Eventi Gustare e soggiornare Scoperta Itinerari

Cenni storici

The small medieval village of Contessa Entellina is located in the Belice valley, inside a thick lush vegetation, at the foot of the northern slope of Mount Genuardo. The name honors the Countess Catherine Cardona, who founded the village. The town was built on the ruins of an abandoned old house existing, the Hamlet of Comitissa. The foundation of Contessa is attributed to the Albanians, because the house of Contessa was rebuilt and inhabited by Greek-Albanians, who in the past had settled  to Bisiri, a castle in the territory of Mazara. 

In 1462, the early Albanians inhabitants of Contessa, left the house again to reach Albania, in order to fight for their country, menaced by Muslims. Led by Skanderbeg, they reported victories over the Muslims and then noble families left  their country again because of the dangerous situation of Albania, in order to return to Sicily. The baron Cardona assured all its protection to the refugees and later the baron’s son, Alfonso,  gave  them for rent for 9 years the two  hamlets "Contesse" and "Serradamo". After some years, the Albanians asked and obtained by the count the concession of  the two manors, and in 1520 they assumed the obligation to rebuild the abandoned farmhouse and encourage repopulation. So, Albanians involved other compatriots in order to increase the population  and new refugees found shelter in Contessa’s lands immediately, under the protection of Cardona’s family, dealing with the cultivation of fields and breeding.

After the unification of the Kingdom of Italy in 1875, Contessa was renamed “Contessa Entellina” because of  the ancient city of Entella (inhabited by the Elimi and destroyed by Frederick II in 1224), which located in Contessa’s territory, in order to distinguish the village  from fractions of the same name in the province of Messina and in Tuscany. The oldest part of the village is now the venue of new structures, because in 1968 the city was hit by an earthquake that destroyed the original cottages. It also includes four boroughs , Piano Cavaliere, Borgo Roccella, Cozzo Finocchio, Castagnola.

Contessa’s  Italian-Albanian and greek-Byzantine identity is mainly witnessed by three factors: LANGUAGE, RITE, COSTUMES. In fact the village, along with Piana and Santa Cristina Gela, is part of the community of Albanian-speeking villages of Sicily, where the ancient Albanian language is still spoken.

Contessa Entellina

Comune di Museums and Monuments

The Antiquarian Entella was opened in 1995, thanks to the cooperation between the City of Contessa Entellina, the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and the Superintendence for Cultural and Environmental Heritage of Palermo, but also thanks to the will of Professor. Nenci, director of the archaeological mission in Rocca d'Entella, who died a few years ago, which since 1984 had led the excavations at the site of the ancient city.

The museum is designed with a system of self-learning modules, linked at the same time by a thread; inside the museum, the visitor can observe a reconstruction of the urban structure of the city, of the fortifications dating to the sixth century BC, with successive restorations of the fourth century BC and with the two entrances to the city and to the necropolis south, and also some findings of the ancient city.

The central section of the museum is dedicated to the historical stratification, through the material culture. It starts from the prehistoric Neolithic with axes and worked flints, to move to the late Bronze Age, observing Thapsos and Milazzese- styled pottery and of course the main ceramic production called “Elima”, both engraved and geometrical painted. A particularly interesting find is a patterned, engraved amphora with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic decoration (dated the seventh century BC), from Entella’s necropolis. The museum also shows numerous ceramic findings of Attic importation of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, with red and black figures.

The key point of the museum is the Hellenistic barn that contains the most important Entella’s findings and also food containers and jars.

Particularly remarkable is the reconstruction of a glimpse of the Hellenistic necropolis, rebuilt in the context of excavation using reproductions of fiberglass casts of the buried and covers original burial. In the tomb it was founded a greek inscription that lets you know also the name of the woman buried: Takima.

Several daily objects are exposed. Some "cobalt and manganese" bowls are particularly interesting  and they date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, in addition to glazed pottery  from the Arab-Norman period.

