Cinisi is a charming town in Sicily between the sea and the mountains. It is set on a fertile plain a few kilometers from the west coast of Palermo and it is surrounded by rocky mountains that take on a particular color in the light of the sunset. In its large territory is located the Punta Raisi airport of Palermo, today called Falcone and Borsellino.
Its history seems to be very ancient, there are ruins of Carthaginian origins in mountain areas and some Roman coins have been found. At Torre Mulinazzo, remains of Roman basins were found where Romans used to prepare garum, a sauce based on fish entrails that they used as a tonic and to flavour many of their dishes.
There are various stories about the origin of its name: according to some scholars it derives from the word ‘ash’ because the Normans razed it to the ground, according to others it derives from the Greek for its geographical conformation while for others from the Arabic to indicate that these were territories of the church.
The earliest records of Cinisi date back to the 9th century when there was a farmhouse during the Arab-Norman period and in a document dated 1263, King Manfredi gave this territory to his patron Matteo Pipitone as a feud.
After a series of changes of ownership of the lordship, the farmhouse arrived at Judge Facio de Facio who donated it (together with his library) in 1382 to the Benedictine monks of the monastery of San Martino delle Scale, whose mother house is still near Monreale.
The monks set up their first settlement, which also had a defensive character, and a system of underground caves that probably had the purpose of being warehouses. A local legend also says that these tunnels connected different strategic points of the territory and that ere also used as an escape route in case of possible attacks.
The system of watch towers along the coast, built for custody and defense of the territory, dates back to the period between 1300 and 1600.
The towers were built following a defense plan by Camillo Camillani, a Florentine architect and military engineer (also author of the splendid Pretoria Fountain in Palermo) around the end of the 1500s by order of the viceroy Marcantonio Colonna.
Over the centuries, the Benedictines carry out a work of transformation of the territory with the exploitation of the land for agricultural purposes and the creation of a tuna factory at one of the sighting towers: Ursa Tower. In this period, around 1600, a hamlet formed around the monastery that meanwhile widened with two wings realized on the sides of the central nucleus of the original monastry.
In 1718 a miraculous event shakes the life of the Cinisi community when the Madonna appears to a shepherd and on that place the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Furi was built, from the name of the valley where it is located. The Madonna is celebrated in May and the festival is followed by the Sagra dei Virgineddi.
The monastery was active until 1866, its documentation is now located in the State Archive of Palermo while the monastery is now the municipal house of Cinisi.
After the Unification of Italy, Cinisi had several waves of emigrants who sought their fortune abroad, especially in America, and the community has maintained deep relations with its town of origin.
Recently Cinisi was known for the story of Peppino Impastato, a journalist who opposed the Mafia and to whom the movie ‘Hundredth Steps’ by Marco Tullio Giordana was dedicated.