sicily home |  sitemap | imprint

Sicily Home >  About Sicily >  Day trips >  Donnafugata

Donnafugata – Fairy-Tale Castle on Sicily

… here Rapunzel could have met with the princess from the Frog King and with Alice from Wonderland… somewhere between the impressive tower and the circular well in the spacious park or in the maze.

Not far from Ragusa (ca. 20km), amidst a dreamscape and circled by carobs, lies the castle Donnafugata. The sandy walls reflect the intense sunbeams, so that visitors have to punch their eyes slightly to enjoy the view of this castle. The estate grasps 2.500 square meters. 700 years ago a tower was built first, followed by a simple castle and each of the subsequent owners had given his personal touch to the majestic building. The refreshing scent of lavender wraps up the visitors and the thoughts wander about in a time that has gone long before…

Someone who can speak Italian a bit and who knows the theatrical and hot-blooded temper of the Sicilian people may suppose falsely, that the name Donnafugata comes from an exciting story: “Donna” means woman and “fugare” means to escape. But the truth is, there is a spring rising near the castle and the Arabic term for health-spring, “ainas-jafaiat”, was changed into “Ronna fuata” in the Sicilian dialect and further into “Donnafugata” in Italian.

But as a rule every castle is bound to a heart-rending love story. The walls of Donnafugata can tell even two anecdotes which are strongly interwoven with the words “woman” and “escape”:

After the king of Sicily, Martino I had died in the year 1410, his wife Bianca di Navarra became ruler of the kingdom. An old nobleman from Ragusa, Bernardo Cabrera courted Bianca, because a marriage with her would have brought him the kingdom Sicily along with a young, beautiful wife. Bianca might have had many wishes, but old Bernardo certainly was not part of a single one of them. After all, Bernardo had his pride and he had Bianca locked in for spite in castle Donnafugata. Thanks to her loyal servant, she could escape to Palermo and, with the help from the king of Spain, she had Bernardo arrested. But the Spanish king himself was attracted to women and so he set his equally minded prisoner free again.

At the end of the last century the French Gaetano Combes Lestrade fell in love with the niece of Baron Corrado Arezzo (owner of the castle at that time) during a visit on the castle. Clementine returned his love and one fine day they escaped from Donnafugata together. The escape of a couple is still in practise today in Sicily, if parents do not agree with their child’s choice of partner. As usual in this situation, the baron moved heaven and earth to catch his niece before she could escape to France by ship. And as it is with every escape, everything was excused at once and soon the wedding bells rang because of the big occurrence. Clementine and Gaetano Combes Lestrade lived happily and pleased between Sicily and distant Paris. Her daughter Clara married Count Testasecca (which means “dry head” in English. A somewhat unromantic name in this enchanting story…) and their child was named Gaetano again. He was the last owner of the castle before it became property of the community. In the official guide, visitors can read that the castle was sold to the community, but indirectly it is told that the owner has accumulated his tax owing to the immeasurable and therefore had to give his castle away for his amortization.

The wealthy Baron Corrado Arezzo (born in the year 1824 in Ragusa) was an inventive artist and he loved to lead his guests to play. Witnesses of this playfulness are the bricked maze in the spacious park, painted butterflies on a mirror in the hall, a pavilion and a coffee-house in the garden. The castle contains 144 rooms, but not all of them are accessible for visitors. The rooms are furnished pompously and everything can be seen as the last owner had left it behind. The hall with all the crests reminds of knight’s time, the chambers of the bishop are kept in purple, the music room invites to dream and every guest room is furnished differently. Every room has two entrances at least, one for the masters and mistresses and one for the service personnel.

Charge for admission:
Euro 5.00; reduced charge Euro 2.50

Opening hours:
Tu-Sa 9am – 2pm
Su 9am -1pm and 2.30pm – 5pm
Mo closed / tickets are available until about an hour before the door is closed

The approach is also possible by train, over Ragusa, 20 minutes train journey. The ticket costs about Euro 4.00 for one way.

sicily back sicily home sicily top sicily  next