we have a castle in our front yard

becca-garber-motta-sicily-castle-8 When people in my little Sicilian town ask me where I live, I love my answer: “Io vivo vicino al castello.”  I live near the castle.

They raise their eyebrows and smile appreciatively.  Not many Americans would ever choose my neighborhood, which was originally built in the Middle Ages and boasts narrow cobblestone streets barely wide enough to fit our Honda Civic.

“You live near the castle?” they repeat, smiling.  “The Campinole neighborhood?”

I nod, thinking of the green-and-gold neighborhood pride.  “And I love it,” I reply sincerely. becca-garber-motta-sicily-castle-3

And I do.  Living in our neighborhood isn’t always easy.  Our car has lost a lot of paint as we have learned how to drive and park on streets meant for horses and ox carts.  We’ve shivered through the winters in a house without any heating system.  We often feel out of place and isolated in a neighborhood that is entirely Sicilian (and mostly elderly).  Many evenings our dinnertime conversation is almost drown out by drumbeats outside our front door as the neighborhood’s musicians practice for the annual Medieval festival.

But for all its quirks, this neighborhood is impossible not to love.  The faded buildings and cobblestone streets are so quintessentially Italy.  The old women with their shawls smile from the windows, the old men pause to greet Lena (“ciao, bella!”) on their walks to the piazza.  There is a closeness, a real spirit of the neighborhood, which comes from its endless preparation and hosting of the Medieval festival every summer.  All year round the youths practice their baton twirling, their dances, their drum routines, their flag throwing.  For a week every August the whole island of Sicily knows about Motta Sant’Anastasia, and the best performances of all happen just outside our house in the piazza in front of the castle.


Last week Lena, Gil, and I went on a walk on a windy afternoon and ended up inside the castle itself.  I only visit the castle every 6 months or so, even though I look at it every single day outside my front door.  In the photo on the left above, our house is the yellow one, and the photo was taken from the castle’s window.


The castle was built in Motta when the Normans invaded Sicily, and the costumes and artifacts inside the castle are from that time period.  I love watching the informational video with our visitors because it reminds me of the generations that have lived on the edge of the cliff for centuries before my little American family took up residence here.  In the castle there’s even a dungeon (above right) with a true story of a rightful duke who was thrown into it!


Stairs (and stairs and stairs) lead up two more levels to the top of the castle, where there are beautiful views of Etna over the valley (above right).


And finally, more mannequins in Medieval garb and more beautiful views from windows.  What an amazing privilege to live in such a place, where we have gelato in the piazza, a volcano across the valley, and a castle right outside our front door!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

11 Responses to we have a castle in our front yard

  1. Carrie May 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    What a fun place to visit! Your town sounds charming too. :)

  2. Christina May 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    It’s my understanding that one of Richard the Lionheart’s sisters (Joanna) was married to the King of Sicily (I think his name was William) and lived there for quite some time (maybe about 10-15 years). This would have been mid to late 12th century. Do you know if she lived in that castle?


    • Becca May 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      No, I don’t think so, Christina. I’ve never heard the name Joanna mentioned in connection to this castle, and I think only dukes lived in it, not kings. I’ll let you know if I find out otherwise!

  3. Steph @ meet.make.laugh. May 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Wow! It sounds like quite an amazing neighborhood!! I think I would love it as well. :)

  4. OM May 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    It seems to me you live in a paradise! I’d love to have an opportunity to live in a place like that…

  5. Christina May 21, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    If you like historical fiction, you might try Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman. She’s one of my favorite authors, and in this book covers the end of Joanna’s Sicilian marriage (and describes a beautiful, medieval Sicily) and then her trip to the Holy Land, accompanying Richard and his bride, Berengeria, on Crusade. Richard is obviously the main character, but there might be enough of Sicily to be of particular interest to you.

    • Becca May 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Thank you for the recommendation, Christina! Historical fiction is my favorite genre.

  6. Alica May 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    What fun! I am fascinated by all things castles in Europe. A few years ago I spent some time in Heidelberg, Germany, visiting my sister and brother in law, who is from Germany. We did a weekend “tour of castles” while I was there, and it was so much fun! That old, old architecture! It’s hard to imagine how they built those monstrous structures so long ago, without all the construction equipment we have today…and old! We don’t know what old is here! :)

    • Becca May 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      I love the castles of Germany! Did you see the “Disneyland castle”? That’s on my bucket list!

      • Alica May 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

        We didn’t see the Disneyland caste, but I would have loved it, I’m sure! We took a tour along the Rhine, from Bingen to Koblenz, where we crossed the river and went south to Braubach and the Marksburg. That was my favorite!

  7. Christina May 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Sorry for leaving so many comments! But if you like historical fiction, you must try Penman! I actually wouldn’t start with Lionheart, since it’s really the fourth in a series (although it could be a stand-alone book, as well). The series starts with While Christ and His Saints Slept, which is about Richard’s grandmother (Maude) and father (Henry II). (This is actually my least favorite of all her books.) The story goes on to follow Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their many children, finally focusing on Richard in Lionheart. However, her best book, in my opinion, is Here Be Dragons. Historical fiction just doesn’t get any better than this! And if you like it, it’s the first book of a wonderful trilogy. She’s also got a fantastic stand-alone book called The Sunne in Splendour.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes