Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sicily - Castello di Donnafugata

Visiting the 'castle' of Donnafugata
'Donnafugata' could be translated as 'The lady who escaped' but this meaning is said to be a myth that makes a good story - as is often the case. Its history is complicated (not that I fully understand it) and there seems to be some Arabic name involvement, so for the sake of simplicity I will stick to the 'good story'. The story goes that the widowed Queen Bianca of King Martin l, who was Regent of Sicily circa 1410, was kept prisoner in the castle by Count Cabrera because he (Count Cabrera) needed her to marry him in order for him to become the new King. She refused because Cabrera was known as an executioner in Sicily and she eventually made good her escape.
Castello di Donnafugata is at best a wealthy nobleman's home (it is not a castle in the true meaning of the word) which saw its heyday in the early 20th Century under the auspices of Baron Corrado Arezzo. Its construction goes back to the 14th Century, but most of its history prior to the 18th Century is lost and therefor is open to speculation. It fell into disrepair after WW2 until its take over by the town council of Ragusa in 1982, when the slow process of restoration was started. It is situated on high ground with views over the Mediterranean and is bordered by 8 hectares of parkland. The building has a beautiful Neo-Gothic facade which is the dominant feature as you walk towards it.
Neo-Gothic facade

Former staff quarters

Exiting Donnafugata

Scale model

Staircase to the first floor

Stone figurine on staircase

Inner courtyard and entrance to the house

As with many buildings of historical significance photography is not permitted once inside and the same applied here once the private rooms are entered. The decor and furnishings are not nearly as opulent as for example those of English stately homes, but it has that Italian style and expression which no-one else can replicate. Some artifacts have been lost during the tumult of the war years and the unsettled period thereafter but it is still a joy to visit - low season with no crowds!

In the carpark ....

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