The Castle of Donnafugata has an extension of 2500 square meters and is located in the homonymous district, whose origin of the name is uncertain.
According to some sources, the term Donnafugata is associated with the Arabic Ayn as Jafat, which means “source of health”, in Sicilian Ronnafugata, from which the current term would derive.
The second etymology is linked to the original nucleus of the castle – the watchtower – now known as the Room of the Legend of Bianca of Navarre.
In fact, it is said that the widow of King Martin I of Aragon was kidnapped by Bernardo Cabrera, Count of Modica, to marry her, but the Queen managed to escape.
From here would derive the name donnafugata as “woman – escaped”.
The Cabrera family then sold the property of the land to the Arezzo in 1648.
From that moment, the Arezzo family invested in the modifications of the structure, which culminated in the 19th century with the interventions made by Corrado Arezzo de Spuches, senator of the Kingdom of Italy, who also wanted to realize the adjacent botanical garden.
The site is an interesting example of eclectic architecture and of the attention that aristocratic families dedicated to country houses at the time.
The original nucleus of the site, in addition to the previously mentioned tower, also includes the hall known as the Salon of Queen Bianca Navarra.
Access to the main floor is via a large monumental staircase, in which two pairs of plaster statues depicting Canova’s Dancers stand out.
The waiting room then leads to the lounge of the smoke – whose function was represented by the pipes reproduced on the wallpaper – the women’s lounge and the music room.
Here, the walls reproduce fantasy or real subjects, such as the Botanical Garden of Palermo or Etna, while the ceiling highlights the cultural interests of the owners.
Worthy of note, as was the fashion of the nineteenth century, the hall of mirrors, which follows the model of the hall of Versailles.
The ground floor is occupied by the Galleria del Costume, which contains some of the finest examples of the Arezzo family’s clothing and accessories.
The Gallery, protected by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, bears witness to the customs and habits of the Sicilian nobility of the time and also preserves the clothes of illustrious Sicilians such as the composer Vincenzo Bellini and the historian, politician and Arabist Michele Amari.
Outside there are eight hectares of the botanical garden, wanted by Corrado Arezzo to enclose his botanical skills.
The garden is divided into three sections: English, French and Mediterranean and housed several rare species, not all of which survived the long period of neglect that the castle suffered.
Besides the presence of plants from different parts of the world, the garden is characterized by the bizarre architecture in which it is possible to come across, such as the labyrinth, the coffee house in the shape of a Greek temple or the small chapel from which a papier-mâché monk comes out with a click mechanism.