Lentini is an Italian town of 22.908 inhabitants of the free municipal consortium of Syracuse in Sicily.
Baroque town of Greek origin, ancient Leontinoi, of which the archaeological remains can be visited, was a very valuable cultural and agricultural center during Roman rule and one of the most influential cities of the island in the Byzantine, Islamic and Swabian periods.
In medieval times, Lentini is one of the most important state-owned cities in Sicily and home to numerous churches and convents.
Rebuilt after the earthquake of 1542, it has a troubled period with a notable demographic and economic decline which is exacerbated with the foundation of the neighboring Carlentini in 1551 by the viceroy Giovanni de Vega. Destroyed almost completely during the 1693 earthquake, it undergoes further impoverishment. During the Risorgimento Lentini was among the first Sicilian cities to oppose the Bourbons.
It is currently one of the largest cities in the province of Syracuse, an important road junction between Catania and Ragusa and one of the most important centers in Sicily for the production of citrus fruits.
The environment of the Lentini area is called the “City of Oranges” due to the high production of blood orange.
Let’s start our tour in this gem of Sicily!
The Garden of Biviere
The Garden of Biviere by Maria Carla Borghese is the garden of myth. Legend has it that Hercules, son of Jupiter, brought the skin of the lion Nemeo defeated by him as a gift to Ceres, goddess of the crops, and here he created a lake that took its name: Lacus Erculeus. Over the centuries the lake changed its name and the Arabs called it Beveré, a drinking trough for flocks and a fish nursery.
The State Archive of Palermo preserves the original document of the edict of King Martin who, in 1392, granted in fiefdom ‘of Lentini’ to an ancestor for the maternal part of Don Scipione Borghese. What was once a lake rich in lake fauna and flora was then dried up in the 1930s to ward off malaria.
No longer frequented by fishermen and hunters, the property on the lake fell into abandonment, surrounded only by stones and dust. Today, thanks to the love and passion of those who live there, it has become a unique and particular Mediterranean garden. The ancient port facing south, closed by large boulders carved by man’s hand, has become a green and cheerful invitation to the main facade of the ‘Casa del Biviere’. On the piers, restored with particular attention and grace, an extraordinary collection of succulents seems to almost form a green walkway.
The visitors immerses themselves in spaces where harmony has the colors of orange, the scent of jasmine and the conscious flair of those who, for centuries, have loved this land. Lush palm trees coexist, blue Jacaranda, solar-flowering Parkinsonia, ancient roses embracing Yucca specimens. An unusual specimen of Xanthorrea arborea lying facing the chapel of Sant’Andrea. If time has never been right to flow, here, among these scents and colors, you will find reason to stop to fully enjoy intense moments of beauty and tranquility.
Rock Church of the Crucifix
The rupestrian church of the Crucifix or church of the Crucifix caves is an ancient oratory of Lentini.
The church represents a so-called “rock” ecclesiastical typology (caves or natural cavities used as a dwelling or place of worship), as well as being a fitting example of the coexistence of two cults: the Greek and the Latin. It is a fairly complex complex, originally formed by two symmetrical and side-by-side square rooms (7th century BC) which over time has undergone enlargements and modifications.
At present, it is accessed from a portal dated 1746, but the original entrance was what today looks like a window and which led into the narthex (area intended for catechumens and penitents), which precedes the entrance to the nave; in the room you can see an arched niche with an altar, two ossuaries (around the 15th century), while, beneath a grate on the floor, we find a crypt with 16 sepulchral seats with purifiers (16th – 17th centuries).
A short “ambulatory” (hallway that united the two rooms) introduced the faithful to the nave; on the right wall of the ambulatory there is a basin carved into the rock that contained the “Chantharus” (a sort of stoup).
The space of the nave is certainly the most fascinating of the place, being able to admire inside it, again, walls almost entirely covered with cycles of palimpsest frescoes that trace 500 years of worship and style. What is most striking is certainly the altar of the East (according to the Eastern cult), where we can admire a splendid fresco of Christ Pantocrator, datable around the thirteenth century. As well as the suggestive wall of the “Mater Domini”, where the different styles and periods are intertwined, the North and South walls, with their cycles of frescoes of Saints, dating from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. and the west wall, which preserves a 15th century San Cristoforo. and a wandering Christ of the seventeenth century.
Regional Archaeological Museum of Lentini
The Regional Archaeological Museum of Lentini is a museum dedicated to the finds of Lentini.
The museum illustrates the archaeological history of Lentini and its territory from prehistory to the medieval age, through the display of materials from the ancient city and the main archaeological sites in the area.
