Mascalucia, piccoli scorci ai piedi dell’Etna

postato in: All posts, Italia, Smart Tips | 236

La voce del signor Francesco è decisa ed entusiasta di poter raccontare dopo tanti anni le curiosità del suo paese. Costruito su via Etnea, la lunga via che da Catania arriva alle pendici del vulcano Mascalucia è uno dei borghi che nonostante il forte sviluppo urbanistico degli ultimi 10 anni conserva ancora una forte tradizione rurale e l’eccezionale accoglienza che qui in Sicilia è una costante.


Ho visitato Mascalucia grazie al blog tour organizzato dal Daily Slow e Slow tourism e dal centro storico alle campagne circostanti, Mascalucia mi ha conquistato completamente.

Innanzitutto il centro storico con i suoi portoni in bugnato lavico; la storia di Mascalucia è legata fortemente alla produzione di vino che nei decenni scorsi ancora coinvolgeva l’intero paese, con il suo reticolato di viuzze che affacciano su poche piazze principali, conserva ancora molti palmenti, le antiche cantine dove si svolgeva la lavorazione del vino. Vecchi casolari, con il tetto spiovente  e con una debole luce che entrava solo dai lati, oggi alcuni palmenti contengono ancora i vecchi attrezzi usati un tempo nonchè le enormi botti dove il mosto fermentava.

Appena alla fine del centro storico, dove un tempo iniziava la campagna, all’angolo tra la via Trinità e la via degli Alpini sorge maestosa la chiesa dedicata alla SS.Trinità, edificata nella seconda metà del XVII secolo è di appartenenza all’omonima Confraternita e su questa scalinata, in passato, le donne aspettavano per il pranzo i mariti al ritorno dalle campagne, è qui che si facevano i cuttigghi di paese, i pettegolezzi, è qui che si pranzava per poi salutarsi e tornare a lavoro.

Mascalucia però non è solo ruralità, il paese è ricco di ville nobiliari, residenze di antiche famiglie gattopardesche che, da padroni di interi feudi, hanno scritto una parte della storia catanese. Di fianco alla chiesa della SS. Trinità, un tempo appena fuori dal paese, sorge ancora oggi l’antica Tenuta Trinità del barone Bonajuto, antica famiglia di origini spagnole, arrivata in  Sicilia nel 1300. Il pezzo forte della villa è il giardino, o meglio l’orto botanico, che la circonda; sorto sulla lava, ospita palme, iris, arbusti esotici da frutto, o anche un ampio spazio dedicato alla macchia mediterranea, addirittura la roverella ormai estinta da queste parti, vitigni e infine un agrumeto dove si possono raccogliere le più diverse specie di arance siciliane: dal tarocco al sanguigno.

Il suono dell’acqua accompagna tutta la passeggiata, grazie all’antico sistema arabo di irrigazione, che attraversa l’intera proprietà, ancora oggi è usato per lunghi tratti e che termina in una vasca naturale di lava, dove si raccoglie l’acqua piovana, importante abbeveratoio dello scipo delle gru, cioè la loro migrazione verso sud.

Altra villa feudale che profuma di storia è l’antica residenza del barone Rapisardi. Conosciuto come Borgopetra, la casa sorge nel centro antico e accoglie i visitatori con l’emblematica scritta: “Il cuore si allarga a te, o ospite”, appena superato il portale di bugnato in pietra lavica. Borgopetra non è una casa, ma un insieme di residenze, orti, palmenti e magazzini edificato nei primi del ‘700 nel cuore di Mascalucia, alle pendici meridionali dell’Etna, con l’idea di essere luogo di ospitalità e passaggio.

Residente a Catania per gran parte dell’anno, il barone Rapisardi aveva forti legami con la corte borbonica napoletana e con l’alta aristocrazia europea, soprattutto grazie all’amicizia con il principe di Biscari, archeologo e mecenate italiano. Fu questo che trasformò Borgopetra in un luogo di passaggio per aristocratici e letterati negli anni in cui la Sicilia era l’ultima tappa del Grand Tour, a metà strada tra la città costiera e la vetta del vulcano: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edmondo De Amicis e Washington Irving sono solo tre dei personaggi ospitati tra queste mura.

