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Alcamo


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Alcamo (Sicilian: Àrcamu) is the fourth largest town in the province of Trapani in Sicily and is populated by 45,546 inhabitants. It is situated on the borderline with the province of Palermo at a distance of about 50 kilometres both from Palermo and Trapani and lies at the foot of Mount Bonifato.

Nowadays the town territory includes an area of 130.79 square kilometres and is the second municipality as for population density in the province of Trapani, after Erice.

Alcamo is bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the north, Balestrate and Partinico on the east, Camporeale on the south and Calatafimi-Segesta and Castellammare del Golfo on the west. Its most important hamlet is Alcamo Marina which is about 6 kilometres from the town center. Together with other municipalities it takes part with the Associazione Città del Vino, the movement Patto dei Sindaci, Progetto Città dei Bambini, Rete dei Comuni Solidali and Patto Territoriale Golfo di Castellammare.

 

Geography

Territory

Alcamo is situated in the middle of the Gulf of Castellammare, at 258 metres above the sea level and at the foot of Mount Bonifato, a calcareous complex 825 metres high. At the altitude of 500 metres (near the "Funtanazza") there is the Natural Reserve of Monte Bonifato.

The territory of Alcamo includes also Alcamo Marina, used mainly as summer resort.

Climate

The climate is mild, with higher rainfall during winter than summer.

The average annual temperature is 16.9 °C, with higher temperatures in August (24,8 °C) and lower temperatures in February (10.3 °C).

The average annual rainfall is 558 mm. In particular rainfall are scarcer in July (4 mm) and more abundant in December (83 mm).

  • Seismic classification: zone 2 (medium-high seismicity), Ordinance PCM 3274 (20/03/2003)
  • Climatic classification: zone B, 1140 degree day
  • Köppen climatic classification: CSa
  • Atmospheric diffusivity: low, Ibimet CNR 2002

History

Prehistory

Though there is little information about it, there are evidences that Alcamo territory was inhabited even in prehistoric times; in one of the oldest sites, near "contrada" Molinello (a country district), they have discovered archaeological finds dating back to the Mesolithic, approximately to about 9,000-6,000 BC and other very old ones dating back to the Neolithic during the archaeological excavations done by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi (1899) and the marquis Antonio De Gregorio (1917) near the river Fiume Freddo. One of the most important finds is an axe from the Neolithic kept at the Museo Paolo Orsi of Syracuse.

Longuro and Longarico

From the quotations by Lycophron we know that in old times there was an inhabited centre on Mount Bonifato called "Longuro". According to an old story, this settlement was founded by a Greek colony which had escaped from the destruction of the town of Troy.

During the Roman period the inhabitants of Longuro moved to the foot of the mountain so they could practice agriculture in the surrounding lands. The town was called "Longaricum"; this name appears in the Itinerario di Antonino Pio (3rd century AD) and would coincide with the Latin name of Longuro.

According to a supposition the two hillocks appearing on Alcamo gonfalon would represent both the towns of Longaricum and Longuro.

Origins

Alcamo was founded in 828 by the Muslim commander al-Kamuk (after whom is probably named), though other sources date its origin to about 972.

The first document mentioning Alcamo is dating back to 1154, in a paper written by the Berber geographer Idrisi who was given this task by Ruggero II in order to get a collection of geographic maps. From a distance longer than an Arab mile, the writer describes the position of Alcamo viewed from the Castle of Calatubo (visible even today from the town territory) and defines it as a "manzil", that is a hamlet or a group of houses with rich soil and a flourishing market. This hamlet was called "Alqamah" by Arabs. In a diary of 1185 the Andalusian pilgrim Ibn Jubayr confirms the Arab origin of the town; in fact during his travel from Palermo to Trapani he stopped at Alcamo and describes it as a beleda (town) with mosques and a market whose inhabitants were of Muslim religion.

Medieval age

In the Middle Ages Alcamo was largely inhabited by Muslim people, whose numbers declined after the Norman conquest of Sicily, begun in 1060. Alcamo was divided into four hamlets named Saint Vito, Saint Leonardo, Saint Ippolito and Saint Nicolò del Vauso. but a series of Arab revolts between 1221 and 1243 led King Frederick II to move most of the Arab population to a colony at Lucera, while Christians from Bonifato came to inhabit the town. In this period the famous poet Ciullo or Cielo d'Alcamo was born.

In 1340 Raimondo Peralta acquired the feud and barony of Alcamo from Pietro II d'Aragona. Then the barony passed to his son Guglielmo Peralta Sclafani, called "Guglielmone". and afterwards to the Ventimiglia family (up to 1397), Giaimo de Prades (1407), the Cabrera family, the Speciale family, Pietro Balsamo prince of Roccafiorita (1618) and finally to Giuseppe Alvarez (1777).

