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INFORMATION ON MONTEDORO, SICILY

 

Montedoro is a small town (paese) in the center of Sicily in the region of Caltanisetta. It is 32 km west of the city of Caltanisetta. It sits on a hill called "Monte Octavio" and is 500 mt. above sea level . It is crossed by the Gallodoro River. Its surface measures 1.414 hectares. The town's main agricultural products are wheat, grapes, olives and almonds. They also produce many dairy products from the sheep farming.

In ancient times Montedoro was called Balatazza which in Sicilian means "flat stone" because of the amount of gypsum found in the area. This word is a derivative of the Arabic word "balat" which also means "flat stone". During XVIIth century "Balatazza" was Prince Diego Aragona's feud. Later he obtained the "licenta populandi" and built Montedoro. Prince Diego then renamed Balatazza "Montedoro" which mean "golden mountain" because in springtime little yellow daisies grow in its hilltop and on sunny days they shine like gold. Some people believe the Aragona Tagliavia family named it for the production of sulfur, called Sicily's "oro" (gold). Montedoro was the first Sicilian town to hold the world record for sulfur extraction and production. Later the town's dominion passed to the princes Pignatelli until 1812, when the feudal rights were abolished. However, it wasn't until into the mid 1900's that land reform really took place and the people were able to own their own land.

The large central square is called "Piazza Umberto" where the commune (city hall) and the Chiesa Madre are located. The church, Maria SS Del Rosario was erected in 1644, and contains four beautiful polychrome brickwork statues. Typical is the Sagra della Cuccìa - the Cuccia Festival takes place every year on December 13, the day of S. Lucia. Cuccia is a typical dish made of cooked wheat grains, seasoned with a strong sweet wine. Another famous local dish is "pasta cu li mazzareddri" - pasta seasoned with local bitter vegetables and stewed with onion, garlic and topped with ricotta cheese.

Currently, Montedoro has 1,953 inhabitants. The town has experienced a century of emigration due to the lack of good employment. In the past much of the land was owned by one "padrone" and the people worked long hours for this landowner for very little money. The only alternative employment was the dangerous and difficult work in the mines. Overlooking Montedoro on the Calvario Road there are the remains of one of these sulfur mines, and a new museum telling the story of mining in Montedoro. There are many stories about the dangers of this work and how even the small boys - carusi worked to carry out the sulfur rocks that were then put in furnaces located nearby. Many people chose to take their chances in new countries rather than continue to scrap by working to make others rich. So with their skill as miners many men and some families left Montedoro in search of employment in the mines of Belgium, France, Germany, England and the U.S. Until this day the life of Montedoro is shaped by this migration. Many families are split up with some members living in these Diaspora countries and others still in the village. Some families have emigrated back and there is even a sculpture in the piazza that shows birds flying around a stone map of Sicily, symbolizing the returning emigrants. In some cases the older parents live in other countries and have children who live in Montedoro having found husbands here when visiting relatives. Everyone here has relatives in other countries. It is very common to discuss when meeting someone for the first time all the places where their relatives live. Since my grandparents emigrated from here to the U.S. and followed a similar migration pattern as others from here, there is always a familial association with areas of Pennsylvania and New York State. My grandfathers first went to work in the coal mines of Pittston, Pennsylvania and then migrated to upstate New York where my grandparents settled in Rochester, NY. Many of the people we meet have relatives in Buffalo and Pittston.

 

For the past 20 years Montedoro has had years of socialist governments that have carried out successful communal projects for the town. There is a Social/Cultural Club located on the edge of town that has a communal pool for swimming in the summer months, a park (villa) called "Cozzo Tondo" with a performance stage that hosts many plays and dances. It is built in the tradition of a Greek theater overlooking a panoramic mountain vista. There is also art work that is placed in strategic locations all over the town. Many are sculptures by worldwide artists and some are murals. When you combine the emigration history and the artwork, you find that the town is marked by this international feel. Many people speak more than one language. The older people all speak Sicilian, which is considered a dialect of Italian, but sounds very different. It includes words that are Spanish and Arabic, just two of the cultural influences over the thousands of years of domination. The working age adults all speak Sicilian and Italian and maybe some French since until recently that was the second language taught in the schools. Many of the young people speak some English, since that is the foreign language that is now taught from the time students enter school as small children. The houses of the town are made of stone and very close together. Over years the houses have had upper floors added and have been remodeled with all the modern conveniences. They are quite beautiful inside. Many people also own some land in the "compagna" - the countryside surrounding the town. They take great pride in the land they have most of it is planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

