Many times work takes me to visit the towns of the Sicilian hinterland and day after day, I discover that they are small caskets containing jewels of great value. A jewel among the jewels is Bisacquino, a town which is 75 km away from Palermo.
Sicani, Greeks, Romans and Arabs lived in its territory.
When I first arrived in Bisacquino I didn’t know where and what to look at first: the narrow streets, the alleys, the arches, the courtyards, the small, large and long stairways. Everything around me immediately gave me the pleasant sensation of going back many years, or rather going back over the centuries.
When I arrived in Piazza Triona I understood that I was in the good parlour of the town.
I looked around and had the pleasant sensation that it was welcoming me with open arms. I stopped for a moment, turned back on myself and looked back at the embrace.
I was pleasantly impressed by the eighteenth-century mother church with the facade full of volutes and statues. With a central portal enriched by a broken tympanum and decorated side columns that gave the unique elegance of the Sicilian Baroque.
I entered the church and even there I was taken by the feeling of great welcome, a welcome of faith and art. In the centre of the square there is a monumental fountain with four faces from whose mouths fresh water constantly flows.
I love to discover new towns, I love to enter the spirit of places and go back in time. With Bisacquino it was simple: day after day, walking through the ancient streets I discovered its treasures.
Immediately, the elegant buildings built in Triassic calcilutite, the local almost pure limestone that is extracted from the quarries on Monte Triona, aroused my interest.
Many and important shrines adorn stairways, arches and courtyards and once again merge Christianity and culture. All the residential houses of Bisacquino, next to the entrance door, they have the sacred image of the “Madonna of lu Vazu”.
There are ancient and modern ones, many are ceramic, others are small statues, many are in painting, and then placed in small niches carved into the walls.
One day, going down the staircase, which leads from Piazza Triona to the Grazia and San Francesco d’Assisi districts, I smelt an intense scent of roses carried by a light zephyr. First it gently entered my nostrils, then slowly it enveloped me like a cloak of essences and oils from the Orient.
I stopped, turned my gaze, and to my right I saw a large arch under which there was a valuable shrine depicting the Madonna del Balzo.
Under the shrine there was an altar, with vases overflowing with roses and placed on the ground dozens of wax candles of various sizes. I stood there, as if enchanted to admire that place full of mysticism.
I was in the Saracen district, the oldest in the town, a site of unique beauty, aware that in that place, among those ancient walls, there are the roots of the Busacquinesi’s past.
Bisacquino, from the Arabic “Bueickin” (father of the knife) is known for the craftsmanship of knives that have two particular characteristics: the handles are made from the horns of goats and rams and they have special and whimsical iron locks, called in dialect “patches”.
Of great historical and artisan importance are the tower clocks, unique pieces designed and built by the Scibetta family. For some years now, the old workshop of the ingenious and imaginative craftsmen of the time has been transformed into a museum.
When I visited the small clock museum, I saw it as a fairy tale place, and let myself be transported back in time to a world made of ticking and numbers.
Bisacquino, from the Latin “Bis-aqua” (rich in water).
After visiting, churches, convents and museums I decided to wander around the town. The heat of that day was annoying but I didn’t care, I was looking for water.
One after the other I saw and admired the beautiful Bis-aqua fountains. There are large and small, column and wall mounted and many have a drinking trough next to them. I didn’t count them but they were many, and all with the water flowing fresh and clear.
The visit to the monumental Calvary brought out in me great emotion, even there a mix of faith, art, history and nature.
When I thought I had visited the whole town, I found out about other sites and immediately went. So it was with the triangular bell tower of the church of San Francesco d’Assisi, second in Italy for this special structure.
Speaking of roots, one must remember a son of this land: Frank Russel Capra born in Busacchinu on May 18, 1897 and then emigrated to America.
Frank Capra was one of the most important directors and screenwriters of the twentieth century, a perfect example of a humble emigrant who became an international celebrity. At 80 years of age Frank Capra, winner of three Academy Awards, returned to Bisacquino and wanted to see again the land that gave him birth.
Another root, or rather a bulbous one, is the busacchinara pink onion. Sweet and fragrant, pride of the local growers that the good housewives transform into jam for the most refined palates.
One afternoon in late February, when the summit of the Triona was still covered with soft snow, I felt a strong desire to climb the great mountain. When I arrived at the Sanctuary, in addition to the bitter cold, a strange silence greeted me and I had the sensation of not being alone.
It was sunset, the sun was slowly descending behind the mountains and in the distance there were many white clouds that advanced like galloping horses.
I looked up to the sky and saw hundreds of faces smiling at me.
Who were they? A moment later I understood everything: they were the ancient people who lived in the valley, who came to remind me that they had never left. Proud custodians of a luxuriant land, full of history and culture.
Immediately afterwards I entered the Sanctuary and the loving gaze of the Madonna del Balzo welcomed me and I once again understood the devotion of her people.
History, art, faith and much more.
This is Bisacquino, city of the past, present and future shrouded in the mist of the Triona and the scent of roses.