Many languages ​ were spoken at Entella over the centuries, each of which has left testimony engraved on the shoes, ceramics, coins and material. The final area is devoted to epigraphy and coins founded at Entella, some Entella’s coins dating from the fifth century BC, others from other ancient centers, while two of the famous tables with the decrees of Entella are in the Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo  and the other six are still abroad.

Some medieval findings have been found mainly in the only castle entirely carved, Kalatamauru. Castle Calatamauro has Byzantine origin and was an arabian military base. In the fifteenth century it had lost all its military importance and acted only as an administrative feudal-center;  the castle lost also this function  few decades after, with the arrival of “Arbereshe” (Albanian) community.

The archaeological studies began in 2006, under the direction of the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and the Archaeological Superintendence of Palermo. The studies have exposed the old entire route of the fortifications below, that were reinforced by six towers.

The old path running along part of the fortifications and the door of access to the castle had been identified. Proceeding from the gateway to the West and then inside the fortification wall, two tombs have been founded,  covered with earthen plates. The burials are oriented with the head to the west and the legs to the east, both children, one of them was probably a newborn.

The famous Byzantine mosaic of Virgin and Child of the seventh century. A.D. also comes from the castle of Calatamauro, and it’s kept in Palazzo Abatellis Regional Gallery (Palermo).

Abbey of Santa Maria del Bosco

In old times, the bell of the Santa Maria del Bosco (St. Mary of the Wood) spread its chiming throughout the Belice Valley. For several centuries the pilgrims who came from Contessa, Bisacquino and Giuliana and other neighboring villages filled the church, cloisters and courtyards. This monument of historical, architectural and religious importance is one of the most significant cultural heritage of the area.

Today, visitors are fascinated by the extraordinary beauty of the monumental church, which apparently seems intact from the outside view facade, the bell tower and the walls of the north side, but behind the facade and the door closed, there are no longer the ceiling, the chapels of the south side, the floor, the transept, the marble, the altars, paintings etc. In fact, the church was partly destroyed by the earthquake of 68 and for the previous neglect. The building complex involving of two cloisters is still intact, because the owner, the Inglese family, took care of its preservation and  maintenance. Part of the buildings and spaces of S. Maria del Bosco, who are still fit for use, are suitable for a fruition of culture and tourism. Indeed, this monument, placed in a wonderful green place, attracts hundreds of visitors.

The Church of SS. Annunziata (KLISHA), also dedicated to St. Nicholas, Contessa Entellina’s patron, it’s the parish seat of greek rite and is characterized by the iconostasis. The old chapel in ruins, already existing when the Albanians arrived in Contessa, was rebuilt and enlarged. The construction started in 1520 and was adapted to the needs of the greek rite. Closed after the earthquake of 1968, it has been restored and reopened for worship. It  consists of three naves with side chapels. The right side corridor leads to the underlying ancient chapel.

Santa Maria delle Grazie (Shën Meria) Church was built in XVI century near the place where, according to the  tradition, it was found an image of St. Mary painted on a stone slab. Initially of greek rite, was transferred temporarily to the Latin rite in 1698 with the reservation of certain rights in favor of the Greeks: singing of "Christos Anesti" in the first three days after Easter, singing "Paraclesis" in the first half of August; Vespers, Mass and procession on the occasion of the annual Madonna della Favara feast in September. Seat of Latin rite parish, it also has a rectory.

The Church of the Holy Souls in Purgatory (greek rite), built around 1700, is made up of a single nave with iconostasis. It is located in the town center (Piazza Umberto I) and it was restored after the earthquake of 1968.

The Church of St. Rocco is made up of a single small nave. Built in the late seventeenth century, it was restored around 1744. Unusable after the earthquake of 1968, it has been recently restored and reopened for worship. It preserves a precious and ancient pipe organ of the eighteenth century and the first iconostasis (1938) of the Greek church.