In the 14th century Alcamo had several thousands of inhabitants and hundreds of them had immigrated from different parts of Sicily and Italy (in particular: Pisa, Amalfi, Bologna, Calabria, Liguria), and some also from Spain. During this period, Antonello da Messina moved to Alcamo for three years (around 1438-1441) in order to learn the tanning techniques from the tanner master Guglielmo Adragna di Alcamo. In fact the town was an important pole of development for commerce and handicraft. In particular, it had a massive exchange of wheat and wine with the nearby towns and there were also experts artisans such as bakers, blacksmiths, tanners and weavers. During this century Alcamo was an important centre for wheat storage and sorting. In the same period the writer Giacomo Adragna transcribed "Commentarii in Persium" and Pietro d'Alcamo many works from the library of San Martino.

Modern age

About the year 1500, Alcamo was under the jurisdiction of captain of justice Ferdinando Vega, that fought against the raiding Turkish pirates. The town was surrounded by defensive embattled walls provided with four gates:

  • Porta Palermo (afterwards called Porta Saccari), at the end of the present via Rossotti;
  • Porta Corleone, at the end of the present via Commendatore Navarra;
  • Porta di Gesù, opposite the church of Saint Mary of Jesus, next to the Franciscan friary;
  • Porta Trapani (later called Porta del Collegio), at the beginning of via Commendatore Navarra.

During this period, the town was divided into four quarters, each one associated with the name of the main church in that area:

  • San Giacomo de la Spada
  • San Calogero
  • San Francesco d'Assisi (or "Terra nuova")
  • Maggiore Chiesa.

The division between these quarters was coincident with the main streets of the town, that are the present Corso VI Aprile and Via Rossotti and its continuation via dei Baroni Emanuele di San Giuseppe (called incorrectly "Via Barone di San Giuseppe").

In 1535, in coincidence with the visit of the emperor Charles V, coming back from Tunisia, the old Porta Trapani was closed and four gates were opened:

  • new Porta Trapani, near the beginning of the present Corso VI Aprile (that was called "Corso Imperiale");
  • new Porta Palermo (initially called Porta San Francesco), at the end of today's Corso VI Aprile;
  • Porta Stella, at the corner between Via Stella and Piazza Ciullo; this name derives from the name of the church Mary of the Star (in Italian "Madonna della Stella"), built near there;
  • Porta Nuova, between the present Discesa al Santuario and Piazza della Libertà.

During the 16th century there was a development in the education in Alcamo because of the construction of new schools and the activity of expert teachers, in particular the poet and scholar Sebastiano Bagolino (1562-1604). In 1547 the Madonna appeared to some women of the people and an image of Madonna Fons Misericordiae was discovered and worshipped as "Our Lady of Miracles".

In the late 16th century, the population was decimated by a pestilence. The victims were buried in the cemetery of Saint'Ippolito.

In 1667 Mariano Ballo ordered the construction of a theatre, called "teatro Ferrigno", later demolished and rebuilt during the '60s. After the reconstruction it was first called "cine-teatro Euro", and later "teatro Cielo d'Alcamo".

During the 18th century, pestilence and popular rebellions occurred in Alcamo again. On the other hand, this age was important for the art in Alcamo because of the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption (1699), designed by the architects Angelo Italia and Giuseppe Diamante. Its interior was decorated also with 38 frescos by the Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans between 1736 and 1737. In the same period the Church of Saint Olivia was renovated, Saint Paul and Bartholomew's Church was rebuilt (1689), and the Saint Francis from Paola was completed (1699) together with the monumental church of College some decades later(1767).

The population of the town, gradually recovered from the pestilence and increased to 13,000 in 1798.

Contemporary age

At the beginning of the 19th century Alcamo's feudal status was abolished (1812) and the town became a direct royal possession.

The archpriests Stefano Triolo Galifi and Giuseppe Virgilio and the baron Felice Pastore were members of the Sicilian Parliament as representatives of Alcamo. In 1820, during a revolt, there were different murders, sacks, release of criminals from prison and a fire in the municipal archives and in 1829 many people died of cholera. In 1843 the construction of the present Town Hall started, on a land of the baron Felice Pastore.

1982, 1820,1848 and 1860 are the years in which Alcamo, together with the other most patriotic towns in Sicily, carries on the ideals of a united Italy, under the guide of the families Colonna, Romano, Fazio and Triolo of Sant’Anna. .32 On the 6th April 1860, Stefano and Giuseppe Triolo let the Italian Tricolour wave on the Town Hall, 32 creating groups of volunteers in order to help Garibaldi in the battle of Calatafimi and from Alcamo some dictatorial edicts on Vittorio Emanuele II’s behalf were issued. Some time later Francesco Crispi prepared the Constitution for the lands set free. Further to this event, Corso Imperiale was named Corso 6 Aprile, in memory of the day (6 April) in which the volunteers started to be enlisted in Alcamo.27

During the Risorgimento the Sant'Anna brothers and Giuseppe Coppola of Monte San Giuliano enlisted many citizens from Alcamo to fight with the Garibaldians for the unification of Italy in 1860.

At the end of the 19th century, in 1897, public lighting was inaugurated in Alcamo during the traditional feast of the Madonna of Miracles.7 Among the most important people of this period we have to remind Don Giuseppe Rizzo, a priest who founded the bank called "Cassa Rurale e Artigiana Don Rizzo" (1902).34

At the beginning of the 20th century (1901-1911) the number of citizens in Alcamo diminished abruptly, partially because of the emigration of 36.718 Sicilians from Sicily abroad and in particular to America, but it is possible that the statistics about this year and the previous years were not reliable because the census was carried out without following certain criteria. In the same period the cultivations in the territory of Alcamo were affected by phylloxera and two banks ("Cooperativa" and "Segestana") went bankrupt. with subsequent economic difficulties for Alcamo's citizens.37

There were also some events linked to mafia, such as the murder of Gaspare Cottone, a carter (1899) 38 and the death of the 19 years old Benedetto Guastella during a fire conflict with carabinieri (1900).38 As the mafia had taken the power in the districts of Trapani and Alcamo,38 the commissary Cesare Mori intervened with a series of arrests and charges against the material executors of crimes occurred in the area 38 and finally with the arrest of Vincenzo e Michele Tedesco, brothers, and Baldassare Adragna, considered the heads of the gangs in Trapani’s territory.38

During the First World War, four hundred citizens from Alcamo died and the following period was characterized by poverty because of monetary inflation and banditry. In 1918 about five hundred people died because of Spanish flu and in the Second World War 213 citizens from Alcamo died or were lost.

The foundation of Società Elettrotecnica Palermitana, 39 whose name was changed into Società Generale Elettrica della Sicilia (SGES) and which installed an important electric workroom in the district of Saint Agostino in Alcamo, dates back to the twenties. .39 The jobs inside this firm were very longed-for because it was the only firm in Trapani province which had a Health Insurance fund and granted holidays .39 The electric workroom existed until 1963 when it was acquired by ENEL and demolished. .39 During the years in which SGES operated, there was an improvement of the electric services in Alcamo’s territory, owing also to the realization of several artificial lakes.39

During Fascism, the citizens of Alcamo asked the government to appoint Alcamo as the capital of the province (1930), but this request was not satisfied., however some important infrastructures were built in Alcamo, in particular:

  • The Railway station of Alcamo Diramazione
  • The cine-teatro Marconi
  • The aqueduct between Alcamo and Castellammare del Golfo (1922-1925) and the communal water reservoir at Mount Bonifato (called "bottino")
  • The anti-tuberculosis profylaxis dispensary
  • The Carabinieri's post
  • The building of the present Classical Lyceum "Cielo d'Alcamo".

On 19 August 1937 the fascist leader Benito Mussolini visited Alcamo crossing Corso VI Aprile by an open car and parading through the crowd of his supporters. The visit was due to the inauguration of the railway line between Trapani and Alcamo, completed in the same year. Some weeks later, prince Umberto visited Alcamo too.

On 21 July 1943 the American troops entered Alcamo without any opposition, freeing the town from Italian Fascism.

On 18 December 1944, because of the economic and social discomfort, the citizens raised up, occupied the Town Hall and put its archives on fire. Since 1960 the town planning system has been greatly expanding, particularly at the foot of Mount Bonifato with the construction of Viale Europa, which is one of the most important street in Alcamo.

At about the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s there was a bloody Mafia war between the clan Greco (related to the Rimi family) and the members of the emergent Mafia of Corleone, led by the boss Vincenzo Milazzo in the territory of Alcamo. Vincenzo Milazzo received orders from Totò Riina to eliminate members of the old Mafia (in particular the member of the clan Greco) and put in command only his trusted men. Just for this reason the Greco family represented an obstacle: the reason which roused the conflict was the approaching of some members of Cosa Nostra to the rival clan of Grecos. The war bathed the town in blood for about five years and provoked tens of victims. The new Corleone’s Mafia prevailed, but the cost to be paid was very high, because a lot of members of this clan died. During the same period in which there were armed clashes between the Mafia families, at contrada Virgini in Alcamo, they discovered the biggest heroin refinery in Sicily. (1985).44Tens of people died in five years, and at the end the Mafia of Corleone prevailed.

While the crimes of mafia went on and tens of people disappeared as victims of "lupara bianca",45 in Alcamo there was a religious revival which led to the birth of several Catholic associations such as Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo , Cammino neocatecumenale and the movement of Comunione e Liberazione.46 From the last one the parish community of the Church of Gesù Cristo Redentore (Jesus Christ the Redeemer) originated in the district of Sant’Anna (2006).46 This religious revival was followed by a new interest into the old Alcamo’s traditions that are mentioned in the works of Roberto Calia and Carlo Cataldo, historians from Alcamo. 47 Carlo Cataldo has also been prized several times both for his historical works and for his dialectal poems which tell Alcamo’s folkore. 48 In the 21st century there was a renovation of Alcamo’s architectural context, thanks to the restoration of some important historical buildings such as the Castello dei Conti di Modica, the Theatre of Cielo d'Alcamo, the Cine-Theatre Marconi, the ex Collegio dei Gesuiti, la Cuba delle rose (2013),49 la chiesa del Collegio (2014),50 the façade of Badia Nuova (2014)50 and the old Arab fountain (2016). Thanks also to the intervention of Fondo Ambiente Italiano, it is expected the restoration of the Castle of Calatubo; its chapel and the path leading to the castle have already been cleaned by the volunteers’ association "Salviamo il Castello di Calatubo" (2015).51 Among the works of revalutation of the urban areas there are the restoration of Piazza Ciullo by the architect Gae Aulenti (1996)52 and the realization of an underground car park in Piazza Bagolino, together with the creation of the near suburban park. The interest in the environment is also associated with that in the territory. In fact, after the adhesion to the initiative "Rifiuti Zero" (Zero Rubbish), the town of Alcamo has been considered an example to be followed for the results got between 2010 and 2013 in the field of raccolta differenziata (waste separation).53


 

Coat of arms

The Coat of arms of Alcamo used since the kingdom of Federico II is a black Eagle flying crowned by Gold in Silver range, with three hills below and two Golden Oaks.

A sculpture of the coat of arms is put in a side wall of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, near Porta Palermo.

Main sights

Civil buildings

There are several historical civil buildings in Alcamo:

  • Casa De Ballis (Via Mariano de Ballis): built in the 16th century, with a square tower with battlements, adorned with a round arch that contains two windows, one twin lancet and one triple lancet; it was probably designed in 1490 by Tommaso and Pietro Oddo, brothers;
  • Pia Opera Pastore, designed by the architect Giovan Battista Palazzotto in 1872;
  • Palazzo Fraccia (in via 11 Febbraio): in baroque style, built in 1700;
  • Palazzo Rocca (in corso 6 Aprile): built in about the year 1629;
  • Palazzo Rossotti-Chiarelli (in via Rossotti): in baroque style, built in the 18th century;
  • Palazzo Peria (in corso 6 Aprile): built in about the year 1700;
  • Palazzo Di Gregorio (in via Dante): built about the 17th century;
  • Palazzo Patti (in piazza Ciullo): built about the 18th century;
  • Town Hall (in piazza Ciullo): in neoclassic style, built in 1843;
  • Palazzo Ferrara (at the corner of via Francesco Crispi and via Ruggero Settimo): in classical style, built in 1909;
  • Palazzo Pastore (in corso 6 Aprile, near Piazza Ciullo): in neoclassic style, built at the end of the 18th century;
  • Palazzo Velez (Via Buonarroti, behind Basilica of Our Lady's Assumption): built between 1600 and 1700, it has an internal garden.
  • Villa Luisa (between via Madonna Alto Mare, via Rossotti and via Federico II): built in 1903.

