Belice Valley: where is it, what to see

Forget the rubble. The rubble from the 1968 earthquake that sent the city's name bouncing around the world Belice Valley (with emphasis on the i). A burst of Sicily archaic and unknown even to Italy itself, which today – after a slow and laborious renaissance – has still remained largely secret. Despite a high level historical and landscape heritage and symbolic places like Ghibelline, that art has transformed into an open-air laboratory of new contemporary languages.

It is a surprising Sicily, dotted with archaeological sites (Selinunte), naturalistic oases, Blue Flag beaches, villages with an Arab-medieval imprint in a dense network of olive trees and vineyards. A land where agriculture has assumed the virtuous role of also producing culture.

An example? House of the planetwhich has made its areas the epicenter of artistic and cultural activities as privileged keys to understanding the territory.

Where is the Belice Valley

Fragmented into three provinces – Palermo, Trapani, Agrigento – the Belìce valley is located in Southwestern Sicily; in a mostly hilly landscape, it extends along the valley of the third longest river in the region: the Belìce (95 kilometers), in fact.

SEE ALSO: Taormina: Ancient Theatre, Isola Bella and Beaches. Here's what to see and do

The archaeological park of Selinunte. iStock

What to see in the Belice Valley

Belìce River Mouth Nature Reserve

A landscape of water and low moving dunes shaped by the wind, among small brackish ponds, rushes, reeds, scrubby vegetation and a long beach of golden sand, where sea turtles nest… Welcome to the reserve which protects the last stretch of the cours del Belìce, which flows into a bend between Marinella of Selinunte and the promontory of Porto-Palo.

One of the best preserved coastal areas of Sicily, resting place for many species of birds. A touch of yesteryear, the iron bridge of the old Castelvetrano-Porto Empedocle railway line, now disused, which crosses the river a few hundred meters from the coast.

Selinunte, Castelvetrano

“The most extraordinary set of ruins in Europe.” Words of the English writer Henry Swinburne, fascinated by the seaside remains of Selinunte, a Greek colony destroyed by the Carthaginians, whose excavations began at the beginning of the 19th century.

Remains of temples, sanctuaries and necropolises dot the vast archaeological park, where the bronze statue of the Ephebe (Now to Selinuntino Civic Museum of Castelvetrano), famous for its fictional story.

Stolen in 1962 and subject to a ransom demand of 30 million lire, it was recovered six years later in Foligno during an exchange of fire, like in a film.

Museum of the Memory of the Bélice ValleyMuseum of the Memory of the Bélice Valley
The Museum of Memory in the former mother church of Santa Margherita. Photo Béba Marsano

Museum of Memory, Santa Margherita di Belìce

A museum to remember the terrible night of 1968. When, between January 14 and 15, an earthquake measuring one tenth on the Mercalli scale pulverized the Belìce Valley in just a few seconds.

In the old Mother Church of Santa Margherita (half standing, and this half still magnificently decorated with stucco) hundreds of photographs, videos, period documents recreate each phase of the tragedy with the words of illustrious witnesses: Leonardo Sciascia, Carlo Levi, Sergio Zavoli, Vincenzo Consolo. Being seen.

Sambuca from Sicily

Miraculously spared by the earthquake, Sambuca has kept its charm intact. One of the most beautiful villages in Sicily, it has Panitteri Palacewhich houses a rich archaeological museum with Greco-Punic discoveries from the site of Adranon, elthe former monastery of Santa Caterina, recently intended to accommodate the Gianbecchina Art Gallerydedicated to the painter Sambuce who was a friend of Guttuso.

Outside the city, in a rural corner of ancient grace, lies the Arab fort of Mazzallakkar, submerged six months a year by the waters of Lake Arancio, an artificial reservoir along the migratory routes, today a naturalistic oasis of Lipu.

Ancient Poggioreale

Depopulated by the earthquake of 1968, the old town of Poggioreale survives like a ghost town: the large square deserted, the streets infested with brambles, the buildings in ruins – like the theater and the school – but miraculously still standing.

An unreal scenario with a subtly sinister charm, which has become a privileged place in cinema, much appreciated by Giuseppe Tornatore, who shot scenes of New Cinema Paradiso, The Starfighter and MalenaSome shots from the TV series The Octopus were also filmed there.

Grand Cretto Alberto BurriGrand Cretto Alberto Burri
The Grande Cretto by Alberto Burri, symbol of Sicily. iStock

Grande Cretto, Gibellina Vecchia

On the hill where the town of Gibellina stood, razed by the earthquakes of 1968, a gigantic work of land art is unique in the world: the Big crack Of Alberto Burri (1984-89).

To freeze the historical memory, the Umbrian artist cemented the rubble, creating an immense and dazzling shroud thrown over the imprint of the destroyed city.

A monument to death crossed by a network of faults, alluding to the ancient streets, scene of the key dates of the Orestiadi festival each summer.