The Church "Queen of the World", the seat of the parish, formed in 1958 in the rural borough Piano Cavaliere, was built after 1950. It’s made up of a nave with adjoining parish house.

The Odigitria Church is located in the rural district of the same name. Built by Albanian refugees, it remained incomplete and it was partly restored in 1958. It is member of the Greek parish.  It’s the historical monument of memory, where every Whitsun you go on a pilgrimage to thank Lady Odigitria, who led the Albanian refugees in Italy, and to remember with the popular song "E Bukura Moré" (Oh my beautiful Morea) the native country left forever by Albanians.

The small Chapel of St. Rosalia, built in the late nineteenth century by Epifanio Viviani, is located in the district of the same name and it’s part of the Latin parish.

The chapel of St. Calogero is located in the district of the same name, on the road leading to Sciacca.

In the rural village Pizzillo, in the Northwest of  Contessa, it is the rural church of Community Trinity of Peace.

The church of St. Anthony, in the rural borough Castagnola, was built after 1950 and opened for worship in 1990. It’s made up of a single nave, it is equipped with iconostasis and it’s part of the Greek parish. Mass is celebrated there occasionally.

The small chapel dedicated to St. Joseph is located within the "Memorial Park", near the cemetery. Built in 1927, it has recently been restored.

The rural chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, built in the second half of the nineteenth century, is located in the rural borough Bagnatelle. Damaged and unusable after the earthquake of 1968, it has recently been rebuilt with its original features.

The chapel dedicated to “Nostra Signora del Balzo” is located in the district of the same name  (San Nicolò Street).

Sites of natural interest

The natural reserve of Mount Genuardo and Santa Maria del Bosco

The natural reserve’s naturalistic importance  is due to the remains of the ancient forests that covered these areas and to its different areas: Monte Genuardo (1,180 m), ​​Santa Maria del Bosco’s territory and Pomo’s Wood.  Under the  geological point of view, the area is affected by slow massive landslides that, joining the surficial erosion of rocks, led to the formation of huge and disjointed blocks of rock, the largest of which is the settlement of Adranon. From Monte Gurgo, on the northern sector of Mount Genuardo, this phenomenon is clearly visible. Monte Gurgo is a carbonate mountain formed by the slow superimposition of fossil deposits of ancient sea’s beds dating from the Upper Triassic (for instance, the time of dinosaurs) until our days.

The Plant

On the northwestern slope of the mountain, natural forests are mixed with afforestation of exotic species. On the southern side the thick and continuous oak forest is interrupted by deciduous oaks, especially where the soil is deeper, and individuals of maples and flowering ash. In the undergrowth there are many shrubs such as hawthorn, rosehip, the false pepper mountain, clematis and ivy, and several herbaceous species including the pigamo of Calabria and the smelly lily.

News on Wildlife:

Among birds, it’s important the presence of rare species of hawk, particularly the so-called “lodolaio”. It’s 38-48 cm long, it has shorter tail than other hawks. He lives in open areas close to forests and lays its eggs in old nests of crows. It preys on birds and large insects and looks like the peregrine falcon, even if the main differences are the wings’ length and the livery: in fact, it has pointed mustache, narrower than the peregrine falcon, and streaked under parts; under tail is brown. In wetlands, green frogs croaking unaware of the danger; possible are, in fact, the meetings with the grass snake, good swimmer that prefers, in his diet, even toads, animals who live in the woods, just like the fox and the marten, typical of Sicilian woods, while the presence of the wild cat is uncertain. Between forest and open areas lives the wild rabbit, the porcupine and small mammals such as Sicilian shrews and Savi voles, often victims of owls. In the forest  also live finches and titmice, warblers and jays, hooded crows, small rodents and reptiles including the beautiful green lizard , with its beautiful emerald livery (with the blue head in males), and lizards commonly known: the countryside lizard  and the Sicilian lizard, but also “gongili” and geckos. Among snakes, here live the viper, the only poisonous reptile in Sicily. On tree trunks live currents explorers: upward climbs a passerine locally called “acchianazucchi”, with a very long and curved beak, suitable to flush out insects from tree barks; while the nuthatch with its powerful beaks and sharp look for of insects and seeds, while there are only echo sound tracks of the red woodpecker. In these areas there is also the boar, reintroduced a few decades ago.

