A short distance from Enna stands the town of Calascibetta. As the crow flies, the distance between the two places is about two kilometers, but the winding road that connects them is about seven kilometers long. They both are located on the summits of two small mountains. While Enna has an average height of 1000 meters, Calascibetta is a bit lower, about 900 meters above sea level.
They have almost the same climate, cool in the summertime and cold in the winter. The fog, which is caused by low clouds, envelops them very often. A valley dotted with olive groves and almond trees lies between the two mountains. It is green for most of the year and golden yellow during the summer months due to the lack of rainfall and the scorching sun.
The geography of the two places is quite different. While Enna stands on a plateau with sheer cliffs, Calascibetta rests on the slope of Mount Xibet.
Both of them have been inhabited since very ancient times as it was evidenced by archaeological findings. But it is believed that the real foundation of Calascibetta took place during the Arab period. As Enna was an impregnable stronghold, the Arabs settled a military camp on Mount Xibet, waiting for the right moment to launch an attack on Enna, which was occupied by the Byzantines. The siege lasted for a long time. While the Arabs remained camped on Mount Xibet, they boosted the tiny town situated there, developing the commerce and agriculture. Furthermore, they built mosques and palaces.
Seen from Calascibetta, Enna appears inaccessible. The steep rocks conceal some paths through which you can walk up to the top of the mountain. It is said that the Arabs were able to break the siege thanks to the help of a traitor banished from Enna, who showed them one of those concealed, dangerous, narrow paths through the rocky slopes, in the nighttime.
A further growth of Calascibetta took place during the Norman period. As the Arabs had done two centuries ago, the Normans also camped in Mount Xibet during their thirty-year siege on Enna, which was an Arab fortress this time.
The Normans built churches, monuments, a castle and the city walls in Calascibetta.
The Aragonese came to Calascibetta after the Normans. King Peter II of Aragon, who became the king of Sicily, built the Royal Palatine Chapel in 1340. He loved Calascibetta and died in this town in 1342.
This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily
Ettore Grillo author of these books:
– November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind