Art, history, tradition: a day in Militello between throwback and revival of the present
This small city in Val di Noto boasts a unique history of its kind, if compared with residential areas of the same dimension and geographical location. However, it isn’t all peaches and dandelions: getting there is not easy and services, whose jackals are the economic difficulties worrying many small and medium towns, are not always sublime. Anyway, just try to lose yourself in the extent of its cultural heritage to mitigate flaws and to admire its value with a regional and national view on the Peninsula
You know the Italian movies of the ’50s set in a small on-call village where everybody knows each other, where you just go in the local tavern to feel at home, where, perhaps, you can find many uniformed policemen enjoying their break while looking for a shelter from the summer heat and biting a plentiful forkful of spaghetti? This is the exact atmosphere you can breathe, without having to turn on TV, in U Pacha, one of the most well-known pub of Militello in Val di Catania, when, after crossing the threshold, you can seat at the table with the major ‒ precisely at the centre ‒ to taste a big dish of pennette with meat ragu and fennel, while you live in a mythical past atmosphere made by curious anecdotes. Of course, the path towards the village is not very good ‒ it is the same for many more or less big Sicilian towns ‒ because of dips and instabilities of some roads, which make you feel like being on a plane in the middle of a turbulence or hairpin turns which put to the test those who get seasick. However, this does not erase the charm of a village with a unique history, able to fascinate everyone even now with its artistic and folkloristic marvels.
AGES COMING TOGETHER. Spending a day in Militello, indeed, could not be enough to admire the historical and artistic richness it can offer: from the archeological park of St. Maria la Vetere including ancient ravines stood in as settlements for the first inhabitants and the ruins of a Norman tower used as spot of sighting above the underlying wide valley, to Madonna della Catena Church, fit for sophisticated palates, with its incomparable series of plaster, some of which still have the original golden ornament, passing through San Nicolò Museum with its wide multitude of holy treasures, in whose name there still is a church fell down during the earthquake of 1693 and then rebuilt uptown with the new denomination of St. Maria della Stella. Therefore, since pre-historic until contemporary era, Militello occurs as an harmonious background of distant eras linked over and over again, which in visitors’ mind never give the impression of being thrown together confusedly. A tourist can perceive the trace of every era and enjoy the silence of a quiet splendor in almost tactile way.
A GREATNESS READY TO RISE AGAIN. The perfect visit to the village (birthplace of the famous Italian showman Pippo Baudo, by the way) can’t be complete if one does not get fascinated by the elegance of the Monastero dei Benedettini, desired by Donna Giovanna D’Austria, Don Francesco Branciforti’s wife, and that now is the municipal headquarters, where the balanced hallways bring to boardroom summarizing the sense of what we have talked about above. To the right and to the left of the spot assigned to the major, the two consorts (who were the authors of the most prosperous period Militello has ever lived) stand out. They seem to observe the current development carefully, as they were two tutelary deities ensuring their heritage will not be lost. And that is why, at the end of the visit, what remains of Militello mainly consists of the perception of a greatness ready rise again through the care of competent authorities. In this way, the man with the horse-drawn cart we met at the centre of the road will not be confused anymore noticing the presence of new faces, while foreigners will be well and normally accepted among them, as it is the wish of who, proud of its past, wants to make Militello “a small capital city” again.
Translated into English by Daniela Marsala