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Francavilla di Sicilia

Francavilla di Sicilia  is found at the heart of the Valle dell'Alcantara, within the province of Messina. It is very close to Taormina and to Giardini-Naxos and therefore it serves as an excellent base for excursions in the Valle dell'Alcantara.  Its territory is bound by the river S. Paolo and by the water course of Zavianni, both tributaries of the Alcantara. Francavilla di Sicilia was established between the year 1000 and 1100. The first reliable historical records are closely linked to the figure of San Cremete, a hermit, who during the period of Arab domination, lived on a rocky platform in the zone knows as Placa, commonly known as "a Badiazza" which is found close to the crossroads of Novara di Sicilia-Mojo Alcantara at around 4 km from the centre.  When Count Roger d'Altavilla passed through this zone with his followers, Cremete asked him to help out with the construction of a Monastery on the rock shelve where he lived his solitary life.  Count Roger agreed and the monastery was erected between 1090 and 1100 and was dedicated to S. Salvatore di Placa following which, several monks moved in under the Order of Basiliano.  Some hamlets were formed around the monastery.  Initially, there were just some farming homesteads that worked mainly for the monastery since,  as it is recorded, Count Roger had banqueted that all the land that could be seen from the heights of monastery were to belong to the Monastery itself.  Some decades later, upon a hill situated some 3 km in line with the site of Placa,  the feudal castle was erected on a strategic spot, such that it constituted a point of reference and of security for the population.  It is assumed that the construction of the castle took place between 1120 and 1180, since some researchers date it to the times of Guglielmo I D'Altavilla, known as "il Malo" (1120 - 1166); according to other sources it was built during the reign of Guglielmo II, known as  "Buono" (1153 - 1189), son of the former. Today, little remains of the feudal castle save for some ruins.  The stones are cemented with calce malfitana which was widely used in olden times. On the eastern face, the ruins are made from large and high walls, which soar like monuments on the ridge above the steep sides of the hill.  Within the ruins of the internal sections, within a courtyard, one can find signs of a huge cistern which must have served the needs of the occupiers.  According to legend, the name of the town knows its origins to when the prince of France came to Sicily and was hosted by Count Roger in the palace at Castiglione di Sicilia,  5 km from Francavilla di Sicilia. The prince fell in love with Angelina, daughter of the king of Francavilla, and reciprocated by the princess. It is narrated that the lovers used to exchange sentimental messages with lanterns and on sleepless nights, when the valley was immersed in pitch darkness, they swung the lanterns from the towers of the adjacent castles, singing in their hearts, their sweet promises. Franca, the servant of Angelina, indifferent witness to the emotions of her beautiful lady, used to fall asleep while the lanterns spoke of dreams and memories, until the lady of the castle would solicit her to keep vigil: "Franca, wake up! Franca keep a vigil for me!" (sounding like “Franca, veglia”).  In later years, in memory of the legend surrounding  Angelina,  the nearby hamlet became known as Fancaveglia, which eventually evolved to Francavilla.  According to history, the name of the town actually derives from French, specifically from the name franc-ville, that is a free city, because originally, the town was exempted from the payment of taxes.


Must be seen:

** the Convent and church of the Cappuccini friars, with the renown wooden sculptures from the year 600 (guided tours)

** Fontana Vena, famous for its “18 spouts”

** Church of San Paolo from the XV century with its fountain, the symbol of Francavilla di Sicilia sculptured by the artistic school of the Gagini

**Church dedicated to the Annunziata, dating to 1550

** Church of the Carmine from the XVII century and Via Visconte Ruffo

** The parish Church,  the castle and the medieval quarters

** Piazza San Francesco, Palazzo Cagnone and the antiquarium

** The various squares

** The gorge of Alcantara

Palazzo Cagnone - Piazza San Francesco - Francavilla di Sicilia - medieval commemoration
** nostalgia of the past times... how people used to live in SICILY ...


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