Orestiadi Foundation, Gibellina Nuova

The dazzling Salt Mountain Of Mimmo Paladinoin which thirty horses with ram's heads of absolute black fight, stands with its load of symbols in the courtyard of the Di Stefano bagHeadquarters Orestiadi Foundation he was born in Museum of Mediterranean Weaving.

A collection that combines works from North Africa and the Middle East with works of art from the Ludovico Corrao collection and, in the Attic, exhibits stage machines from historical shows, such as those of Arnaldo Tomato In my opinion'Oresteia Of Emilio Isgrò (1983).

Planet Valle del Belice Planet Valle del Belice
The Planeta cellar.

Terre Sicane Wine Route

A landscaped route named after Bacchus which, between wine bars, cellars and wine estates (often managed by families for generations), winds through the territories of Sciacca, Santa Margherita di Belice, Sambuca di Sicilia, Montevago, Menfi and the oldest Albanian colony in Italy, Countess Entellina, stronghold of the Arbëreshë language and the Byzantine rite.

A land with a long wine-growing tradition, strong in companies – such as Planet – who have contributed to the success of Sicilian oenology around the world.

What to eat in the Belice Valley

At the table, you are spoiled for choice. The jewel of the Belìce Valley is theolive oil, to flavor two Slow Food products such as Menfi thorny artichoke and the black bread from Castelvetranoa mixture of blond Sicilian wheat and a rare cereal like stone-ground tumminìa.

Other excellences: the Vastedda del Belicestretched white cheese DOP obtained from Belicina sheep's milk, the prickly pear from Santa Margherita di Belìce Hey babbaluci (snails) of Sambuca from Sicilyalso famous for the indispensable minni di virgini (virgin's breasts), shortcrust pastry filled with milk cream, chocolate and cinnamon, praised by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in Leopard.

READ ALSO: Holidays in Sicily, what to see and where to go

Bélice Valley: restaurants

Baglio Vecchio, Castelvetrano

Farmhouse with traditional cuisine, served in the rustic atmosphere of an old farmhouse. Among the best-selling dishes, the calamarata cacio e pepe with Sicilian pecorino, the tagliatelle with wild boar ragù and the busiate with pesto alla Trapani.

To start: arancinette, caponata, sfincione, Palermo-style skewers. The raw materials are zero kilometer and come almost entirely from the estate's farm (

The Menfi guest house The Menfi guest house
The La Foresteria restaurant in Menfi.

Insula Beach Club, Memphis

An oasis of relaxation on the Lido Fiori Beach with shaded relaxation areas between golden dunes, wild vines and pieces of crafts and design.

In the open kitchen of the Insula restaurant, express dishes are prepared using the freshness of local produce from the sea and land, combined with influences from all over the Mediterranean. You can sit at the large, convivial table or at small tables in the shade of the maritime pines (

Where to sleep in the Belice Valley

Forestry, Memphis

Charming country lodge a few minutes from the sea, among the olive trees shaped like silver globes and the vines of one of the Planeta estates. Silence and refinement for only 14 rooms, named after the aromatic herbs used in two taste courses: the dishes of family memory and the creative line of chef Angelo Pumilia, at the helm of the restaurant also open to external customers.

Time passes between wine tastings, cooking classes, discovering the territory on two wheels and relaxing around the large infinity pool with breathtaking views (

Casa Panitteri, Sambuca di Sicilia

Artist's house in the heart of Sambuca, inside the historic Panitteri Palace. A 57 square meter residence with an eclectic touch, which has retained the ancient marble floors and hosted pieces of contemporary design and art.

Like the work of the young Edoardo Piermattei, made for the ceiling of the living room and reproduced in the four-poster bed. The residence, which uses Planeta's know-how in its management, is offered by Airbnb; part of the proceeds is intended to finance cultural projects in the jewel village of Sambuca.

READ ALSO: The 30 most beautiful beaches in Sicily

l Lake Orange SicilyOrange Lake Sicily
The naturalist oasis of Lake Orange.

How to get to the Belice Valley

Belìce is formed near Poggioreale, about eighty kilometers from Palermo-Punta Raisi airport and can be reached by rental car via the highway. A29 towards Trapaniexit Gallitello. From there, Selinunte is another 35 kilometers away.

When to go to the Belice Valley

In spring for the mild climate, in autumn for the colors of the landscapes and in summer for seaside pleasures. For the 28th year, he is flying high Memphis the Blue Flag, certification of exceptionally clean waters, which bathe more than 10 kilometers of beaches.

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That of Porto-Palo – the most popular – is of very fine sand, that of Lido Fiori is famous for its reddish dunes where the white water lily blooms in July and August.

Sambuca di Sicilia, Panitteri Palace Sambuca di Sicilia, Panitteri Palace
In Sambuca di Sicilia, the Panitteri Palace, which houses a rich archaeological museum. Photo Béba Marsano

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