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San Gandolfo Festival
The 7th Wednesday after Easter and the 3rd week end in September
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The Most Holy Crucifix
Starts May 1st
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La Sagra delle Nocciole (The Hazelnut Festival)
Always in August usually after the 15th, a moveable date

Lo Sfoglio
Late August

Santa Lucia
December 13


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Lured by a Palazzo

Posted by Suzanne on 08 Nov 2013

It’s July 3rd 2010, Palazzo Notar Nicchi is ready for its welcoming party.

The house is ablaze with lights and every shutter is open to the street. Old terracotta oil jars full of wild flowers from the mountains stand in rooms filled with friends and family from Australia, London, Milan, Palermo and Polizzi Generosa. You can hear the music of a folk Sicilian band and jazz. Seven years ago these rooms were empty, floors were sunken and the walls were collapsing.

When I first started coming to Polizzi Generosa with my family in September 2003 in search of an old Sicilian house, the elderly man who was sitting opposite Palazzo Notar Nicchi then, still sits on his wooden dining chair on the street’s edge dressed in his suit and greets us as he did a decade ago. Every time I return Signor Giovanni Di Blasi welcomes us with “bentornato”.

September 2003 in Polizzi was alluring and intoxicating. The town was silent except for the beat of the solo drummer walking the streets as it was gearing up for the 3-4 day festival of San Gandolfo the patron saint.

We found a B&B up a flight of worn stone stairs in Via Dogana and after 4 days of waking to the smell of coffee brewing and witnessing the saint’s mournful, fun filled 3 day festival we were lured.

We were told of Palazzo Notar Nicchi, we inspected a 19th century villa in a hazelnut grove out of town, and an apartment with its own private chapel and hidden rose garden in a very grand palazzo in the village. Yet the possibility of a palazzo on the main street of this town intrigued me. To be able to watch the village quietly from the balconies and to open the front door into this village was enticing.

When the faded Sicilian green door to the palazzo was finally pushed open in late September 2003, to have our first look inside, Baron Leonardo Signorino the son of the owner Baronessa Signorino was finally with us. As I stepped into the entry I heard the greeting, “Buongiorno Barone”.  Even after nearly 70 years of Italy being a republic the Sicilians still operate in a faded world of titles and formality.

There were earlier meetings made where the Baron was to have turned up with the keys yet he never showed. We were met instead by his long standing family lawyer Avvocato Messineo in his legal studio on Via Garibaldi. We were greeted formally and were told how a famous Hollywood actor was also interested. I thought that this was just a bit of mad deception but it turned out to be true. We met the famous character actor in 2004 on a misty December night in Polizzi on the passeggiata.

Beyond the front door of the house beds were still made and kitchens still stacked with pots. A surgery was still set up with instruments arranged behind glass doors, books in Latin from the 1600’s and magazines on music, travel and farming were piled on tables and ledges. Family portraits of titled Sicilian relatives still hung on the walls.

Entering water had loosened decorated plastered ceilings and frescoed scenes of Sicily had fallen to the collapsing floors. The heavy stone walls were caving in, the basket caned ceilings were exposed and hundreds of pigeons had roosted for decades.

Palazzo Notar Nicchi was once the Polizzi home of the Nicchi family, a family of notary after notary until the late 1700’s. It was now in the family of the Baron’s mother and had been for a couple of centuries.

As a young boy the Baron had lived there with his parents and sisters. In the late 1960’s the family moved to the grand family home Palazzo Signorino in Via Roma, Polizzi Generosa.

The Baron showed us the bedroom of his childhood, his Uncle Eugenio’s surgery and the bedroom of his parents. He pointed out the spot where Eugenio died one wintry night after dinner, sitting by the fire.

When we saw the palazzo on that cool late September morning it had been closed up for over 30 years.

We were yet to see first hand the 'Byzantine' methods of the Sicilians. When we tried to settle the sale of the palazzo in April 2004 we were thrown into another world. The Baronessa had died two weeks after signing the contract in the January and the full force of the complexity of Italian property law and inheritance law was to last almost a year.




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