Tourist information:

The natural reserve’s naturalistic importance  is due to the remains of the ancient forests that covered these areas and to its different areas: Monte Genuardo (1,180 m), ​​Santa Maria del Bosco’s territory and Pomo’s Wood.  Under the  geological point of view, the area is affected by slow massive landslides that, joining the surficial erosion of rocks, led to the formation of huge and disjointed blocks of rock, the largest of which is the settlement of Adranon. From Monte Gurgo, on the northern sector of Mount Genuardo, this phenomenon is clearly visible. Monte Gurgo is a carbonate mountain formed by the slow superimposition of fossil deposits of ancient sea’s beds dating from the Upper Triassic (for instance, the time of dinosaurs) until our days. On the surface there are also deposits of submarine lavas, the so-called pillow lavas, due to eruptive activity dating back to 135 million years ago (Jurassic-Cretaceous). These deposits  are clearly visible along the way to Santa Maria del Bosco and mostly near the Mount Genuardo’s top.

The Natural Reserve Entella’s Cave 

Geographical context 

The Natural Reserve Entella’s Cave is located in the central and western Sicily, in an area where the only example of human intervention, aimed at the development of the territory, is the dam Garcia, at the foot of the Fortress of Entella. Damming the river Belice Left, it gave rise to the homonym lake. The dam, built by the Consortium for the High and Middle Belice in the first half of the 80s, allowed to solve, in the surrounding area, the perennial problem of crops’ irrigation. This lake, in addition to providing benefits to agricultural activities, has also "sweetened" the surrounding landscape integrating into it perfectly. It’s also become a reference for migratory birds that stop here during the wintering period. The Reserve  lies in Contessa Entellina’s territory, but not far from the towns of Poggioreale and Monreale and the provinces of Palermo and Trapani. Near the fortress there is an important archaeological site, the ancient city of Entella.

The Fortress of Entella

Entella’s Cave, reason of the institution of the reserve, is set inside the so called “Rocca” (557 mt. above sea level), an isolated ill above the confluence of Left Belice and Right Belice (two branches of the same river, Belice). Around the headland of the Rock there are no surface streams and rainwater infiltrate into the subsoil, raising Petraro Valley and some branches of Left Belice, that originate in the north of the rocky headland. In the fortress there are chalky rocks, in large crystals and with a thickness of 2.3 m. These "chalky-sulphureous"  rocks originated about 6 million years ago.

Particular features of chalk are its solubility and its easy moldability under the action of rainwaters. These, by sliding on the surface, generate a large variety of shapes. Then, by infiltrating into the cracks of the rock, rainwater dissolves rocks  and digs caves.

The fauna and vegetation

The “Rocca” is a sort of an bio-ecological "island". Natural vegetation is  very interesting, above all the grassland dominated by the big “cespitose graminacea”,  which limits erosions. Among animals there are many sparrows, rabbits, foxes, porcupines. The rock wall is a place of rest or nesting for many birds, particularly birds of prey (buzzards, peregrine falcons, kestrels).  Here also settled a particular rock vegetation, with the presence of species adapted to the sub-gypsum layers, such as the "Sedum gypsicola", a Mediterranean specie quite frequently on Sicilian chalky rocks but absent in the rest of Italy; and the cruciform "Diplotaxis crassifolia", common in Southwest Mediterranean. Other species found refuge on the cliffs of the Rocca, like the species "Euphorbia dendroides" and "Gypsophila arrostii".