Already in 1884 Paolo Orsi, in an attempt to recover the objects illegally stolen by Leontinoi, highlighted the need to create an archaeological museum in Lentini that could keep the many finds in the area. In 1926, addressed to Orsi by the Honorary Inspector of Monuments and Excavations of Lentini, Rosario Santapaola asked for the construction of a museum that would allow the ancient objects of Leontinoi to be torn from speculators. For the opening of a real museum in 1950 must wait when the civic museum established by the then mayor Philadelphus Castro was established, and was made up of a complex of materials of various origins, mostly of uncertain contextualization; the first site was located in via Garibaldi 127, but shortly afterwards an eviction notification took place which determined the transfer of the museum to a classroom of the Vittorio Veneto elementary school.
The current museum site designed by the architect Vincenzo Cabianca with installations by G. Rizza was inaugurated on May 28, 1962. Due to the earthquake of 1990 it was closed for a time.
In 2016 the museum was the subject of some renovation works that brought life back to the outside of the structure and led to the opening of another exhibition hall on the first floor, where we find many finds and amphorae found in Castelluccio.
A large part of the finds come from the excavations carried out in the 1950s in the San Mauro valley, at the southern urban gate, one of the necropolises and on the Metapiccola hill, as part of the indigenous settlement of the Iron Age; the last part, finally, relates to the investigations and discoveries made in recent years by the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage of Syracuse in the area and urban site of today’s city.
The ordering is both chronological and topographical; from the oldest attestations of human presence in the territory during prehistory, we move on to colonization and the subsequent illustration of the Greek city (inhabited area, fortifications, necropolis, temple architecture); finally, the data acquired so far regarding the history of the urban center and the territory during the late Roman, Byzantine, Arab and medieval periods are exposed.
At the entrance, one of the frescoes of the Grottoes of the Crucifix, representing the Deposition of Jesus, is exposed, which was removed by a company of experts, given its precarious conditions on site and therefore to safeguard it, consolidate it on a support and restore it.
The building is among the most important in the city of Lentini, not only for its size and for its pomp, but also for the characters who owned it and for those who contributed to its construction. Two were the protagonists of the completion of this work, Baron Giuseppe Luigi Beneventano and the Architect Carlo Sada, who modified and enlarged the building “a sumptuous villa better suited in the style of a Baronial villa”.
We are at the end of the nineteenth century, the period of the rebirth of the palace, which is still a testimony of many centuries of history in the city of Lentini. Born in Carlentini on 13 November 1840 from a very noble family, his ancestors were Princes at the court of Frederick II of Swabia, Giuseppe Luigi Beneventano was a city councillor and mayor and senator of the kingdom.
Character of great temperament, he contributed to the revival of agriculture and the economy in general of the city. Owner of many palaces including the building referred to in February 1893, the Baron, he commissioned one of the most famous architects of the time the architect Carlo Sada, designer among other things of the Massimo Bellini theatre in Catania.
Sada presented, in the first instance, a project concerning the total transformation of the existing buildings consisting of two blocks: the first the part where the “noble” area resided, the other where there were the warehouses, the stables etc., detached among them, the first containing the oldest part and then enlarged from 1700 onwards, the second block built from the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The project, which included two floors above ground, was based on the adaptation of the pre-existing part on the north-east side (the oldest part) and the demolition and reconstruction of the buildings in the north-west. Subsequently, at the request of Baron Beneventano, the architect made several variations to the main project. In the end, the solution was chosen which included a single floor above ground for the north part of the building, the one overlooking Via S. Francesco.
The works, however, were started, but never completed. The building therefore develops along the main road (Via S Francesco), a solution chosen to indicate the prestige of the owner family. From the north entrance overlooking the Etna, you enter the courtyard from whose sides you enter the service rooms: such as warehouses, stables, servants’ quarters and the “staircase” the element that connects the floor land with the noble floor typical of the buildings of the time.
The typology of the building system derives from the turreted buildings, its internal organization, mainly on the main floor, is of the en enfilade type, that is to say: it all goes in a row with the doors aligned, so that on the floor they could be seen, for the entire length of the sleeve and to highlight, the rooms of variable use such as the living room, lunch, conversation and ceremony; all the dimensions of the rooms are equal to a basic unit, at least 40-50 square meters, decorated vaults and mosaic floors are present in most of the representative rooms, such as the entrance hall in which today only the floor remains imprint of what was once the family crest.
Today, the building is in a significant state of decay, so the Municipality of Lentini and the Sicilian Region have entrusted the task for the design of recovery and conservation of the Palace, whose works will be financed with the law for the reconstruction of the earthquake zones of 13 December 1990.
Church of the Holy Trinity
The church of the Holy Trinity and San Marziano and the monastery of the Poor Clares constituted a religious aggregate, today’s monumental pole located on the San Francesco hill, parish of the Holy Trinity and San Marziano di Lentini.
