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The opening event took place in Cinisi on the 14th to 15th of February 2015, on the occasion of the local Carnival celebrations. The itinerant event was officially presented during the conference “Contradanza, ieri, oggi e domani” (Contradanza: yesterday, today and tomorrow) at Aula Consiliare (city council hall) of the Cinisi townhall, Palazzo dei Benedettini (Benedictine Palace), on February the 14th at 10h00 am.

Open to the public, the meeting was attended by expert ethnologists, ethnomusicologists, musicians, experts of folk music debating about the Sicilian Contradanza dance. Therefore, the core topic of the debate was culture and traditions of LAG territories, which find in the Contradanza dance a common element.

Initially arisen as a court dance during the Norman domination period, the Contradanza spread among local populations up to become the most performed dance during wedding celebrations and especially during Carnival.

During the same day guided visits to the crypts in the Mother-church and to the caves of Benedictine Palace were organized. In the evening, during the Sicilian Carts parade the “Quelli della Contradanza” crew performed the dance.

During the merry folk music performance visitors could taste wine and food products at the Street Food Station set up by the Birri.One Association (in the entrance hall of the townhall).

In the night, in honour of the important tradition of local Carnival, the concert of the Orchestra Popolare Italiana (Italian Folk Orchestra) with  Ambrogio Sparagna took place.

On the 15th of February 2015 the festival continued with guided visits to the crypts in the Mother-church and to the caves of Benedictine Palace whilst the Farmer happy hour, organized by the Birri.One Association let people have a virtual walk among traditional tastes of local typical cookery.


The images of the event of Cinisi, 14-15 February 2015


Spot Radiofonico Cinisi -


Music, Taste and Territory in the Gulf of Castellammare



Author of a number of essays and publications on folk music, Ambrogio Sparagna is also the protagonist of a rich concert activity periodically realized in several countries in Europe and beyond. He is an organ virtuoso and he also known for his significant commitment to the teaching of traditional Italian music.

Grown in the tradition of folk music (cultivated by both parents in his town of origin), he studied ethnomusicology at the "La Sapienza" University in Rome with Diego Carpitella, with whom Sparagna has participated in numerous campaigns of detection on Italian folk music. But when Ambrogio Sparagna was, in turn, interpreter of this music genre, he was dedicated actively to its promotion deciding to establish the Orchestra Popolare Italiana (Italian Folk Orchestra) of the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, in the summer of 2007. This is a large instrumental group residing within Auditorium to promote the repertoire of Italian folk music.

It is really difficult to list all the artistic collaborations of Ambrogio Sparagna, who is very highly valued by his most illustrious colleagues. In this regard, as an example, at the release of the live album "Vola Vola Vola” (Fly Fly Fly) to which also Francesco De Gregori, Maria Nazionale, the People's Choir directed by Anna Rita Colaianni and the Amarcanto ensemble collaborated, it was written: "It is not a detail to place guests in their place, because the style mark of this record is the Ambrogio Sparagna’s one, made of traditional music and freshness of interpretation, and to the guests did not remain that adapt and, in case, to integrate. And you cannot say that they did not it in the best way. The association of all these artistic personalities worked, creating a flowing and enjoyable concert (before then a record) "[Paola de Simone].

The concert by Ambrogio Sparagna, therefore, becomes a rich and eventful experience.

As tradition has it, the arrangements foresee many organs in the foreground, followed by zampognas, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe, viola, violin, trumpet, harp and various percussion instruments, with nice vocal insertions and applause as a contour. In short, a large ensemble which can fill a nice night of music.























The OPI - Orchestra Popolare Italiana, is one of the rare examples of preservation and valorization of Italian Folk Heritage. The project, born in 2007 from Ambrogio Sparagna’s passion for Italian oral tradition, found full implementation thanks to the adhesion of high level artists, playing typical musical instruments such as zampognas, shawms, organettos, tambourines, mandolins, violins, chitarra battente, hurdy-gurdies, lyres, small harps, shells that characterize the national ethno-musical repertoire.



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 “quelli della contradanza” crew


The “Quelli della ContraDanza” is a crew composed of 15 dancer couples performing contradanza dance, often accompained by the music of the accordion, the guitar, the "friscalettu" and the rhythm of a tambourine.

