Castle address: Donnafugata district 97100 Ragusa
Phone: 0932 676500

Donnafugata castle rises on the picturesque Iblea hills among the thick vegetation typical of the Ragusa plateau and represents a jewel of Sicilian neo-Gothic art. It is the last bastion left to witness the life of the nineteenth-century Sicilian upper class. Visiting the castle that once belonged to the Arezzo family, and since the 1980s has been owned by the municipality of Ragusa, gives you a full immersion in the past. Passed centuries still speak to the visitors through the walls of the castle, its furnishings, and clothing. The magnificent park welcomes its guests as Mother Earth welcomes her children.

The castle was originally a country mansion. The land was purchased in 1648 by Vincenzo Arezzo, the 1st baron of Donnafugata, from another noble Sicilian family, the Cabreras. At that time there was just a watchtower that served for protection of the vast territory of the fiefdom. In the following centuries, the Arezzo family transformed it and made the manor rich and flourishing, making it more than a household but a castle. Over the years The baron Corado Arezzo de Spuches, together with his daughter, worked over all these necessary elements to make it a castle worthy of a fairy tale.
The baron was a powerful man, as his family had always been part of the local aristocratic circles. Member of the Sicilian Parliament in 1848, Corrado Arezzo was also an activist in the anti-Bourbon revolutionary committee, and with the birth of the Kingdom of Italy, he became even a Senator of the Kingdom. Moreover, in 1865 he was delegated as the Royal Commissioner of Italy at the Dublin exhibition. An eclectic man and curious traveler, he admired the culture of Northern Europe.
Thanks to his influence the railway came to pass near his castle, as well as the post office and the telegraph. Many artists, painters, and writers of the time frequented the castle. The Baron helped immensely to the local economy by opening a spinning mill to produce the cotton in his vast land holdings.

The castle occupies an area of 2500 m2  and is surrounded by 8 hectares of parkland. The castle is constructed at 308 meters above sea level and, from its beautiful terrace and upper towers could be seen the picturesque valley and all the lands up to the Mediterranean. The soul of the estate is the park, conceived according to the custom of the time as an esoteric path to allow the visitor to meditate amid nature and its mysteries.
The "Gabriele Arezzo di Trifiletti Collection" is preserved on the lower floors of the mansion, which includes a collection of clothes that span 3 centuries, and that belonged to the Arezzo family. The Donnafugata castle is magic for the eyes and feelings, visiting it makes you to a hidden reality lost in the folds of time but still so touchable among its rooms.
The history of Donnafugata Castle blends with popular legends that became myths with the passing of the centuries. It is told that the original tower, once belonged to the Cabrera family, witnessed the kidnapping of Queen Bianca of Navarre in 1409. In fact, after the death of King Martin of Aragon, the kingdom was ruled by his wife and she was surrounded by many men, who were courting her to obtain power in the kingdom. Thus it was that the Count of Modica Bernardo di Cabrera kidnapped Queen Bianca and kept her segregated in this tower so that she should marry him, but the woman managed to escape.

For the locals, the tower was first introduced as Torre di Bianca. It takes later the name of Donnafugata, meaning woman (Donna) on the run (fuga). But this is a legend. The story, however, seems to be different and that the name derives from the Arabic term with which the Saracens called a water source near the bottom, "Ayn As Jafait", which, popularized in the local dialect, first turned into "Ronnafuata" and then Italianized into “Donnafugata”. This theory is also somewhat of a stretch, as it resembles the story from which the name of the hamlet of Scicli, Donnalucata, was born. There was certainly a grain of truth in Bianca and Bernardo's story.
The look with which the castle presents itself today is that desired by Baron Corrado Arezzo and his descendants. Around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, there were various changes done to the holiday home, giving it the appearance of a castle. This is also thanks to the quadrilateral shape with the lateral towers and the typical battlements on the top.
In the Donnafugata castle, there are 122 rooms but only 28 of them are accessible to the public. The lower floors of the castle once were the place where the servants lived and worked and there were also warehouses. The entrance was designed to allow access to the carriages.
Entering the rooms of the castle, the floors of splendid shiny black pitch strike your imagination at first. Typical of ancient Sicilian families, this flooring always contextualizes the environment, as if to remind all visitors in which territory they are. From the first reception room with blue walls to the conversation rooms for ladies and gentlemen, up to the owners' rooms and the guest quarters, the visitor is guided and impressed. From the brocades to the hanging lamps, from the trompe-l'oeil on the walls, and the paintings, everything speaks of art, wealth, and good taste.
One feels himself almost the owner of that place and looking at himself in the mirror room for a moment sees his clothes like they are from another era, lost as if he were in a suspended dimension of this journey. And when the journey seems over, the terrace that opens over the surrounding countryside up to the sea, down to the horizon, leaves the visitor breathless with its beauty. The white of the stone shines in the sun and the Venetian neo-Gothic exterior style of the castle lights up, enchanting the view.
The park of Donnafugata Castle extends over 8 hectares. Inside of it, there are around 1500 plant species. The structure of the park as it appears today is the result of the works carried out by Baron Corrado Arezzo at the end of the 19th century and those carried out by his heirs at the beginning of the 20th century. As it used to be in the Baron's time, the garden had to be a place that brought man back to his origins, that helped him meditate and find answers through walks all on his own. There are many symbols and allegories of it present in the park. Meanwhile, the facility is built according to a philosophical dualistic principle: reason and myth.

