Sicily’s unexplored hidden interior

But it’s not just the architecture that Gebbia wants visitors to admire. In Petralia Soprana, she takes travellers to Bar Aspromonte, a café famous across the Madonie for its sfoglio madonita, a cake made with thin pastry filled with tuma (an unsalted local cheese), candied pumpkin, sugar and pieces of chocolate. (There’s actually a fierce rivalry between Polizzi Generosa and Petralia Soprana for which village makes the best sfoglio).

In the borgo just below it, Petralia Sottana, she has visitors stop by the haberdashery of Giulia Valenza. Owned by Valenza’s family since 1954, the emporium specialises in high-quality yarns and hosts free knitting workshops for locals, which travellers can also join.

Looking ahead, the network aims to keep expanding with more hosts, more partners and more itineraries, though, Lanza said, it will take time, as most residents aren’t used to working with travellers, especially foreign ones. “Not everyone speaks English or has dealt with tourists’ needs or demands,” she said. “It will be a learning process.”  

Still, “a bottom-up approach is the only way you can really understand Sicily and bring a positive change to areas like the Madonie,” she added. It starts with the people.” 

Country Rambles is a BBC Travel series that embraces rural life, helping travellers to reconnect with nature, learn a handcrafted skill and live more sustainably – all while experiencing local culture.


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