The crew has been performing for several years, respecting the popular tradition, both in the implementing rules of the dance, commanded by "bastuneri" (scepter-holder) and in the choice of the moments of the performance, that is, festival and celebrations of the Sicilian folklore.

“Quelli della ContraDanza” perform both the Contradanza Popolare (Popular Contradanza dance), and the Contradanza Reale (Royal Contradanza dance), dating back to the domination of Frederick II in Sicily.



 The wine and food products can be considered as a synthesis of a manufacturing process completely based on the local resources and connecting the product directly to the territory. Concerning this, besides local row materials, also climate features, landscape, historical and cultural factors, customs, ancient professions, races bred, vegetables cultivated, places and ways of making contribute to lend these local delights unique organoleptic characteristics, which cannot be reproduced outside their provenance.


In Cinisi territorial food and wine products are connected to the intense smell of the verdello (a special kind of Sicilian Lemon) from the Conca d’Oro, to local countryside productions such as oil, wine and citrus fruits, but the most representative product of this land is the caciocavallo cheese: a special cheese obtained from the milk of a special species of cow, the so-called “razza bovina cinisara” (Cinisi Cow), listed among the Slow Food Association presidia.

In the territory of Cinisi and Godrano, indeed, there are the last bucolic and pastoral corners where this species of cow grazes. 

The Cinisi Cow is a native, highly rustic species, selected over the centuries for living in rocky places, poor in vegetation and windy lands, characterized by hot summer.




The medieval or even older cost town of Cinisi is located on the promontory of Punta Raisi, at the feet of Pizzo Corvo.

With its beautiful hill, this land is rich in lemon and orange trees, that gives way to Saracen olive tres, locust beans and ash trees. Locust beans were once nurtured by manna producers. The landscape has an irregular geometric profilewith important altimetric variations.

There are different stories told about the origins of the name “Cinisi”. Some people say that it comes from the Arabic cins, later kinisia, which means “property of the Church”, but most non-religious expert think the name comes from cenere (ash) because during the Norman period the towm was razed to the ground and burned. Another expert, Mr. Impallara, brings back the name to the Greek kunos (dog), because of the shape of  the hill above the valley.

In IX century Cinisi was first conquered by the Arabs and later by the Normans who re-established the Christianity in the town. In 1280, king Manfredi conquered Cinisi and gave it as a gift to the soldier Mateo Pipitone.

The land was inherited by Pipitone’s niece and after, by Donna Violante, who gave it as a gift to her husband, judge Fazio Di Fazio, on the occasion of their marriage. Once, during a visit in his properties he discovered the small church of Furi where the Benedictine monks were living their simple and  humble lives. He was so touched by this that he left the land to them.

Monks built a monastic settlement, a Corte Monastica, that was then re-built and renewed and thanks to theirs patience and their hard work the town slowly began its development. From small property it became a constantly growing place that was more and more populated.

Between the XIV and the XVII century watchtowers, called Torri, were built along the coast. Those were supposed to be used  to defend and control the land.

The land of Cinisi has three towers: Torre Pozzillo, Torre dell'Ursa and Torre Molinazzo. Later on a trap called Tonnara dell'Ursa, was built inside the Torre dell'Ursa. For long time the trap was managed by the Benedictine monksthemselves.   



Besides the already mentioned towers, built according to the instruccions of the Florentine Architect Camillo Camilliani, the benedictine monastery and the trap also other buildings are noteworthy, namely: the Fontana dell'Accitella (fountain in Accitella district)  and the Piano Margi place, both on the way of the Vallone del Furi. On the top of the Longa Mountain, visitors can find possible remainings of Carthagianian origins.

In 2005 the dwelling of Peppino Impastato and his mother, Felicia, woman who always strove for justice for the killing of her son, become a museum house called Casa Memoria (memory house). Thus, it is possible for the large number of people who visit Cinisi and the places of Peppino Impastato’s life, to visit also the house where he was grown up.



















