On the hill

Amongst medieval buildings and breath-taking views.
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Il Castello

The sightseeing tour of the monuments must start from the main building, the Norman castle, one of the most beautiful and best preserved in Sicily. Imperious in its massive quadrangular stature, the dongione (after the Donjons of Normandy) was built in basalt stone between 1072 and 1073 at the behest of Count Roger d’Altavilla, at the time of the conquests in Sicily. Here lived Eleonora of Aragon, Queen Bianca of Navarre, Bianca Lancia, the Speciale and Moncada families and other nobles and rulers. The building, in its architectural development, had a troubled history which saw it become first military structure, then courtly residence until the Aragon epoch, and finally wretched prison until the dawn of the 19th century. Its geometric size dominates the city below; blocks of white stone outline the edges of the structure and frame the openings: amidst narrow slits and large mullioned windows emerge the two great mullioned window-lodges: one facing east and the other west. It is significant how the composition of the windows on the eastern prospective draws a six-pointed star, a typical esoteric symbol of the Middle Ages.