m high. The main building was built directly on the rock, while below there is a hall with corridors and baronial rooms. The main facade overlooks the square below and has a beautiful mullioned window with a capital decorated with leaves. On the façade of the building are two windows and a balcony presumably dating from the 16th century.

Overall the fortress of Sperlinga is a truly monumental building, with large stables which can hold hundreds of horses. The castle is part of an ancient living environment, which includes the caves of Sperlinga.

Sperlinga troglodyte caves

The caves of the village below the castle were used as 'proper' houses which, incredibly, were inhabited until the mid-1960s. In 1924 B. Rubino, a journalist of "La Lettura", a monthly magazine, was able to visit them, leaving us a fascinating description

"The caves [of Sperlinga], which open on the sides of the mountain at the foot of the castle, give shelter to more than half of the population (...) the caves are dark, of course, except the first room, which receives light directly from outside. Often we go from one floor to the top through a sort of hole or pit"(B. Rubino, “Abitazioni rurali in Sicilia: gli ultimi trogloditi in “La Lettura”,  1924, pp. 154-155).

The phenomenon of "troglodytism" (living in caves) was historically widespread in Sicily, with roots in Arab and before that Byzantine times. To have a good idea of what this life was like it is advisable to visit the so-called “Borgo Rupestre” [Rock Village], which features dozens of different caves connected by open passageways. The living rooms are fully excavated in the rocks and  they measure an average of 2 or 3 meters per side with a rectangular shape. Within each cave there is an oven, and a few simple tools.

Sperlinga caves

Other Sperlinga highlights

Among the other interesting monuments in Sperlinga are the Museum and Churches of the city. The ethno-anthropological museum was set up in some caves and contains various objects found during the excavations, such as household or work tools including pottery and utensils.

The Cathedral Church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the town and was built by Giovanni Natoli. The interior has a single nave, a painting by an unknown artist of the 19th century and a pipe organ. The Church of Our Lady of Mercy is located at the foot of the castle and holds a wooden crucifix that was originally stored in the castle chapel.

For nature lovers visiting Sperlinga we suggest a visit the "Urban Park", also known as the "Park of the Duke", which is accessed from Pusterla  Gate and looks onto the north wall of the Castle of Sperlinga. The park has several examples of Mediterranean flora, such as aromatic and medicinal plants.

In front of the town is the Sperlinga Wood, a protected area of great natural beauty, rich in plants and animals such as weasels, hares, foxes and rabbits.

This being Sicily we also recommend you samlpe the local specialities. One typical local dish is called "frascatela", which is the flour of wheat or grass peas, bacon and broccoli. Among the local sweets "Tortona" is a dessert made with bread dough, fried in oil, and sprinkled with sugar mixed with cinnamon.

See also history of Sperlinga

Places to visit nearby

Geraci-Siculo and Polizzi-Generosa are two villages in the Natural Park of Madonie an area of beauty which these villages are well-situated to admire. Both Sperlinga and Geraci-Siculo are "most beautiful villages of Italy" of which there are 18 in total in Sicily. Nearby Petralia is another of these.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.

See also:

Map of Sperlinga and places to visit

Places to visit near Sperlinga

Geraci-Siculo

Geraci-Siculo

Geraci Siculo is a hill town in the lovely Natural Park of Madonie

Geraci-Siculo guide

Enna

Enna

Enna is a historic hilltop town with a medieval castle and fabulous views.

Enna guide

Petralia

Petralia

Cobbled streets, villas, palaces and mansions await visitors to the lovely Petralia.

Petralia guide

Tusa

Tusa

A popular seaside resort, Tusa has an interesting medieval centre.

Tusa guide

Caronia

Caronia

Visit the Norman castle and medieval old town of Caronia.

Caronia guide

Polizzi

Polizzi

Admire the views from the small town of Polizzi.

Polizzi guide