Gratteri

Well placed amphitheatrically on Madonie outposts at 680mt of elevation, Gratteri is a village of ancient origin. Idrisi and Amari, who left their signs on rocks and castles of Sicily during Muslim period, included among these also Qratiris. The current topography of the territory certifies the Arab domination, but there is a very good evidence of earlier Roman and Byzantine settlements. Further back in time Stefano from Byzantium speaks of a 5th century b.C city, named "Aterium", but it is not known whether the site of present Gratteri coincides with that of the ancient settlement.

However it is certain that Gratteri territory hosted human settlements since prehistoric times: this is proved by a "closet" containing copper objects dated from the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, found in the territory and preserved in Palermo National Museum. News of the Norman period came to us from several Greek and Latin documents. During this period, precisely on 1140 - 1142 the Duke Ruggero, the eldest son of King Ruggero, founded the Priorato di S. Giorgio for the Premonstratensian monks which around the year 1200 became an Abbey.

Nowdays the Church ruins are consistent and significant from the artistical and architectural point of view. They have been recently restored and placed to the south - west of Gratteri in a totally unspoilt rural setting. The King Ruggero, taken Sicily from the Saracens, gave Gratteri land spiritual part to Troina Bishop and the feudal part to certain Guglielmo the Norman. In 1250 by Emperor Frederick II will, Gratteri land was given as fief to Palermo Church, and then, during Manfredi reign and the war of the vespers, Gratteri passed to the Ventimiglia family from Geraci. Later the younger branch of Ventimiglia family owned Gratteri with the title of Barony until 1812.

The etymology "Gratteri" remains uncertain and doubtful despite the various hypotheses put forward by various authors also because the same name has several variants in the extant documents. Besides St. George Abbey, mentioned above, several other religious buildings were located in the area: the Church of the "megalo martire Icono" (witnessed by XII century documents), the Church of "Sancta Maria in castro Gratteri" (witnessed by XII century papal documents), the St. Anastasia monastery (nowdays included in Castelbuono territory), the St. Eufemia Church (in the territory that now belongs to Lascari municipality), the XII century church named "Santa Maria di Gesú fuori le mura" (now located at Gratteri village outskirts).

In this church as well as in the "Matrice vecchia" Church (which was built inside the castle probably as a substitute for the antiquated and inadequate "Sancta Maria in castro"), are preserved the graves of several members of the Ventimiglia family.

During the socio, economic, historical and political vicissitudes, at least from the Norman time onwards, Gratteri was always a small town; the greatest population growth seems to have been registered at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.  In these years the town arrived to a population of 4,000 inhabitants and more, soon after the emigration reached its peak, relating not only to the Madonie area but all over the island, and it has gradually depopulated Gratteri so that today town has just over 1,000 inhabitants.

A valuable urbanistic order opposes the modest architectural materials that characterize the town, especially in its medieval core that is admired for the complex road network, happily clinging to the rocky site, and some architectural and decorative hand-crafted details. Even the same architectural works, such as churches and bell towers, the clock tower possess a resigned and simple style and are made by local artisans.

One of the most fascinating Gratteri characteristics is the morphological and natural land diversity: bare rocks fancifully shaped by natural elements (the pads that encircle the town have a certain morphological striking similarity with the much more famous Dolomite peaks), caves, natural caves, sinkholes, varied vegetation ranging from moss herbs, Mediterranean shrubs, to the woods. In addition to all of this, should be mentioned the captivating views of the sea and of the coast who possess tones of real sublimity during spring and autumn clear days, and the beautiful sunsets that, throughout the year are offered in the whole range of their variety: ecological aspects that typify Gratteri and its territory as a real "terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea", as oasis of contemplative life-giving involvement which, as in a unique enclosed microcosm, allows to enjoy ecstasy of staggering beauty and sacred awe.


Adjacent municipalities
Cefalù, Collesano, Isnello, Lascari
  • Unione Europea
  • Repubblica Italiana
  • Regione Sicilia
  • Po Fesr
  • Madonie