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Bagheria and the “villa of monsters”

24/03/2022

Five landmarks of the 2022 Giro di Sicilia EOLO: episode 1

Running for 199 km from Milazzo to Bagheria, the first stage of the 2022 Giro di Sicilia EOLO will be a sprinter’s thing, a way to get the riders in the mood.

The route will take the viewers on a journey along most of the beautiful Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily, and through the Baroque splendour of Bagheria. The town, also named the “city of villas”, has been crowded with spectacular manor homes of the local nobility since the 1700s. Villa Palagonia is one of the best known. It is eccentrically decorated with grotesque statues along the perimeter walls – dozens of sculptures of fantastic animals, human figures, dames and knights, musicians and caricatures – which is why it is also called the “villa of monsters”.

When Goethe paid a visit to the manor in April 1787, he described his impressions in a troubled tone: “Now imagine similar figures multiplied ad infinitum, designed without rhyme or reason, combined without discrimination or point, pedestals and monstrosities in one unending row, and the painful feelings they must inspire, and you will sympathize with anyone who has to run the gauntlet of this lunacy.”

The mastermind behind all that was Francesco Ferdinando Gravina e Alliata, Prince of Palagonia, also named ‘the Necromancer’. He was the oddball grandson of the founder of the villa – or just plain insane, according to some. In 1749, he resumed the construction of the villa, 35 years after his grandfather, and proceeded to have the outer walls topped with grotesque sculptures, which had so shocked Goethe, and made his residence famous throughout the world.

This mysterious, history-filled and eerily fascinating place is the perfect starting point for the long journey of the 2022 Giro di Sicilia.

 

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