Discovering secluded Sicily one town at a time: Sinagra

by Rochelle Del Borrello | Jan 29, 2014

         When first moving to Sicily, I was overcome with the desire to write a book dedicated to the small towns who were left behind by Sicilian migrants in the post world war two period, a homage to these obscure places who are sadly dying out. All Sicilian migrants around the world wistfully recall the beauty of their ‘paese.’

Witnessing the decay of small town Sicily is melancholic, but walking through these ancient places sparks the imagination. Sicilian towns speak to me like nothing else does, history comes alive here as these places are imbued with a visceral character as if time itself has sat down at a loom to weave a convoluted tapestry of stories.

Secluded Sinagra, ME

With the aid of my camera and trusty note book I hope to share elements of this baroque embroidery. My hope is to give life to my original idea, to share a little of what continues to inspired me.

My journey into Sicilian places began with my current home, Sinagra. Sinagra is one of those ancient towns who staunchly survives as it is close enough to the coast to be considered an alternative for summer vacations and it is an important connection in the transport system towards Catania.

Like so many other little villages Sinagra is small but steadfast. Its three thousand inhabitants are tenacious and hold onto their little town as faithfully as they do their patron Saint Leone. The many Sinagrese who I have met in Australia never fail to have picture of good old Leone in their house or some other memorabilia dedicated to their home town.

Saint Leone parading on the streets of Sinagra, ME

The main feast day of San Leone at Sinagra is on the eight of May, where a procession of the Saint’s statue is paraded through the town and nearby countryside to herald the beginning of spring.

His promenades aren’t limited to May, Leone also makes a sprint over the towns main bridge on Easter Sunday amongst a suggestive pyrotechnic display and has been known to make excursions out to his wintertime home in his country church, where he resides from early November until Easter.

Those mad keen ‘Santu Liu’ lovers of the past used to run San Leone over the rocks of the river that cuts through Sinagra, bare foot and in the middle of the night, it has been said not a single pilgrim was ever hurt. The Saint seems to have given his blessing to little Sinagra, he helps keep the place alive despite the decay of small townships in Sicily.

‘E viva Santu Liu’ and the beginning of our journey into the little treasures of Sicilian paese.

Rochelle Del Borrello

For more Secluded Sicily in the province of Messina see my blog Unwilling Expat be sure to suggest other places you’d like me to visit.

Here is a link to the Commune of Sinagra for those who read Italian.


Rochelle Del Borrello
Rochelle Del Borrello
Rochelle Del Borrello is an Aussie blogger, writer, photographer and Mummy who lives in Sicily, Italy. Every moment has a story. Visit her blog at: Daily images from Sicily at:

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  1. What a beautiful description!
    The sadness of these antique villages with mostly old people and empty houses left has a kind of dignified beauty. I wonder what will happen to them as time goes on?
    I can’t wait to read your book about all these hidden gems around Sicily.

    • Grazie!
      They are sad places but they have so much to say. For now they are holding on for dear life but I can see once the older generation dies off they will become ghost towns. So sad.
      My book is more about my experiences moving into one of these towns, but there is another book waiting to be written in all of these places …

  2. We’ll make these towns and villages live again! There will be la banda del paese making paesani happy – and there will be kids playing football through the joyful streets.. Thanks G-d still many villages are alive and ..kicking

  3. Lovely to see how you, Veronica di Grigoli and other English-speaking ex-pats are well-entrenched into small town Sicilian life.

    Loving and hating it as we all do, for me it’s that wild, off-the-beaten- track scenery,the food which is history in itself, roll-about Sicilian sense of humour (when you understand the dialect), interrupting conversations otherwise you never get your say, no rules parking and a million other things which still fascinate me even after 30 years of living here! Good luck in your small town travels!

  4. I so enjoyed your article and your blog (Unwilling Ex-Pat). You just got a regular reader! Thank you.
    I am of Sicilian descent as my Mother’s parents came form Villebate, which I have visited, and Milazzo, which I have not yet. Sicily has such a varied and amazing history; I want to tell the world about it!

    • Thanks Adele, great to have you along for the adventure!
      Milazzo is a fab place to visit, great seafood markets and shopping.
      I haven’t seen half of the paese in Sicily and I live here!!! There are some 390 comune to see, it would take forever.
      Thanks for your kind remarks.
      All the best!

  5. Thank you for a wonderful description of the town where I was born.
    I live in the village of Sant’Ambrogio for the past 8 years I have been working hard to create tourism in the village provide employment for the local people. My website
    I am currently in Perth, Western Australia visiting my family. Whilst reading your article to my mother she seems to know your family.
    Will return to Sicily at the beginning of March it would be a pleasure to catch up and share our thoughts and ideas.

    • Good to hear from you. I have seen your web page and it’s in my bookmarks and it’s a great to see people opening up Sicily to the world. I’d encourage tourists to visit smaller towns for a more memorable travelling experience.
      I’m happy to hear from another ozzie! Lucky you to be home in the summer! I’m not sure if you’re mum knows my family, as I use my maiden name, I’m not from the same family as the ‘Borello’s’ of Sinagra! My Dad’s family aren’t from Sicily. Be sure to email me ( it would be nice to keep in contact.
      All the best to you …

  6. What a touching post.You write beautifully of the heart of Sicily…it’s pain and it’s glory. I am a granddaughter of Sicily and have reconnected with cousins in one of my ancestral towns, Ferla, a secluded small town in the province of Siracusa. Nestled in the Valle dell’Anapo the few residents cling to their town, their identity, their customs. They are located at one of the entrances to the Bronze age necropolis of the Pantalica. I looked at the map of places you have visited and see that this would be a new place for you. Should you want to visit, I would love to connect you with my cousin. He works for the Comuni.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. Sicily is such a rich source of inspiration for me and I find that migrants who originally are from Sicily will never forget their beloved island. Hope to have to reading more of my adventures in Sicily. Warm regards!

    • That sounds great, be sure to send me some contact details (, for now I’m firmly in the province of Messina but I am looking at at expanding into other places, there are like 390 Comune in Sicily, so there is plenty of places to visit. Thanks for the suggestion,

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