What to see in Sambuca di Sicilia? Come with us to discover this Sicilian village of Arab charm.

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In the hinterland of Agrigento, some 20 kilometres from the seaside town of Sciacca, lies one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Sambuca di Sicilia

The village, of Arab origins, was founded as far back as 830 A.D. but still retains traces of its Islamic matrix. Walking through its streets will be like going back in time.

Sambuca is a true corner of paradise to be experienced at a slow pace, discovering step by step the history and traditions of a place that enchants all its visitors. The streets of the historic centre are full of restaurants and places where you can taste the specialities of Sicilian cuisine, and there are just as many places of interest linked to its past.

Let's discover together what else this hidden gem in Sicily has to offer!

Sambuca: historical notes

Sambuca stands on a hill in the Belice Valley at 350 m above sea level, within the Sicani Mountains Park. The village is surrounded by nature, in fact, it is surrounded to the north-east by woods and mountains and to the south-west by several valleys.

The origins of the village date back to 830. Sambuca was founded by the Arabs a few years after their landing in Sicily and they named it Zabuth, in memory of the Arab emir of the same name, Al-Zabut, who had a castle erected there, and built it on the slopes of Mount Genuardo. Sambuca still retains traces of its Islamic origins in the "Arab district".

Zabut was inhabited by an Islamic population until the 13th century, when it rebelled against the imperial consolidation ordered by Frederick to resolve the "Saracen question" in Sicily. Zabut resisted for two years. The resistance was crushed in 1225 and the slaughter was total. 

The fortress town of Zabut, after the massacre and the deportation of the Saracen survivors, was slowly rebuilt. Arabs who had converted to Christianity out of fear or conviction and Christians from neighbouring settlements lived together peacefully.

The town retained the toponym of Sambuca Zabut until 1923, when Mussolini decided to delete Zabut from the name and specified Sambuca regionally by adding "di Sicilia".

Since 2014, the village has been part of the club of "The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy".

The Arab district in Sambuca

The historical heart of Sambuca lies in its Arab district. The quarter is located at the top of the town and is a maze of perfectly restored alleys, reminiscent of a real Arab Kasbah. Strolling through the narrow streets, one can admire various examples of street art that make it even more atmospheric. 

The urban layout of millenary Sambuca developed around li setti vaneddi (seven Saracen alleys). The Arab quarter, an intricate web of small streets opening into courtyards and alleys, was built by Emir Al-Zabut, the town's founder.

The Saracen quarter in Sambuca di Sicilia is an area rich in history with its seven alleys, underground tuff quarries and the Mother Church. There are many attractions concentrated in this part of town. In ancient times, the district was part of the castle of Zabut. It stretches from Piazza Navarro, to Largo San Michele, to the Belvedere.

The Belvedere of Sambuca

On the highest point of the village of Sambuca there is the large Belvedere terrace.

It was once part of the ancient castle of Zambut and formed the fortified acropolis of the town. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, the few remaining ruins of the castle were demolished and this large space, often used for events, was created. The large terrace ends in an exedra with columns. According to legend, tunnels branch off underground, connecting the ancient castle with other parts of the city and the area.

Looking out, one is enraptured by a breathtaking panorama. The view reaches as far as the territories of Giuliana, Caltabellotta and Chiusa Sclafani, against the backdrop of the Sicani Mountains. At sunset everything is even more suggestive.

Things to see and do in Sambuca di Sicilia

In addition to the places of interest already described in the previous paragraphs, there is much more to discover in Sambuca. 

The town's urban development follows two main lines: the Arab one "within the walls", which continues until the end of the 16th century with the thickening of residences around the Zabut fortress, and the 17th-18th century one "outside the walls".

Of the 17th-18th century area, we would like to mention the Church of the Carmine and the Church of St Catherine of Alexandria, great examples of Baroque architecture. Noteworthy palaces include Palazzo Panitteri, characterised by an inner courtyard with a Catalan-style staircase leading to the archaeological museum and an inner garden with Mediterranean ornamental plants, and Palazzo dell'Arpa, the seat of the Town Hall.

Typical of Sambuca are the minni di virigini (virgin breasts), baked sweets. They are shaped like a breast with a darker protuberance at the apex. They are made of short pastry and contain cream, pumpkin cassata, chocolate chips and cinnamon inside.

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