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Mazara del Vallo

Mazara del Vallo

Discover Mazara del Vallo, an enchanting city at the heart of Western Sicily. This Mediterranean gem offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination for every traveler.

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History

Mazara del Vallo, a historical jewel in western Sicily, traces its origins to the 9th century BC when it was founded by the Phoenicians. This strategic location thrived under successive dominations: Greek, Roman, Vandal, Ostrogoth, Byzantine, and notably Arab in 827 AD, each culture enriching its heritage.

The Normans, under Ruggero I d’Altavilla in 1072, significantly impacted its architectural landscape, evident in the city’s churches and the Norman Arch. Post-Norman rule saw the Angevins, Aragon Crown, House of Savoy, Habsburg Empire, and Bourbons, before joining the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Today, Mazara is a mosaic of these diverse influences, embodying a rich Mediterranean historical and cultural evolution.

City of 100 Churches

In Mazara del Vallo, the enchanting “City of 100 Churches”, each church has a story to tell, steeped in the rich tapestry of history and culture shaped by a variety of civilizations.

One of the most significant religious sites is the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Savior, located in Piazza della Repubblica. This majestic cathedral, built at the behest of Ruggero I d’Altavilla after the battle against the Saracens in 1072, represents the town’s Norman heritage. Nearby, the Episcopal Seminary and the Diocesan Museum add to the religious and historical significance of this central square. 

Another notable church is the Church of San Francesco, which traces its origins back to 250 AD. Initially a small place of worship with crypts for Christian burials, the church was reconstructed in 1093 by Grand Count Roger I. The current appearance, characterized by a sumptuous Baroque style with intricate frescoes and stucco work, dates back to renovations in the late 17th century.

The Norman Arch in Piazza Mokarta, a distinctive feature of Mazara del Vallo, is a significant relic of the town’s Norman past, being a remnant of the castle built by Ruggero I d’Altavilla. This arch was not just an architectural piece; it served as the gateway to the castle following the liberation of the city from Arab domination in 1072. Symbolizing a pivotal moment in Mazara’s history, the castle itself was demolished in 1880 to make way for the construction of a public garden, Villa Jolanda.

The Monastery of San Michele, known for its cloistered nuns who create exquisite sweets, is located in the Giudecca district of Mazara del Vallo, facing the square of the same name. This area is historically significant and embodies the rich cultural and religious heritage of the town. The monastery itself, with its 18th-century Rococo style, adds a unique architectural and historical dimension to the neighborhood.

We could delve further, but let’s not forget, Mazara del Vallo is the city of a hundred churches!

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Gambero Rosso di Mazara del Vallo

Mazara del Vallo, boasting Italy’s largest fishing fleet, is not just a feast for the eyes but also a paradise for seafood lovers, especially renowned for its exquisite red prawns. Known as one of the most exquisite and sought-after crustaceans in the Mediterranean Sea, these prawns captivate food enthusiasts with their rich flavor and tender texture, are a culinary symbol of the town. This connection to the sea, ensures that visitors to Mazara del Vallo have the unique opportunity to enjoy these prawns at their freshest and finest, making Mazara del Vallo a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a true taste of Sicilian seafood excellence.

Museum

The Dancing Satyr, emerging from the waters and the past, is a classical or Hellenistic bronze statue representing a mythical male figure, a dweller of woods and mountains. This minor deity, embodying fertility and the force of nature, is associated with the riotous entourage of the Greek god Dionysus. The sculpture, standing at 2.5 meters tall, is housed in the Museum of the Satyr in Mazara del Vallo. For 2,500 years, the sea cradled it on the seabed between Sicily and the African coast.

The Satyr, leaning on its right side with arms extended forward, is captured in the act of leaping on its right toe while simultaneously lifting its left leg. Its hair, stirred by the fervor of the orgiastic dance, disrupts every rule of balance, giving the entire body an emphatic motion.

The Discovery

The Satyr’s discovery is unique: in 1997, the Mazarese fishing boat “Capitan Ciccio,” led by Captain Francesco Adragna, retrieved a bronze leg from the Sicilian Channel. On the night of March 4-5, 1998, the same vessel recovered most of the rest of the sculpture from 500 meters under the sea, losing an arm in the process.

Acquired by the Sicilian Region, the Satyr underwent restoration.

In 2003, the sculpture was displayed at Palazzo Montecitorio, witnessed by top state officials, and returned to Mazara on July 12 to be exhibited in the museum arranged in the former Church of Sant’Egidio.

In 2005, the Satyr was taken to Japan for exhibition at the National Museum of Tokyo and the Aichi Expo. A carbon fiber structure was specially designed and created for its transport.

In 2007, the Satyr was displayed at the Louvre in Paris, in an exhibition dedicated to Praxiteles’ works.

According to Sebastiano Tusa, superintendent of the sea for the Sicilian Region, the ship transporting it may have sunk between Pantelleria and Capo Bon in Tunisia between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Art historian Paolo Moreno suggests it might belong to the 4th century BC and be the “satiro periboetos” cited by Pliny as a work of the famous sculptor Praxiteles.

A tactile scale replica in the museum allows visually impaired visitors to appreciate the sculpture’s form through touch.

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Beaches

After delving into the town’s history, relax on the beautiful beaches of Mazara del Vallo. The sandy Tonnarella Beach and the rocky Quarara offer the perfect retreat for seaing lovers and relax.

Additionally, Puzziteddu, known for its ideal conditions, is a haven for watersport enthusiasts. Here, you can indulge in activities like kitesurfing, wingsurfing, and surfing, adding an exhilarating dimension to your beach experience. These beaches offer the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure by the sea.

Kasbah

Immerse yourself in the Kasbah of Mazara del Vallo, and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the heart of Morocco. This historic Arab quarter, with its intricate maze of winding streets and authentic architecture, vividly captures the spirit of a Moroccan medina. It’s a place where Arab, Norman, and Sicilian influences converge, creating an enchanting atmosphere that transports visitors to another world, one that echoes the vibrant and diverse cultural legacy of Mazara del Vallo.

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Sicilian Robin Hood

In the heart of the Kasbah, the town’s historic Arab quarter, lies a quaint alley named after a local legend, Sataliviti

In 17th century Mazara del Vallo, a legendary figure named Antonio Catinella, known as “Sataliviti,” emerged, resembling the famous Robin Hood. He was renowned for his commitment to protect and assist the poor, especially young women without dowries and needy peasants. 

Sataliviti led a life of crime, but never with violent intent or actions. His criminal deeds, which included robberies and thefts, were primarily motivated by his desire to help those in need. He often redistributed his gains, gifting marriage dowries and household essentials to the less fortunate. 

Sataliviti’s wife played a pivotal role in his organization, and his life took a significant turn following an intervention by the Bishop of Girgenti. Ultimately, his actions led to his capture and execution, but his legacy as a generous bandit who stole to aid the poor remains a part of Sicilian folklore.

 

Mazara del Vallo is more than just a destination; it’s an experience. With its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty, it invites visitors to immerse themselves in a world where the past and present coexist harmoniously. Come and discover the charm of this Sicilian gem with Salt Sicily.

3 reasons why it's worth it

01

Rich Arab-Norman heritage in architecture and culture.

02

Home to the intriguing, ancient Dancing Satyr statue.

03

Stunning beaches blending history and natural Mediterranean beauty.