Religious buildings

  • The Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption was realized during the 14th century and rebuilt in 1669; the present façade was realized in 1786; the portal and the bell tower are the only remains from the original church of the 14th century. It is located in the center of the town, near piazza Ciullo. The interior is tripartite and contains frescos by Guglielmo Borremans. In the apse and side chapels there are works by Antonello Gagini, called "Madonna with Saints Phililps and James", the "Crucifix" and the "Transit of the Virgin". There are also other works made by his apprentices. In a chapel there is also "The Holy Thorn". In 2010 the "Museum of Holy Art - Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption" was opened: it contains many works from other churches. On the right there is also a modern architectural work dedicated to Don Rizzo (founder of the homonymous bank), designed by the architect Paolo Portoghesi.
  • The Holy Saviour's Church (Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore or "Badia Grande") is also very important from the artistic point of view; it was built in the 14th century baroque style and rebuilt around the middle of the 15th century and between 1690-1697. Inside it there are pictures by Novelli dating back to the mid of the 17th century.
  • The Church of our Lady of the Star (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Stella) which is abandoned now, was the first Mother Church of Alcamo since 1313. It was located in the old district of San Vito and inside it there was the painting of Our Lady of Honey (Madonna del Miele) dated 1300 and later moved into Saints Paul and Bartholomew's Church): they believe this painting is the oldest one in Alcamo.
  • Saint Thomas' Church (Chiesa di San Tommaso): the date of its construction is uncertain, probably in the first half of the 15th century. It is faced by a great portal with geometrical decorations.
  • Church of Saint Francis from Assisi (Chiesa di San Francesco d'Assisi) was built between the years 1224-1226, demolished and rebuilt between 1608-1648. Inside it there are a marble ancon, probably by Domenico Gagini, and two sculptures reproducing the Maddalena and Saint Mark, both ascribed to Antonello Gagini.
  • The Convent of Saint Francis from Paola (Monastero di San Francesco di Paola or "Badia Nuova", not to be confused with the homonymous Church) was built in 1531, demolished in 1699 and rebuilt in the first half of the 18th century. There are a picture by Pietro Novelli and some allegorical representations by Giacomo Serpotta.
  • Saint Olivia's Church (Chiesa di Sant'Oliva) was built in1533 and renovated in 1724.) Inside there are a picture by Pietro Novelli on the main altar ("Sacrificio della Messa" dated 1639) and works by the Gagini.
  • Saints Paul's and Bartholomew's Church (Chiesa dei Santissimi Paolo e Bartolomeo) built between 1615 and 1689, has got characteristic baroque features and holds a very ancient and valuable picture, the Madonna del Miele (made about the year 1300).
  • Church of Saint Mary of Jesus (Chiesa di Santa Maria di Gesù): built in the 15th century and enlarged in 1762. It holds the body of Beato Arcangelo Piacentini from Calatafimi.
  • Church of Our Lady with a Chain (Chiesa Maria della Catena): Built in 1661 it hosts a portrait of Our Lady with a Chain, ascribed to Giuseppe Renda (18th century).
  • Saints Cosma and Damiano's Church (Chiesa dei Santi Cosma e Damiano or Santa Chiara): built in 1500 and rebuilt between 1721-1725). It has a baroque style and inside there are two sculptures by Serpotta.
  • Sanctuary of Most Holy Mary from the Height (Santuario di Maria Santissima dell'Alto): built in 929 and reconstructed in the 20th century.
  • Church of the Annunciation (Chiesa dell'Annunziata o del Carmine): built in the 14th century, it was rebuilt in 16th and 17th centuries but collapsed in 1866.
  • ex Church of Saint Nicholas from Bari (Ex Chiesa di San Nicolò di Bari): built in 1430, demolished and rebuilt in 1558.
  • ex Church of Holy Mary's Aid (Ex Chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso): built in the 15th century.
  • Ex Church of Saint James of the Sword (Ex Chiesa di San Giacomo della Spada): built before 1529, was enlarged between 1625-1636.
  • Ex Church of Saint Peter (Ex Chiesa di San Pietro): Via Barone di san Giuseppe,19.It was built in 1367 and reconstructed in the years 1645-1649, then enlarged in 1742. The artistic portal(1649) is on the main door.
  • Ex Church of Saint Caterina del Monte di Pietà (Ex Chiesa di Santa Caterina del Monte di Pietà): corso 6 Aprile,at the corner of Via Barone di San Giuseppe.
  • Sanctuary of the Most Holy Mary of Miracles (Santuario di Maria Santissima dei Miracoli): built in 1547.
  • Church of the Holy Crucified (Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso): built in 1550. Now Church of Saint Francis from Paola
  • Church of Saint Francis from Paola (Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola, 1550)
  • Church of Saint Mary's Graces (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie): built in 1619 and enlarged between 1626 and 1636
  • Saint Anne's Church (Chiesa di Sant'Anna, 1630-1634)
  • Church of the Guardian Angel or Sheltered People (Chiesa del S.Angelo Custode or Chiesa delle Riparate, 1647)
  • Church of Saint Mary's Rosary (Ex Chiesa di Santa Maria del Rosario): built in 1660 and reconstructed in 1761.
  • Church of College of Jesuits or Church of Jesus (Chiesa del Collegio dei Gesuiti or Chiesa del Gesù): built between 1684-1767.
  • the Holy Trinity's Church (Chiesa della Santissima Trinità): 1746-1757
  • Ex Church of Ecce Homo (Ex Chiesa dell'Ecce Homo, 1750)
  • Church of Holy Souls in Purgatory (Chiesa delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio): built in 1813, demolished and rebuilt in 1958)
  • the Holy Heart's Church (Chiesa del Sacro Cuore) (1967)
  • Church of Jesus Christ the Redemeer (Chiesa di Gesù Cristo Redentore): built in 2006.
  • Ex Collegio dei Gesuiti (built in the 17th century, in the 18th century they added an arcade)

Military buildings

The military buildings existing in Alcamo are:

  • The Castle of the Counts of Modica (or "Castle of Alcamo"): probably built in the 14th or 15th century by the Peralta family and then completed by the feudatories Enrico and Federico Chiaromonte. In 1535 the emperor Charles V lodged there. It was a possession of the Cabreras and then of the Counts of Modica, until 1812. Later, during the Reign of Italy and until 1960, it was used as a prison. It has a rhomboidal shape, with four towers: two quadrangular at the corners and the other two are connected by curtains and are cylindrical. In each tower there was a torture room for prisoners, rooms for sentinels and for passing guest sovereigns. One of the particular characteristics of the castle is given by the thick walls which bound it and that in old times defended from enemies' attacks extremely well.
  • Castle of Ventimiglia: is situated on the top of Mount Bonifato. It is a medieval castle and today there are only some parts of the walls, the primary tower and the dungeons. It took the name from Enrico Ventimiglia, who declared he had built it just for defence, though according to some interpretations, it would date back to an anterior period.
  • The Calatubo Castle, outside the town but inside its territory and on the road leading to Palermo, is a fortress built in the early Middle Ages. The homonymous village of Calatubo stood nearby and its commerce was based on the exportation of cereals and millstones. In the same place there is an old necropolis dating back to the 6th century BC.
  • The watchtower located in the town centre, in Corso 6 Aprile, next to the chiesa della Madonna del Soccorso (Church of Holy Mary's Aid), opposite the Mother Church (Basilica of Our Lady of Assumption).126 Its construction dates back to 980 A.D. and is the oldest architectural work existing in Alcamo, in perfect preservation conditions.126 Later the tower was bought by the diocese (1400) and used as a bell tower for the near Mother Church which, at the time, didn’t have one. 126 They put then two bells on its top, the remaining one is on the west, while the smaller one on the north side was dismounted at about 1950 for safety reasons. 126 Inside the building you can see a stone winding staircase with 84 steps, 50 of them are original ones.126