The first city monastery (Abbadia, Badia, Bbadia and run by a Abbess), delle Clarisse was founded in 1312 by Queen Eleonora d’Angiò, wife of Federico III of Aragon. The construction of two other religious institutions followed: the monastery of the Holy Trinity, in the Cosentini district at the foot of the Tirone hill, and the monastery of San Marziano near the current church of the Immaculate Conception.
The event of 10 December 1542 – better known as “Earthquake in the Val di Noto, Anno Domini 1542” or as “Magnus Terremotus in terra Xiclis” – destroyed part of the monastery of the Holy Trinity. The nuns who survived the earthquake, 5 in all, were housed by dividing them between the church of San Leonardo and the church of San Marziano.
In 1543, in the same place, the new monastery of the Holy Trinity was erected to which the church of San Marziano was annexed in 1546. In 1551 the old monastery was rebuilt on the area of the primitive site and part of the nuns repopulated it.
The Poor Clares had three distinct institutions in Lentini, two on the Tirone hill, dedicated respectively to Santa Chiara and the Holy Trinity, the latter intended as the Upper construction, and one near the Falcone palace, the Holy Trinity Lower, to distinguish it from the previous one .
With the earthquake of the Val di Noto in 1693 the three monasteries were completely destroyed and – to proceed quickly with the reconstruction – their assets were reunited.
The new monastery, under the title of “Holy Trinity and San Marziano”, was built on the area of Palazzo Falcone, whose family nucleus had been canceled during the earthquake.
The current church under the same title, was built on the ruins of the adjoining palace of the La Palumba family on a project by the architect Vella from Malta, stands on the San Francesco hill where the entire city of Lentini dominates from above.
In June 1932, on the personal initiative of the priest Giovanni Di Stefano, the church was recovered from the degradation in which it was placed, and obtained the permission of the Curia, was reopened for worship.
The facade contemplates rooms of the monastery. It combines Renaissance style characters with late Baroque elements.
In the tower façade there are three entrance doors, the two lateral ones lead to accessory environments, the central portal, accessible through flights of stairs with isosceles development, is embellished with a refined stone decoration made up of stems placed on high plinths supporting an articulated architrave .
The side partitions are plastered with square windows on their respective openings. On the upper level a theory of four arched windows with grates. A balustrade with three large openings surmounted by as many flamed vases that make the wing with a wavy connecting sail to the central tower of the prospect made of ashlars. Above the axis entrance, a window with grating alternates, a theory of three windows, the bell tower consisting of a loggia with three arches in which there are as many bronze bells. The central opening is the only one to be surmounted by a triangular tympanum. The perspective ends with a small wrought iron bell tower with weathervane, and the apical cross with a sunburst.
Lentini lake is located in the province of Syracuse on the edge of the province of Catania, and extends over the territory of the municipality of Lentini. The water catchment area occupies a surface formed by a natural depression placed between the last northern offshoots of the Iblei Mountains and the Catania plain.
Some attribute its origin to the Templars, who would have made it between the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth; they would have blocked the riverbed of the Trigona-Galici river, a few hundred meters before the confluence with the San Leonardo river, with the aim of creating a hunting and fishing reserve. The legend tells instead that Hercules, by giving the skin of the lion of Nemea as a gift to Ceres, had fallen in love with the places giving birth to a lake that would take its name from him.
The lake was appreciated and described already in the nineteenth century by foreign travelers, such as Charles Didière, who, in August 1829, called the Biviere third wonder of Sicily. However, the lake was also a carrier of fever and death: as soon as the heat arrived, in fact, malaria (also described by Giovanni Verga) spread in the surrounding area. For this reason, there were already reclamation projects from the end of the 19th century; around the thirties the lake was dried up. The remediation work lasted about thirty years. Thus the lake of Lentini disappeared and with it also the flora and fauna that proliferated in it.
At the end of the seventies, the reconstruction of the lake was thought of as a water tank for agricultural and industrial use. It was with the funding of the Cassa del Mezzogiorno that a smaller but deeper reservoir was created with a capacity of 127 million cubic meters of water. After a long time and many controversies, the basin became filled again becoming an important naturalistic oasis and habitat for the stopping of migratory birds and for the nesting of many other species. In fact, according to some censuses of the LIPU, there were 25,000 bird presences, belonging to 150 different species, 15 of which nest there.
To reach the lake, from Lentini railway station, turn right and follow the indication S.P.67 for Valsavoia.
The lake is visible from the train along the Catania-Syracuse railway between the Lentini Diramazione and Lentini stations and along the Catania-Gela between the Lentini Diramazione and Palagonia stations.