Entella’s cave

It's now an inactive cavity, because in its interior there is no longer constant flow of water, and it’s about 400 meters long. Recent explorations led by the reserve’s staff and by Petralia Sottana’s CAI volunteers, have uncovered a new branch, located at an altitude higher than any other known levels, with considerable archaeological, geological and caving features . The overall development of the cave is therefore arose to about 1 km. The entrance, approximately elliptical in shape (1.50 x 1.40 m.), opens at the base of the Rock’s west side, at an altitude of 388 meters. It was the spot where the ancient waters returned to light after their path in the mountain’s heart.

The initial portion of the cave is formed by a meander-shaped tunnel about 10 meters long and 1 meter large, through which you can reach the innermost underground parts of the cave system, through large halls, small jumps, stretches just passable because of the small dimension, slides and wells placing in the highest branches of the cave. This, in fact, spread over at least 4 levels of galleries.

The visit of a cave is always an "adventure" for visitors, but even more if it’s a chalky cave. The walls, made up of chalky macro crystals, shine in the torchlight, while beautiful inflorescences of chalky crystals, stalactites and stalagmites help to make this fairytale setting even more impressive. On the cave’s walls there are the signs left by waters in their incessant flow down, and also deposits of alluvium material transported by the underground river and then abandoned in the cavity. In the newly discovered branch of the cave several artifacts of archaeological and aesthetic interest were founded: bones, shards, etc. 

Establishment of the Reserve

The Natural Reserve "Entella’s Cave" was set up in 1995 and it’s placed in the Regional Plan of Parks and Nature Reserves. The management has been assigned to the Italian Alpine Club - Sicily with the task of safeguarding the integrity of the cave and promote scientific research and initiatives aimed at raising awareness of natural heritage in the protected area. The first explorations in the area date back to the 50s. The territory under protection, about 13 hectares long, represents a small portion of the entire relief of “Rocca di Entella”.

Ancient legends

The popular memory tells that a powerful spell  burds on Entella’s Rock, and there are many legends handed down from father to son. Many of these legends involve the cave; in fact the name "Grotta dei Dinari" (Cave of Money) is surely connected to the stories that describe the cave as the hiding place of a huge treasure. The cave, though, would be protected by a spell that would prevent anyone from possess the treasure. Another legend says that the cave is inhabited by a monster-serpent with 14 heads. To placate his ire against the inhabitants of the place, they had to feed him, every day,  with a girl drawn by lot. Other stories report the testimony of some farmers who ventured into the depths of the cave to look for the legendary treasure; they were attracted by a noise coming from behind a rock and a beautiful woman dressed in white appeared to them. She told them to be a Muslim queen who had long lived in those places and then disappeared. The farmers, astonished by the vision, could not find the way out until the woman reappeared and led them out.

As you reach the reserve

From Palermo, walk for 50 km the freeway Palermo-Sciacca (SS624) to Junction Alcamo-Diga Garcia. Then continue to the road which leads to Contessa Entellina, following signs Dam Garcia.

Coming from Palermo-Mazara del Vallo (A29) going out at junction “Gallitello”. Drive about 20 km. the S.P. 119 for Castelvetrano until you see signs for the fast Palermo-Sciacca. Continue following the first indication Vaccarizzo and then the indication Dam Garcia.

Archaeological aspects

The Fortress of Entella, because of its geographical location that was suitable to support every stubborn siege by the fiercest of the invaders, was far from the remotest period the scene of many battles. The city of Entella, whose ruins take place on the hill’s topis one of three Sicilian cities with Elim origins (the others are Erice and Segesta). It had great importance during the war between Carthaginians and Syracusans, in the time of Dionysius the Elder. In the late Middle Ages it was, with the castle of Jato, the last bastion of defense and the livelier center of resistance against the power Saracen and Frederick II, who destroyed it in 1246. The archaeological research at Entella begins in 1979, although only since 1983 regular campaigns of excavations have been launched, discovering parts of the walls, the gates of the city, a department store for the accumulation of cereals, the remains of a castle and a necropolis.