Archeological sites

In the territory of Alcamo there are several and interesting archeological sites:

  • the ruins on Mount Bonifato include Funtanazza (probably used as a water reservoir), Porta Regina, the Castle of Ventimiglia, the snowfields and the remains of the ancient village of Bonifato;
  • the ruins in the area of Calatubo, which include the Castle of Calatubo, the necropolis near it and the ruins of the surrounding village.
  • the ruins of the ancient Roman furnaces at Alcamo Marina used to produce tiles and bricks;
  • the archaeological site in Contrada Mulinello, where they have discovered finds dating back to the Mesolithic period;
  • the area near Fiume Freddo where archaeological finds from the Neolithic have been found.

Natural areas

Among the areas of naturalistic interest near Alcamo there are the beaches of Alcamo Marina, the Natural reserve Bosco di Alcamo on Mount Bonifato and the Segestan thermal waters. The hot springs are produced by the reclimbing of water of meteoric origin which meets the water of Fiume Caldo. They are seven kilometres far from Alcamo and next to the boundary with the territory of Castellammare del Golfo, a small town which shares this naturalistic attraction with Alcamo. According to the narration given by Diodoro Siculo, they were created by the nymphs to favour Eracle's rest during his trip from Piloro to Erice.

Hinterland

The surrounding areas include interesting touristic and historical locations like Segesta and Gibellina. The old fishing village of Scopello, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Alcamo, has been referred to as having a remarkable seaside. Another small town considered worth visiting is Castellammare del Golfo which is between these two places.

Society

Ethnic groups and foreign minorities

According to the ISTAT data of January 1, 2013, the foreign people resident in Alcamo were 1,258 people corresponding to the 2.58% of the residing population. The most represented nationalities, according to the percentage on the total residing population, were:

  •  Romania 727 (1,62%)
  •  Morocco 155 (0,34%)
  •  Tunisia 118 (0,26%)
  •  Albania 60 (0,13%)
  •  China 31 (0,07%)
  •  Poland 22 (0,05%)
  •  Serbia 15 (0,03%)

Culture

The poet Cielo d'Alcamo (known also as "Ciullo d'Alcamo") was the author of the contrasto "Rosa fresca aulentissima". He wrote in vernacular in the 12th century and was from Alcamo. Many important places of the town, such as the main square, the theatre and the Classical Lyceum founded in 1862, have been named after the famous poet.

From the cultural point of view, in the succeeding centuries Alcamo saw the rise of activities connected with arts such as the construction of churches and buildings first in the baroque and then Renaissance style, with the coming of several artists of International level: painters (like Guglielmo Borremans and the very talented Pietro Novelli from Monreale), sculptors (Antonello Gagini and Giacomo Serpotta) and other various artists who embellished the town image. Inside the castle of Alcamo there is the puppet theatre and they often give performances. During the feasts in Alcamo there are often streets entertainers and pedlars selling sweets, dried fruit and different objects in their stands called "baracchelle".

Media

Radio

There is a local radio, Radio Alcamo Centrale, which operates in the territory since 1976.

Press

The oldest periodical in Alcamo is "Il Bonifato".

Television

The networks in Alcamo are Alpa Uno (since 1976) and Video Sicilia (since 1987).

Music

In 1880 they founded the Premiato Complesso Bandistico "Città di Alcamo", which is the oldest band in the province of Trapani. In the first years it was led by the baron Giuseppe Triolo di Sant'Anna. In 1892, during a contest with the other Sicilian musical bands (and under the direction of the famous Maestro Raffaele Caravaglios), it won the honour Diploma and the golden Medal, that is why it is named "premiato"(=prized).

Since 1986 there is in Alcamo the Associazione Amici della Musica (The Association of Music's Friends), which promotes and organizes concerts of lyrical music, International contests and prizes also in other towns in the provinces of Trapani and Palermo.

The Associazione Jacopone da Todi , founded in 1989, has the objective of spreading the knowledge of holy art, in its different expressions; the Director is Gaetano Stellino, a school teacher.

The Coro Mater Dei is a musical association born in 1998 and made up of about 30 members; it has held various concerts (especially during the Christmas holidays) in the province of Trapani. The chorus master is Baldo Barone.

