Val di Kam - Sulle tracce del re Sicano Kokalos

S. Angelo Muxaro

THE VILLAGE

Obviously, one who has never been here can’t but be surprised and pleasantly awed when, from the provincial road that from Agrigento meanders into the inland along curves, twists and bends between mountains and hills, will find him/herself almost immediately in front of a unique and spectacular view. On a lonely hill, in the centre of the valley of the river Platani and surrounded by a wild and harsh vegetation, a handful of houses lie on the sheer slope of the hill itself… this is the small town of Sant’Angelo Muxaro.

The same road that takes you along the turning of the Canale Vecchio forces you along a route, almost as though the hill itself wants to be admired before captivating you along the winding road up to the town. But just before taking the road that goes up, raise your eyes to the centre left side of the hill, you will notice a dark blot: that is the biggest tholos grotto in Sicily: la Grotta del Principe – the Grotto of the Prince.

Continue the road up flanked by prickly pear trees and chalky walls. After three bends to you will get to a small square with a high ancient stone wall on one side, this is via Porta di Spagna, here was once, and still is, the entrance to the town. Continue and you will enter into via Libertà. On your right there is a fountain and a drinking trough where the peasants, coming back home from their hard day’s work in the country, stop and let their mules, donkeys and horses quench their thirst after the steep climb to the town. Next to the fountain there is a small church dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Opposite to the church, welcoming you, there is the seat of our association “Abbas. It”: come in and ask us whatever you want, all the information you need, to enjoy a pleasant stay. This is our aim: to take you, our guest, around these unknown places, to relate to you the history, customs, traditions, uses and hopes of those who, like us, have had the privilege, the good fortune and the courage to stay here, to live in a simple, happy and lively way because we bear in our hearts the love for these extraordinary places.

Before continuing, also opposite the church, there’s the panoramic viewpoint of the Piano Croce where you can admire the immense valley of the River Platani. Stop and meditate: this river was one time navigable and this valley with its river, and this particular geographical position made the fortune, according to many scholars, of one of the most powerful peoples that lived in Sicily – the Sicans. Here king Kokalos, king of the Sicans, decided to build in this very place his citadel: Kamikos.

Continue along the road sided by houses with balconies full of flowers in bloom, this is Via Libertà that leads into a big Square, piazza Umberto I. A big rectangular sloping plaza and all around houses attached one to the other. It seems a natural open theatre, and not by chance the theatrical performances, concerts and village festivals, here, are manifold. This is the heart of the town and it is here that the ‘Santangelesi’, the people of Sant’Angelo, pass their time sitting at the tables of the cafés playing cards, enjoying their drink or simply chatting and appreciating the company of whoever they are with.

At the top left hand corner of the plaza you will find via Duomo, which will conduct you to Guarino Amella Square. This plaza is named after Giovanni Guarino Amella, a Member of the Italian Parliament elected many times at the beginning of this century, Secretary of the antifascist Aventino secession in 1924 and one of the promoters of the autonomous Regional Parliament of Sicily. In a corner of this plaza there is still the house where Guarino Amella was born and lived, and where his family still lives. In the same square there is the Church dedicated to Sant’Angelo the Martyr. The front prospect of the church is in live stone enriched in carved stone portals and broad linear cornices. The steeple is neo-classic and belongs to the early years of this century. The interior has a vaulted central nave and two side aisles with a wooden crossing vault. A marble altar, with elegant panels and gold-plated wood statuettes, enriches the central apse. The altar of the right aisle has fine floral marquetry inlaid in slate and a representation of Jesus and the two disciples dining at Emmaus, this also inlaid in slate. In the church you can admire a crucifix, which was brought to the church from the nearby Monte Castello, it is a metre long and in wood encapsulated in flattened silver and dates back to the 17th century, the head, instead, is a work of sculptors from Palermo (1722). You also can admire a renaissance statue representing Christ the Saviour (SS. Salvatore); an exquisite painted wooden Christ of the late 17th century laid in a glass carriage. Eight paintings by unknown painters dated late 17th century and a painting by Guadagnino representing the Baptism of Jesus. Last, but not least, you can also admire a remarkable baptismal font in sculptured marble.

Not far from the town square there is the Church of Itria (17th – 18th century) known as the church of Carmelo, with a stone block prospect which harmonises with the rural buildings nearby; the portal is in cut stone and covering this there is a heraldic frieze in sandstone. The interior is composed of an only aisle with an open vaulted wooden ceiling. Of particular interest is the recently restored gold-plated wooden tabernacle and balustrade, a beautiful work of art by a local craftsman; there is also a 16th century good-plated statue of Our Holy Mother of Itria (from the Greek-Albanian colony period of Sant’Angelo Muxaro). And the majestic ligneous group of the Holy Mary of the Carmelo with St. Simon Stok and the souls of the purgatory at her feet (18th century) and two wooden sculptured ambos with underlying caryatids (18th century).

Of a certain ingenious manufacture is the spiral staircase of the square steeple with steps carved in stone blocks of sandstone juxtaposed in such a way as to create a braid and a central well.