Festivals and folklore

JOSEPH - "The ARTARU"

According to the tradition, on March 19, the day of St. Joseph, many families in the village devoted to the Holy Patriarch, following graces received, fit as vow the so-called "Artaru" (the altar) in their homes. This consists of a large table, on which you have the image of St. Joseph and the Holy Family. The table is adorned with the best embroidered sheets that local women keep with great care. There also abound dishes filled with "pignolata", "sfince" and various fried foods. Food preparation and the decoration of the altar require the collaboration of several people, so women, friends, relatives and neighbors work together like a "big family" and with a great spirit of solidarity that becomes the tangible sign of devotion to the Patriarch. These dishes alternate with orange and fennel, while a profusion of perfumes emanating from the flowers that adorn it and from laurel branches on the sides of them. At noon, around the large "table", the guests sit, called "Santuzzi" (Saints); their number varies between a minimum of five and a maximum of thirteen. They play the role of the holy family and the saints. Pasta with toasted breadcrumbs and sweetened with sugar, fried and various desserts of all kinds are served to the guests. The day of St. Joseph is spent in the village in a bustle of people who come to visit the altars with relatives and friends. The main feature of '' Artaru "are the loaves of St. Joseph; they are hand-carved breads as small works of art that represent the ancient tools of trades, including that of carpenter. The real peculiarity, however, are so-called "cucciddati", big round loaves artfully worked, placed at the beginning of the table, the beard and the stick of St. Joseph and the "M" in the name of Mary. The morning of the 19th, after Mass, Saints go to the '' Artaru "and begin to eat lunch, served by the family member who has promised the Artaru to Patriarch St. Joseph. According to the tradition, every saint has to taste everything that is served.

A special feature that distinguishes the festivities that the inhabitants of Contessa reserve to the Patriarch is the song "Lu Viaggiu Dulurusu", singed in Sicilian dialect, which is done in front of all the altars of the village on the eve of St. Joseph. All the devoted to the Saint join the Band and make the rounds of "Artari" and for each of it they sing the song, that tells the story of the nine-day journey faced by Joseph and the Virgin Mary until  Child Jesus’ birth.

EASTER ARBERESCHE

Palm Sunday. In Contessa, on Palm Sunday, two processions converge simultaneously in Greek and Latin Churches. The solemn liturgy is strictly officiated with the Greek-Byzantine rite; after the Mass there’s a parade in procession in traditional dress, singing the song of "Lazarus" and the "Christos-Anesti" (Christ risen).

Lazarus. During the night before the Saturday of Lazarus, some boys and girls stop at some houses in the village to sing in Albanian language the Gospel story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus; at the end of the song the owner  of the house offers to the singers drinks and food (cheese, eggs, etc.)

Holy Saturday. Late in the morning of Holy Saturday the Greek Church’s bells ring to announce the Resurrection of Christ.

With a vine with seven gems and pronouncing a typical sentence, the landlady strikes all objects and every corner of the house to ward off the devil that could rule while Christ layed dead in the tomb.

During the night before Easter is announced Christ's resurrection, singing "Christos Anesti".

San Nicola

In St. Nicholas (Contessa’s patron)’s day, after the solemn Divine Liturgy, the so called "Breads of St. Nicholas" blessed by the priest,  are distributed to people. They are then stored and made into pieces and thrown out of the house when the storm rages to be protected from damage caused by storms and bad weather.

8 September – MARY SS. FAVARA’ S FEAST

The celebrations in honor of Mary S.S. Favara take place in Contessa Entellina. The festivities begin on the  early morning of September 1 with the so-called “alborata”. The country is adorned with an artistic lighting, to admire the facades of the two main churches, the Greek-Byzantine rite Church and the Roman Rite Church (or Latin Church ) which houses the statue of “Madonna della Favara” (Mary SS. Favara) and the famous artistic "Vara". From the first day, every morning until the last day (8 September), the so-called "tamburinaru" of the musical band go around the village acting as an alarm clock and remembering all the villagers the climate of feast.

