Many a grandiose villa rises in the borgate (small suburbs) encircling Palermo, majestic summer residences desired by the Palermo aristocracy for their location closer to the seaside than that of their imposing in-town palazzi, noble residences for most of the year.
I noted a few during an early December trip with Pino to visit his family in Cardillo, a borgata (small suburb) a few kilometers from Palermo where many an elegant 18th-c Baroque villa is tucked away behind imposing wrought irom gates in the midst of modern nondescript apartment buildings.
One is not far from Pino’s childhood home, the Villa Alliata Cardillo, now a cultural center.
Entrance is from around the back now and we stopped there one day as Pino wanted to see the small apartment where his famiily had lived when he was a child. At that time, his father worked on the maintanance of the various estate buildings as well as the well for irrigation.
Not far away is the elegant 18th-century Villa Bonocore Maletto, now an elegant hotel with spa and vast frescoed meeting halls..
One morning, while walking the main road passing through Cardillo, I passed the late 18th-century Villa de Cordova, still property of the noble DeCordova family but now rented out for weddings, other ceremonies and meetings.
A few steps away on the other side of the road leading out of Cardillo, I passed the entranceway to Villa Boscogrande…
..built by the Duke of Montalbano at the end of the 18th-century and chosen by the noted Italian film director, Luchino Visconti, to be the setting for his film “Il Gattopardo” (“The Leopard”).
Starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, the film is based on the novel by nobleman Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, published in 1958, the year following the author’s death. His work recounts and analyzes the upheaval and transformation in Sicilian society during the Risorgimento (“the Resurrection”) at the end of the19th-century and the proclamation of the new Kingdom of Italy.
I noted the gate open and followed the curving driveway to the entrance below the grand staircase:
At the base of the staircase, I called out “‘C’e’ nessuno?” (“Anyone here?”). A man soon appeared from a side door behind the stairs on the right. Telling him I was a curious American married to a man from Cardillo and now living in Assisi, I asked if there might be any chance at all to visit the villa.
Hopes were few.
He introduced himself as the director, telling me that the cleaning crew would soon finish their work (after the reception booked for the night before) and he would be glad to show me the villa in about an hour.
I found a quiet place to read until then after calling Pino with the exciting news.
We connected before the Villa Boscogranìde entrance at the prescribed time, Pino about to see the interior of the villa he’d passed so many times throughout his childhood.
Vaulted frescoed ceilings spread out over the walls adorned with bucolic scenes of the Palermo area backdropping Pino and the director as they talked about the villa history.
Rust-colored satin cloths were bunched on the tables where the buffet had been served the previous night.
As the two spoke about the Villa’s history, I wandered the splendor.
I wondered which rooms had backdropped key scenes with Claudia Cardinale and Burt Lancaster in “The Leopard.”e
….and mille grazie, Lucchino Visconti, for sharimg with the world Palermo villa elegance.
Read here about Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo,” filmed in Villa Boscogrande.
Read here about Villa Boscogrande.
See my video on Sicily as a “culinary mosaic.”
Read here about Bar Gardenia, not far away
Read more here about Bar Gardenia.
Read about a famous Palermo open market with Palermo buonissimo street food
See my video on a famous fish stand in Palermo
Read here about Pescheria di Claudio.