The Coro Francesca Adragna was founded in 2008 under the direction of the chorus master Maria Messana. It has a very varied repertory: arias from operettas, opera melodies, church music, Sicilian popular tunes and Neapolitan songs.

There is also the Brass Group, promoter of the "Summertime Blues Festival", which was held for various consecutive years in Piazza Ciullo and where blues singers and musicians from different part of the world took part.

Religious traditions and folklore

  • 19 March: celebration in honour of Saint Joseph (novena and procession)
  • Good Friday: procession of the Dead Jesus and Our Lady of Sorrow.
  • First Sunday after Easter: Feast of Jesus Christ the Redeemer (cultural and religious event).
  • Second Sunday after Easter: celebration in honour of San Francis from Paola (cultural and religious event).
  • Third Sunday after Easter: Festa del Patrocinio in honour of the Holy Family (procession and lunch with the Holy Family).
  • 1 May: celebration in honour of Saint Joseph the Worker (novena and procession)
  • 13 June: celebration in honour of Saint Antonio from Padua (novena and procession)
  • 19-21 giugno: Celebration in honour of Maria Santissima dei Miracoli (Saint Mary of Miracles, patron saint of Alcamo): cultural and religious event. During the feast there are a solemn procession of the Madonna's simulacrum, fireworks from the "bastione" in Piazza Bagolino and the descent to the sanctuary of Madonna dei Miracoli by civil and political authorities. In the past (until 8–10 years ago) there were horse races along Corso 6 Aprile; the last two times they took place in Viale Italia.
  • End of July: Saint's Anne feast with novena,procession and cultural-recreational activities.
  • 8 September: celebration in honour of Madonna dell'Alto on the top of Mount Bonifato (dialect poems recitation and procession).
  • 7–8 December: celebration in honour of Immacolata Concezione (the Immaculate Conception): novena, pastoral melodies and procession.
  • Alcamo Christmas (concerts, outdoor performances, preparation of traditional Christmas cribs and pipers' passing)

Recreational activities

  • July–August: Alcamo Estate ("sagras" or festivals, "Calici di Stelle", "Blues Festival", "Festival di Nuove Impressioni")
  • Second half of August: "Alcart - legalità e cultura" (Legality and Culture) a series of events(exhibitions,seminars, music,theatre etc.).
  • Second or third week-end of December: Cortiamo - International Contest of short films organized since 2006 by "Segni Nuovi" (a club of cinematographic culture within the Church of the Saints Paul and Bartholomew).

Sport events

  • 2–6 January: International Costa Gaia Trophy (youth soccer).

Local market

The local market in Alcamo (called "mercatino") takes place every Wednesday morning in Via Tre Santi.

Cuisine

Some specialities of cuisine of Alcamo are:

  • Handmade maccheroni
  • Pasta with "finocchi and sarde" (wide small fennels and sardines)
  • Sausages with "cavuliceddi" (a typical Alcamo vegetable)
  • Dried filled tomatoes
  • Cuddureddi (Christmas handmade fig sweets)
  • Tetù (mixed and coloured biscuits)
  • Sciù (cream sweets)
  • Muffulette (fresh cooked roll bread with ricotta or other fillings)

Notable people

  • Cielo d'Alcamo (XIII secolo), poet and father of Italian language.
  • Beato Arcangelo Piacentini da Calatafimi (1390-1460), presbyter and Francescan friar
  • Sebastiano Bagolino, poet and painter (1560-1604)
  • Agostino Pantò, founder of Accademia giustinianea (1675-1735)
  • Giuseppe Renda, painter (1772-1805)
  • Benedetto Di San Giuseppe (1847-1906), politician and senator of Reign of Italy in the XVIII Legislature
  • Don Giuseppe Rizzo (1863-1912), presbyter, founder of the homonym Cassa Rurale ed Artigiana
  • Pietro Montana (1890–1978), sculptor, painter and teacher.
  • Vincenzo Rimi (1902-1975), criminal
  • Don Ignazio Provenza (1911-1943), priest and military chapelain, dead during World War II.
  • Monsignore Vincenzo Regina (1910-2009), historian
  • Vito Guarrasi (1914-1999), lawyer and entrepreneur.
  • Salvatore Asta (1915-2004), Catholic archibishop.
  • Charley Fusari (1924-1985), US boxer.
  • Ludovico Corrao (1927-2011), politician and senator.
  • Francesco Parrino, (1931-1985), senator and Undersecretary for the Arts in Fanfani 5th government.
  • Carlo Cataldo (1933), historian and poet.
  • Nicolò Mineo (1934), literary critic and academician.
  • Francesco Paolo Lucchese (1935), doctor and deputy.
  • Baldassare Lauria (1935), doctor and senator.
  • Vincenza Bono (1942), Minister for the Arts in De Mita government.
  • Franca Viola (1947), the first Italian woman who refused the repairing wedding.
  • Gaspare Umile (1948-2001), ex football player.
  • Massimo Saverio Ennio Fundarò (1958), politician and deputy.
  • Antonino Papania (1959), politician and senator.
  • Antonino Raspanti (1959), Catholic bishop.
  • Cynthia Cooper (1963), ex player for Basket Alcamo
  • Cécile Kyenge (1964), Minister for Integration in Letta government, honorary citizen.
  • Jean Alesi (1964), French car racer.
  • Christian Rocca (1968), journalist and writer.
  • Antonino Asta (1970), ex football player and trainer.
  • Lisa Leslie (1972), ex player for Basket Alcamo.
  • Adalgisa Impastato (1974), ex basket player.
  • Giuseppe Scurto (1984),ex football player and trainer.
  • Ignazio Corrao (1984), politician and eurodeputy
  • Giuseppe Pipitone (1987), journalist and writer.