There is a lot of interest in increasing tourism to the town. They are reopening the hotel in town and also the village has various apartments for rent by tourists. Its central location on the island makes it a great place to take day trips from. Montedoro is 37 Km. distant from Agrigento, 32 Km. from Caltanissetta, 158 Km. from Catania, 73 Km. from Enna, 254 Km. from Messina, 130 Km. from Palermo, 173 Km. from Ragusa, 223 Km. from Siracusa, 222 Km. from Trapani.

I continue to learn about the history of the people of Montedoro and thus my families' history. Like other island cultures, it has been shaped by a succession of foreign invaders and conquerors. The values, culture and survival strategies that are present today can be traced to this history of domination and power-over dynamics. In addition,the diversity of so many conquerors has produced an interesting mixture that has resulted in the unique and varied skin tones, language dialects, spiritual practices, political and philosophical world views as well as traditions and rituals. A rich ground for study and observation.

The Town Hall is located in Lg. Roma n° 1, tel. ++39 0934-934404 fax. ++39 0934-934295.

The Montedoro Zip Code is 93010.

Links to some Montedoro websites.

http://sicilia.indettaglio.it/eng/comuni/cl/montedoro/montedoro.html

http://www.montedoroarte.it/

http://www.regione.sicilia.it/turismo/web_turismo/uk/localita/CL/montedoro/homepage.html

Here is a link to a very good site on Serradifalco - the neighboring town.

www.conigliofamily.com

Here is a map of Sicily. To see where Montedoro is located click on the Caltanissetta region. It will be west and slightly south of the city of Caltanissetta.

http://maps.sicilian.net/

 

 

Directions to Montedoro from Palermo Airport:

http://sicilia.indettaglio.it/eng/comuni/cl/montedoro/trasporti/trasporti.html
1. As you leave the airport, you will see signs for the Autostrade- or highway, A. Follow the signs and get on A 29.
2. Stay on A 29 into Palermo. As you reach the city, the road becomes a regular street with some intersections. Keep going straight. When you see the big Holiday Inn, you will be at a large traffic circle. Go around the circle and continue straight, but keep to the left lane so you can exit left back on to the continuation of the Autostrade.
3. Stay on A29 and as you leave Palermo city, watch for the sign for A19 and exit for Caltanisetta.
4. Continue on toward Caltanisetta. After approx. 1/2 hour, watch for a sign for the exit to Caltanisetta on route SS 640. The exit ramp off A19 merges onto SS640.
5. Set you mileage marker now, or note the mileage.
Continue on SS640 past Caltanisetta and continue on SS640 following the signs to Agrigento.
6. You will be taking an exit to Seradifalco, but you will pass at least three signs for different exits to Seradifalco before you reach the best one, at Kilometer 33.8 from your exit off A19.
7. Exit for Seradifalco on route SS 122. At the end of the ramp, turn left (north) and follow SS122 to Seradifalco. Watch for signs to Montedoro and follow those signs around Seradifalco and on to Montedoro. Note: if a sign indicates Montedoro with an up arrow at a traffic circle, it means you drive around the circle and take the road coming off the circle that is approximately in the same direction as you were driving.
8. The road into Montedoro is about 5 km long and very winding from Seradifalco. When you finally enter the town, you will see a major fork in the road just by the second gas station. Continue on the left fork several blocks following the sign toward the Hotel Scania. Turn left and procede toward Hotel Scania. Pass the hotel and you come to the main Piazza. Go around the traffic circle (with center monument) and continue straight as you were going for two more blocks where the street now starts going steeply uphill.