In the Donnafugata park, there is an English garden section, a French garden section, and then nature unfolds in a large orchard which was once also a vegetable garden, where aromatic herbs were grown and beekeeping was present. Then a dense thicket unfolds at some point before the view. Here dualism manifests itself. Close to the castle, nature is captured in geometric shapes but as we move further, forms disappear and myth takes the scene. Here the journey into the garden becomes a place to discover oneself again by entering the "dark forest" which rules the mind. An esoteric path conceived and created by Baron Corrado Arezzo who places, not surprisingly, allegorical symbols along the lanes.
The allegorical symbols in the park of Donnafugata Castle:
Before entering the park one comes across the terrace staircase which carries messages within it. Two sphinxes at the top and two lions at the bottom step. The Sphinx is the guardian of the household who invites the visitor with a smile to solve the puzzle of the park. The two lions represent the threshold beyond which man invades the border of nature, therefore a different space. Here myth, reason, and self-knowledge will accompany the man who is preparing to across the park to find himself.
The hill of Arcadia
Entering the park you will come across the Arcadia hill with a small temple with a blue vault studded with golden stars. It is a free representation of the relationship between man and nature, going back to the myth of Arcadia, from this position looking to the right you will see the labyrinth.
The Platonic Cave
There is a cave/nymphaeum below the temple. It was supposed to be a sirocco room, on very hot afternoons one came there to get some refreshment. Rock seats are set up in the side walls at the entrance to the cave. This place refers to the myth of the Platonic cave. Light passes through a slit in the ceiling, a symbol of wisdom, as well as rainwater which was collected in a basin and conveyed into a tub. This was a reference to the water lilies of Parnassus which reconnected the myth of Arcadia with poetry. The message of the cave was very clear. The symbolic invitation to access was: "Whoever enters here will leave as a new man".

The Coffee House
A building that has the look of a pagan temple, with Ionic columns, stands out in the sky all of the pale salmon color is the coffee house. During the summer days, guests found freshness here and could play and converse while enjoying sweets, drinks, and jasmine granita, very popular in those days. Leaving the coffee house, on the left there is access to the heart of the garden-orchard.

The labyrinth
The labyrinth is an exceptional esoteric symbol. A maze of paths that hide, conceal, and never suggest the path. Just like in real life, the labyrinth is a place where one has to get lost and then find his way out. So the visitor entering it must bring patience with him.
In the basement of the castle, in an area where once there was the fervor of the kitchen, the rooms of the servants who lived in the castle together with the illustrious owners, today is the costume museum (MU.DE.CO.) There is a very precious collection of old clothes, purchased by the municipality of Ragusa from a member of the Arezzo family. The collection is made up of clothes and accessories that cover three centuries of Sicilian costume history. It consists of:

The work of recovery and conservation of the valuable pieces was entrusted to expert hands, workers, and professionals led by architects Giuseppe Gurrieri and Nunzio Sciveres. The location hosting the exhibition lends itself to enhancing the beauty of the precious garments. The architect Giuseppe Nuccio Iacono has created a pass for a journey three centuries long, taking the visitor through different atmospheres, amidst music and curtains that define the various compartments.

Some pieces are kept in glass cases and once entered you understand that all precautions have been taken for the conservation of museum objects,  the temperature is regulated by air conditioners to keep humidity low. The clothes on display are not always the same but are rotated to preserve their condition as much as possible.
The environment awakes past times and brings closer to the protagonists of the stories told by the castle’s rooms Among all the dresses, there is a wedding dress that inspired the costume worn by Claudia Cardinale in "The Leopard". The director Luchino Visconti visited the Donnafugata castle and the Arezzo clothing collection, to immerse himself in the Sicilian realities of the second half of the nineteenth century, before shooting the film. In this place lost in time the clothes, with their atmosphere became eternal  They will no longer be worn, but will always be admired and this goes beyond the dizzying rhythm of time. Even when fashions pass and habits and customs change, the beauty of things sometimes remains unchanged to be admired for centuries.

The castle of Donnafugata was also one of the locations used in the fiction of Inspector Montalbano. By visiting it you will surely recognize various environments seen in the TV series. For example, in the television drama, the castle staircase overlooking the park gave access to the terrace of Balduccio Sinatra, the old boss whom the Commissioner is forced to meet several times during his investigations. In the photos, we advise you to admire the external spaces such as the Venetian Gothic style façade, the gardens with centuries-old Ficus trees, the coffee house, and the labyrinth.