In the following days, in addition to religious rituals, the Committee of the festivities, thanks to offers given by citizens in a spirit of great devotion, organizes various entertainment events. Usually we try to mix different kinds of shows and attractions, such as stage plays and musical performances, folk groups, famous artists etc. to cheer the inhabitants and arouse the interest and participation of all generations.

The 7th day  is dedicated to the Musical Band, real folkloristic heritage of Contessa. Already early in the morning the members of the band perform around the streets of the country, the same thing is repeated in the afternoon. In the evening is the time of the great concert in Piazza. September 8 is the day of the procession. On the morning of September the bishop, the priests and the most important religious authorities of the Eparchy of Piana (covered with precious vestments) with the Band and devotees, dressed in Albanian costumes, went in procession to the Latin Church where they are expected by the devotees of the Latin rite and they celebrate the function.

In the afternoon, the statue is placed in the artistic "Vara" and is embellished with many objects and gold jewelery donated by devotees for centuries.

The evening of the procession, so-called "Holders" are preparing and in considerable number (approximately 60), burden on their backs the "Vara", bringing it in procession through the streets of the town. Along the way are made numerous stops where people pray and sing, during one of these are carried out the fireworks, an attraction that is repeated every year with changing colors and shapes.

Eventually the exhausted "Holders" perform the ascent in front of the Latin Church, before entering, "in an up and down" with the "Vara", rise and fall of each year to race nine times and even more, trying to overcome the resistance of a human chain that would bring the "Vara" inside the Church. At the end, this human chain "win" , the Vara is placed in the square and people come to take a piece of cotton wool rubbed on the statue.

The festivities end on the 9th of September, when every year in the district Giarrusso, on the outskirts of the village there is the famous animals fair followed by the traditional fair of various objects. In the evening, the it's time for the big conclusive event , with a performance of artists and / or musicians of national importance.

Typical products

Belice’s Valley Vastedda DOP

 Belice’s Valley Vastedda  DOP is one of the few spun pasted sheep cheese. It has a particular taste typical of fresh sheep's cheese, slightly tangy but never too sharp. Its paste is white, compact, with some striations due to the traditional kneading. The characteristic shape of a cake, with its slightly convex sides, makes vastedda unique. Belice’s Valley Vastedda DOP must have a diameter between 15 and 17 cm and a height of the side between 3 and 4 cm. Its weight must be between 500 and 700 grams, depending on the size of the form, and have a free-crust surface, off-white, compact and smooth without pitting or bending.

The paste is white uniform, smooth, not grainy but with possible light striations caused by the traditional kneading. The holes must be absent or very poor, just as sweating, while the aroma is characteristic of fresh sheep's milk,sweet, fresh and pleasant, with veins slightly tangy. Its fat percentage is not less than 35% of dry matter, while the sodium chloride does not exceed 5% of dry matter.

Belice’s Valley Vastedda DOP’s processing 

The milk used is only  Belice valley sheep’s fresh milk. As is traditional, the milk is heated up to a temperature of 40 ° C. After that you add the lamb rennet paste. It takes approximately 50 minutes to form the curd, which must be broken finely.The mass is transferred into containers called “fuscelle”, where it is left to rest for a period of 24-48 hours, during which the cheese acidified. At this point, the mass is extracted, cut into strips and placed in a vat of wood, called piddiaturi. Then, with the addition of hot water and processing  with a wood shovel  (“vaciliatuma”), the spinning of the cheese begins. After the spinning, the paste is molded on “tavuleri” (a sort of wood desk), obtaining braids that are laid in deep plates. On these plates paste settles, and is turned several times, assuming the characteristic shape of a cake.

After 12 hours the cheeses are removed from the plate, salted and left to dry for another 12-48 hours.

Traditional outfit

Tools used for the preparation of Vastedda are traditional, historical instruments passed down throughout history. They are wooden equipments like piddiaturi, tina, tavuleri, patella,fuscelle and the stick for spinning. All these tools enrich the milk of a microbial pro-dairy flora which give naturally to the Vastedda Belice its specificities.

