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The Via Jacobi Uncovers Sicily’s Past

Sicily has a surprising Compostelan tradition. The intense devotion to the apostle on the island dates not from the time of Spanish rule, but from the 11th century, when the brothers Robert and Roger, Norman nobles and adventurers, wrested Sicily from the Saracens and put an end to the emirate.

According to tradition, Roger had a vision of St. James holding a sword on the eve of the decisive battle of Caltagirone (July 25th, 1090). Devotion to the apostle is so intense on this Mediterranean island that there are about 40 temples dedicated to him, not to mention a vast inventory of Sicilian Jacobean traditions.

The Way of St. James in Sicily (currently 130 km) is also a journey through this unique local history. There are six stages on foot, by bike or on horseback from Caltagirone to Capizzi, recently restored thanks to the hard work of the Associazione Borgo San Giacomo Piazza Armerina, led by Salvatore (Totò) Trumino.

The itinerary starts from the Basilica of San Giacomo in Caltagirone, where a relic of the Apostle is kept, and passes through the Church of San Michele in Ganzaria to reach Mirabella Imbaccari, in a first stage of 19.5 km along the old railway line.

The second day’s itinerary is 21 km long and goes from Mirabella to Piazza Armerina, passing through places that invite peace and contemplation, such as the ancient hermitage of Leano. In Piazza Armerina it is necessary to visit the Cathedral dedicated to St. Mary of the Victories and to have the pilgrim’s passport stamped in the Domus Hospitalia of the ancient church of St. James, now dedicated to the promotion of the Pilgrim’s Way.

The third stage, according to the organizers, is the most beautiful and at the same time the most solitary, since it crosses the natural reserve of Rossomanno-Grottascura-Bellia, with its eucalyptus forests that somehow remind us of Galicia.

A visit to the chapel of Our Lady of the Way is a must. You can also admire the Pupi Ballerini, rock formations that resemble dancing human figures and are the stuff of legend. Another important landmark is the Iron Cross, the work of the artist Enzo Germanà, in honor of the pilgrims. The stage ends in Valguarnera, where it is worth visiting the church of St. Joseph.

The fourth stage leaves Valguarnera and goes along the plain of the Dittaino river for 25 km until it reaches the Monte Stella massif, near the ancient town of Assoro. Here pilgrims stop at the Byzantine Basilica of St. Leo and the Franciscan Monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The fifth stage is similar in distance to the previous one and covers the stretch from Assoro to Nicosia, stopping in the village of Nissoria to visit its church dedicated to St. Joseph. In Nicosia, with Etna in sight, the pilgrims stop at the Capuchin Monastery and the beautiful Cathedral with its Gate of Paradise.

The itinerary ends (for the time being) on the sixth day with a walk from Nicosia to Capizzi, where the pilgrims finally reach the Sanctuary of St. James, the oldest Jacobean church in Sicily and a pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages: it once housed a relic of the Apostle until it was given to the city of Messina.

The Sicilian adventure of rediscovering St. James has just begun. In fact, as Trumino explains, these six stages (which make up the so-called Via Calatina) will have to be completed with two other routes. To the south, the Via Iblea will connect Caltagirone with Pozzallo, the port where the pilgrims arrived from Malta. And to the north, the Via Normanda would follow, from Capizzi to Palermo, connecting by sea to Santiago de España, passing through Sardinia.

The Borgo San Giacomo Association of Piazza Armerina promotes and manages the Way of St. James in Sicily. The voluntary association was created to promote the area and to organize events; it has now become the “soul” of the Way of St. James in Sicily, also, thanks to the work of its members, it takes care of the maintenance and reception of pilgrims.
The association offers, to pilgrims in need of services, official guides, luggage transport, transfers, planning of the walk, 24-hour telephone assistance and much more. In addition, it takes care of, the management of the Domus Hospitalia of Piazza Armerina place of reception for pilgrims in the Chiesetta del Borgo. The Way of St. James in Sicily is an integral part of the “Camino Maltés.” This new route combines 3,600 km of walking through Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Barcelona and finally Santiago de Compostela. More information is available at:

This post is also available in: Español Italiano

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