Our top 5 castles you need to visit in Sicily

It should come as no surprise that Sicily is full of strategically positioned and impressively built castles throughout the island. There you’ll find fortresses in mountainous regions that rise high from the rocky terrain while defensive barricades protect the seafront of many coastal towns and villages.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite castles, each with their own fascinating history so if you’re planning a trip to Sicily, we highly suggest you add these 5 to your bucket list.

1. Castello di Venere

venere castle

Erice is one of Sicily’s most delightful towns, situated on top of a mountain with stunning 360-degree views of most of western Sicily, the Tyrrhenian sea and the Aegadian Islands. Arguably the best views are from the 12th century Norman castle, Il Castello di Venere, built on the site of an ancient Temple of Venus. Take a walk around the impressive crenelated perimeter walls while marveling at the sight of Sicily and its sea way down below, stretching into the distance.

Opening times: every day from the end of March to the end of October from 10.00am to 6.00pm, 7.00pm or 8.00pm depending on the time of year. In the winter months the castle is only open on Saturdays and public holidays.

2. Il Castello di Caccamo

caccamo castle

caccamo castle

As you take the exit at Termini Imerese on the motorway, head south away from the sea and up into the mountains. After several kilometres of winding road, ascending to over 500 metres above sea level, you will arrive at the delightful medieval town of Caccamo, with its castle known  to be one of the most spectacularly positioned in Sicily. Built in the 12th century by a Norman knight named Matthew Bonellus, it was subsequently enlarged and reinforced by Manfredi Chiaramonte in the early 1300s. It offers all the characteristics one expects of a ‘classic’ castle, including square towers topped with ‘swallow-tailed’ battlements, thick stone walls and, thanks also to its position on the top of a precipitous limestone outcrop, a sense of fortification.

Opening times: every day of the week from 9.00am-1.00pm and from 3.00pm to 7.00pm

3. Il Castello di Mussomeli
mussomeli castlemussomeli castle

In the heartland of Sicily, situated between Palermo and Agrigento, the castle of Mussomeli rises atop a large limestone cliff at over 700 metres above sea level and towers over the valley below. Built by Manfredi Chiaramonte in 1370, the castle was built into the rock and is impressively fortified thanks to the steep drops on most sides and the thick structured walls and narrow windows. Inside are some impressive vaulted halls, dungeons and plenty of architectural elements of interest, such as ogival arches and double-lancet windows.

Opening times: from 25th April every day except Mondays from 9.00am to 12.00pm and from 3.00pm to 6.00pm. In the winter the castle is open on Saturdays and Sundays only.

4. Castello Maniace

maniace castlemaniace castle

Situated on the tip of Ortigia, the historical center of Siracusa, Castello Maniace was commissioned by the great castle-builder, Emperor Frederick II (known as ‘Stupor Mundi’) in 1240. Its name derives from the Byzantine general who played a major role in expelling the Arabs from Sicily during one of the Norman’s earliest invasions in 1038. After serving as a royal palace for the Angevin kings of Sicily, the castle spent most of the 15th century as a prison, before returning to its original function as part of the town’s defensive structures. After undergoing an extensive restoration, Castello Maniace is now open to the public.

Opening times: every day except Mondays from 9.00am – 1.00pm

5. Il Castello di Caltabellotta

 

caltabellotta castlecaltabellotta castle

Almost 20km inland from the fishing port of Sciacca, you’ll find the town of Caltabellotta. Its name comes from the Arabic Qalat al Balad, meaning ‘castle in the rock’, which basically sums up the town’s major attraction. Situated over 900 metres above sea level as it surveys the valley below, Caltabellotta’s strategic importance was not lost during the Norman invasion as they launched an attack on the Arab garrison there in 1090. After destroying the existing fortification to the ground, they set about building their own castle into and around the rocky spur that still today is the pivotal point of the town. In 1282 the castle housed the formal end to the Sicilian Vespers , whereby Federico III was recognized as King of Sicily. Alongside the castle, the Normans also built several churches and a monastery, but very little remains today apart from a number of ruins.

Opening times: the site of the castle may be visited at any time.

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