Ma ogni città del sud che si rispetti ha le sue leggende e i suoi legami con l’esoterismo e dopo la leggenda della villa infestata dal fantasma del barone che vi abitava, morto suicida ancora giovanissimo; da allora, dopo numerosi proprietari, solo i giardinieri sono ancora gli stessi.

Basta girare lo sguardo per trovarsi di fronte il portale del cimitero del paese, qui c’è poco di leggendario, ma di sicuro è uno dei luoghi più suggestivi da visitare.
Innanzitutto la chiesa di Sant’Antonio, la più antica del paese, in stile tardo gotico e costruita all’interno del cimitero, attrae per le sue caratteristiche rimaste indelebili nel tempo: dalla facciata di terra rossa bruciata dalle colate laviche, allo scalino che divideva gli spazi per uomini e donne, dal pavimento in piastrelle siciliane alla tomba della ragazza portoghese morta a causa de” l’asiatico morbo”.

Camminare per le tombe permette di fare una passeggiata nella storia del paese, strani simboli massonici, i nomi delle famiglie nobili sulle grandi cappelle e sulle vecchie lapidi, come quella di Giuseppe Sapienza, la più antica del cimitero, ma anche i nomi di francesi, spagnoli, inglesi, morti qui durante il Grand Tour.

Le campagne del paese offrono numerosi spunti soprattutto per la loro forte carica di religiosità e le tante chiesette di campagna a volte dimenticate. La chiesa della Madonna bambina, costruita prima del 1669 e soprattutto curata dalle famiglie dei dintorni, è una piccola cappella con un altare maggiore; qui si vi recano le mamme con i loro bimbi e le spose in dolce attesa. La “Bambina” infatti è venerata soprattutto per la protezione speciale che accorda a madri, fanciulli e puerpere: le donne che desiderano avere un figlio.

Continuando verso la Contrada di Mompelieri, le case si fanno più rade mentre abbondano le sciare e i giardini di ginestre, le vie diventano sempre più strette, tortuose e a volte sterrate. Ogni tanto si intravedono le rovine di piccole strutture, dei ruderi che a prima vista sembrano insignificanti, ma che in realtà hanno tanto da raccontare. Riportare alla luce gli antichi templi che una volta sorgevano qui o almeno individuare dove essi erano ubicati è un compito abbastanza arduo considerando la scarsa documentazione esistente. Al confine tra Mascalucia e Belpasso dopo un piccolo viottolo nascosto dai rovi, è nascosto un rudere, in pietra lavica e senza tetto. E’ la chiesa di Maria SS. della Misericordia, risalente almeno al 1500, meta di molti devoti che veneravano il culto della Madonna del Soccorso.

Ultima tappa è la chiesa della Madonna della Sciara di Mompelieri, la storia è stata beffarda nei confronti di questo santuario: durante l’eruzione del 1669, e che durò quattro mesi, gli abitanti si illusero che il monte di Mompileri potesse fare da scudo e difendere il centro abitato, ma attraversando un canale sotterraneo la lava distrusse le case e il santuario seppellendo tutto sotto 10 metri di lava incandescente che ben presto si trasformò in duro basalto.

Le leggende però non danno a questa chiesa un ruolo secondario, infatti si racconta che fosse stata fondata dai cavalieri templari al ritorno dalla terra santa e che qui fosse conservato un pezzo della croce di Cristo. Niente aiuta a confermare questi racconti se non qualche simbolo accostabile ai cavalieri cristiani, ciò che è certo è che grazie ai recenti scavi si cominciano a vedere le basi dall’antica Chiesa.

Mascalucia è un borgo che merita di essere scoperto in ogni suo aspetto, quello storico, gastronomico, artistico e folkloristico: uno dei gioielli d’Italia, fatta di viuzze e antiche leggende.

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