The Mother Church, dedicated to St. Fara, a Benedictine virgin and patron Saint of the town, date back to 1676 and was completed in just four years. It has only one nave, divided from the choir by an arch. The altarpiece of the main altar in coral, lapis lazuli and onyx, from the Trapani school of  700s is particularly interesting. Very valuable are also the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, from  the Neapolitan school of 700s, in the sottarco of the chapel of the Crucifix. Not to mention the eighteenth-century organ, with three bays prospectus and twenty five front pipes, the wooden statues of St. Anne and St. Benedict, attributed to Girolamo Bagnasco, and the large picture of the "St. Fara’s martyrdom", painted in 1672 by Filippo Randazzo. Through a side entrance of the Mother Church, you can reach the eighteenth century crypts, a veritable necropolis containing fifteen thousand corpses unearthed in the eighties along with a rich variety of grave goods including 43 crucifixes, 22 coins, one of which gold and one silver, and 607 bronze votive medals. Even in the Church of SS. Sacramento (St. Sacrament), erected in 1767 by the brotherhood of the same name, we can admire the impressive crypts recently renovated. Lastly, we need to mention the Church of the Anime Sante (Holy Souls), built in 1827, in which you can admire the wooden altar and two fine large paintings attributed to the school of the Zoppo di Ganci (the Lame from Ganci), i.e. the ”Nativity” and the “Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine”, dated back to late XVII century and that originally were located in the church of St. Catherine in the Benedictine Monastery, nowadays serving as the Chamber of the Municipal Council.





From a side door of the church you get into a small room where three ancient statues of severe monks warn about the place they introduce. After walking down the stairs we enter a room full of thrill and mystery: we are in eighteenth-century crypt of the Mother Church, a veritable necropolis which contained 15,000 corpses. In the several rooms we find niches with skulls, grove pillows and drainage channels. Inside the crypts numerous artifacts, some of which gold, have been discovered and now they are displayed in the same places of the crypts.















The most representative monument of Cinisi is the Benedictine Monastery. The imposing façade is an element made original by its Hispanic architecture. It overlooks the town, whose main street, Corso Umberto, is very wide and straight and flows into the majestic building marking the relationship that has always linked this monument to the town. The two cylindrical towers and the two wings date back to 700. Inside valuable halls of the central body, which is accessed by a double staircase in Billiemi stone. Noteworthy is the painted wooden ceiling of the central room and the crawl space with vaulted ceilings in tufa stone. From the courtyard of the ground floor we access to the former Church of St. Catherine, now assembly room of the city hall. Also the places hosting the Municipal Library and the Historical Archive, cultural centres of the town,  are peculiar.

But the old building does not end to surprise: a small door in the west wing of the monastery leads to the basement, called caves. Walking down the stairs, you enter a large central room from which you access narrow tunnels and other rooms. It is assumed they were used as warehouses for the monks.

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Among the main events taking place in Cinisi and that attract people from all over the region, undoubtedly the Carnival deserves a prominent place. Every year hundreds of people come to Cinisi and see a unique performance of color, music and fun.

In this small town an overwhelming and exhilarating show is set up : the quiet streets become scene of joy and stage for colorful and cheerful events.

Carnival makes its official debut with the "trasuta du nannu" (entrance of the Grandfather) while confetti and streamers are joyfully launched among jokes and laughter of masked people who come in large numbers to welcome him in the most warm but also noisy way. The nannu (Grandfather) is an old puppet, stuffed with straw, a short character, cheerful, dressed as estimated notable. Sunday is the day of his arrival and a large cheering crowd is gathered at the train station to applaud him. He is then carried around among the shouts for joy of masked people that accompany him while in the houses and on the streets sounds, dances and lights are all the rage. On the evening of Mardi Gras the Nannu  is burned as a kind of victim that purified the community with his death, so that we can embark upon a new year under good auspices: the one, who launched confetti and candies as symbols of abundance and who had invited all people to the dance as a form of liberation, dies. The agitated final sequences of the Carnival, those of fire in which the poor puppet burns, are preceded by the solemn reading of the will of the Nannu. Special mention should be made to one of the traditional events that characterize the Carnival of Cinisi and the Sicilian one in general, namely the "square dance or Contradanza". It began as a ritual of thanksgiving after the harvest. Such a crop is delivered by past generations to future generations. Therefore, the cultural meaning of transition from the Old to the New makes it traditionally linked to the celebrations of Carnival in Sicily.

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