Knowing vastedda

Vastedda is famous thanks to its special processing and thanks to its peculiarities. The correct pronunciation of his Sicilian name, is obtained by pressing the tongue on the palate on D and pronouncing the accent on the I of the word Belice.

Contessa Entellina DOC

The Contessa Entellina DOC is one of the 23 Appellations of Origin of Sicily

The Contessa Entellina Doc takes its name from the town of Contessa Entellina, the exclusive production area of this Doc. On this territory stood the city of Entella (Anthilia) that, with Erice and Segesta, was founded between the sixth and fifth century BC by Elimi, an old population whose origins are still shrouded in mystery. However , certain is the link between this civilization and the art of winemaking, as documented by numerous witnesses including coins reproducing grapes and some Latin sources attest a very popular wine production yet in ancient ages. This Doc is produced in the White, Red, Rosé, Ansonica, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grecanico, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Reserve Red, Late Harvest Wines.

How to consume

The Contessa Entellina Doc Bianco and the mono-varietal whites perfectly match with appetizers, pasta and fish and eggs cooked in various ways; they should be served at a temperature between 8 and 12 ° C in flared chalices for young white wines. The Red version and single-varietal reds go along with structured pasta dishes, such as lasagna, or with preparations of meat, grilled meats and cheeses. The optimum temperature for the administration is 16-18 ° C and the cup suitable is the Bordeaux or ballon, according to aging. The Rosato version, finally, it goes well with meats, pasta and meat dishes, vegetables and fresh cheeses and should be served in large glasses at a temperature of 12-14 ° C.

How to recognize

The labeling of the Contessa Entellina Doc

Each label must carry a mention of the Controlled Denomination of Origin besides all the other indications foreseen by law, such as: The determined Region from which the product comes; Designation of the product composed of the vine variety from which the wine originates and the geographic area in which that variety is cultivated; Nominal volume of the wine; Name or business name and address; Number and code of the bottler, which may also appear on the closing system (cork or cap) Name of the State; Indication of the batch; Ecological information.

Identification card - Typology

Contessa Entellina DOC is produced in the White, Red, Rosé, Ansonica, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grecanico, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Reserve Red, Late Harvest Wines.

 Description

The Contessa Entellina Bianco is obtained from Ansonica  grape in a minimum percentage of 50%, the remaining percentage must is represented, from the vines Catarratto gloss white, golden Grecanico, Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Grillo; Rosso and Rosato are obtained for at least 50% from Calabrese grapes and / or Syrah, the remaining percentage is represented, from vines, present within the company, from non-aromatic black, authorized by the province of Palermo ; the designation of origin Contessa Entellina with the mention Chardonnay, Grecanico, Sauvignon, Ansonica, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot is reserved to wines made from grapes from the corresponding vines for at least 85%.

Characteristics

The Contessa Entellina Bianco’s visual examination shows a straw yellow color more or less intense, sometimes greenish. It has delicate, fruity, characteristic flavor and dry, lively and fresh. The minimum alcohol content is 11 degrees. The Contessa Entellina Rosso has a ruby ​​red color with garnet sometimes, especially if aged. Its aroma is intense, vinous, distinctive and the flavor is dry and velvety. The minimum alcohol content is 11.5 degrees. The Contessa Entellina Rosato instead presents a pinkish color sometimes with orange highlights and a fine, intense bouquet. It astes dry, fragrant, velvety and the minimum alcohol content is 11 degrees.

Production area: It is produced exclusively in the municipality of Contessa Entellina, in the province of Palermo.

Market Presence: All the year

Normative requirements: The Doc Contessa Entellina has been recognized by the Ministerial Decree of 02.08.1993 as subsequently amended by Decree of 19.08.1996 issued on GU of 27.08.1996 which replaced the full product specification.