Economy

Alcamo is one of the most important centres in Sicily for wine production, especially Bianco Alcamo DOC, made from vineyards with espailer or "tendone" structures and using white common or bright catarratto vines, eventually associated with damaschino, grecanico and trebbiano.

Besides the wine activity there are cattle and sheep breeding, olive growing (for the extraction of extra virgin olive oil), cereals (particularly wheat) and the typical oval melon, with a green wrinkled peel, locally called "miluni purceddu", which has the peculiarity that can be kept longer than other kinds of melon.

In the primary sector it is also significant quarrying (of different marbles and mostly travertino), though the tertiary sector (more or less advanced) has however got the majority of employed people.

Transports and infrastructures

There are two motorway junctions from Autostrada A29 Palermo-Mazara del Vallo: Alcamo Est ed Alcamo Ovest, apart the junction of Castellammare del Golfo which links up with the north entrance to Alcamo. Another motorway junction is from Alcamo Ovest (Autostrada A29 diramazione Alcamo-Trapani). The Railway line doesn't pass through the town centre but along the coast, then inland on the west side. The railway station of Alcamo Diramazione is located near the motorway junction of Alcamo Ovest and the station of Castellammare del Golfo is situated in the territory of Alcamo, precisely at Alcamo Marina.

These National Roads pass through Alcamo:

  • SS 113 Settentrionale Sicula;
  • SS 119 of Gibellina;
  • SS 187 of Castellammare del Golfo;
  • SS 731 Link Road (Bretella) of Castellammare del Golfo;
  • SS 732 Link Road (Bretella) of Alcamo Est;
  • SS 733 Link Road (Bretella) of Alcamo Ovest.

And these Provincial Roads of the province of Trapani pass through Alcamo:

  • SP 10 for Camporeale;
  • SP 47 for Alcamo-Stazione of Castellammare del Golfo;
  • SP 49 for Passofondo;
  • SP 55 Alcamo-Alcamo Marina.

Alcamo is about 40 km from the airport "Falcone and Borsellino" of Palermo-Punta Raisi and about 50 km from the airport "Vincenzo Florio" of Trapani-Birgi.

Administration

Twin towns

  • Jelgava, Latvia
  • Aqaba, Jordan
  • Khouribga, Morocco

Sport

The most popular and practised sport in Alcamo, as in most Italian towns, has always been soccer; the greatest team is the Alcamo team, which was in the past a protagonist in some football seasons in League C (Italian Serie C), for its victories against Bari and Crotone, and in League D. Apart various regional trophies it has won the Coppa Italia Dilettanti in 1996 and the subsequent Supercoppa Italiana Dilettanti. Together with the golden period in League C, these were the most beautiful pages of the football history in Alcamo. A recent society crisis has caused bankruptcy and the team which played in League D had to restart from the First Category League. Today it competes in the regional Eccellenza championship following the 2010 refoundation. The activity of juvenile soccer is very active, and the Adelkam football school emerges among the various youth teams because it has launched different football players and has won a lot of national and international competitions. Alcamo is also the principal centre of the Costa Gaia International Trophy, a youth football kermess in which a lot of titled teams take part and where many great players of the bigger championships have been the protagonists.

Basket is also very popular and practised, today with better results than football anyway. The female team Basket Alcamo (Gea Magazzini) which has obtained important results in his history (a long participation in A1 League and the final match in the Ronchetti Cup), has played in the A2 League for eleven years, and has regained the major league in the season 2011-2012. The male team has also obtained good results, but not at the same levels. The local handball team, Pallamano Alcamo, taking part in A1 League, plays his home matches at the Palasport Enzo D'Angelo, where the Italian national handball team has recently played too.

Sport facilities

The town has got several sport facilities, the most important are the stadium Lelio Catella (with a capacity of about 10,000 people)for football and athletics, the Palazzetto dello Sport(sports hall) Tre Santi for Basket and the Palasport Enzo D'Angelo (indoor stadium) for handball. There is a private swimpool open to public use (La Fenice) where young boys (who have won National prizes) train regularly. In the same facility there is an ice-skating rink. When Alcamo football team played in League C, the home matches were played at stadium Don Rizzo, which together with Sant'Ippolito stadium is now used by juvenile and minor teams


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