Welcome to Bagheria, a picturesque city located in the Metropolitan City of Palermo in Sicily, Italy. Known for its luxurious villas, rich history, and breathtaking architecture, Bagheria is an ideal destination for travelers looking to explore the hidden gems of Italy.
Bagheria’s name has several possible origins, including the Phoenician term Bayharia meaning land that descends toward the sea and the Arabic Bāb al-Gerib, or windy gateway. However, the most plausible explanation is that it derives from Arabic بحرية baḥrīyah, meaning of the sea, marine. According to Deciphering the English Code, Joseph Aronesty, the BAGH refers to a base or bottom. Eria is just earth or land, from Hebrew eretz and many old languages. Also area Latin. Bagheria therefore means what it is, a land at the bottom of mountains.
Bagheria has an illustrious history, dating back to its founding under the names of Bayharia, Baharia, and Baarìa. In 1658, Giuseppe Branciforti, Prince of Butera and former Viceroy of Sicily, built a large villa and established the region as the preferred location for the vacation homes of Palermo’s elites. Villas like the fortified Villa San Marco, designed by Andrea Cirrincione with angled bastions and a drawbridge, soon followed. The area experienced a boom in villa building during the periods of Savoyard (1713–21) and Habsburg (1721–30) rule, continuing for several decades thereafter. The two most striking baroque residences, Villa Valguarnera and Villa Palagonia, were designed by the architect Tommaso Napoli in 1712 and 1715, respectively. Both were completed only decades later. Napoli had been influenced by his experiences in Rome and Vienna, which is reflected in his designs. Other architects and clients like Giuseppe Mariani and the Prince of Aragona also looked to prints of Roman exemplars when constructing the Villa Aragona (now Cutò) in 1714. By 1763, tastes were changing. The Villa Villarosa, supervised by the young G. V. Marvuglia, was directly modeled on more neoclassical plans published by Jean-François de Neufforge in 1760. In 1769, one of the descendants of the original Prince of Butera redesigned his estate into a well-planned town, allowing him to collect rents from the inhabitants. Bagheria was a preferred stopping point for Europeans pursuing the Grand Tour in Sicily, including Patrick Brydone, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Soane, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and many others.
Despite the unregulated building that has obscured much of its Baroque and Neoclassical architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries, Bagheria is still home to many notable buildings and museums. The Museum of the painter Renato Guttuso with a permanent exhibition of his work is placed in Villa Cattolica. A famous collection of old Sicilian toys, il Museo del Giocattolo di Pietro Piraino, is placed in Villa Cuto. Villa Palagonia, renowned for its complex external staircase, curved façades, and marble, was designed by Tommaso Maria Napoli and is open to the public. Other notable buildings include Villa Butera, Villa Valguarnera, Villa Trabia, Villa Spedalotto, Villa San Cataldo, Villa Villarosa, Villa San Marco, Villa Filangeri, Villa SantIsidoro, Villa Ramacca, Villa Serradifalco, Villa Larderia, and Villa Campofranco.
Bagheria is also a town rich in cultural significance, as it was the birthplace of many well-known 20th century figures. These include poet Ignazio Buttitta, photographer Ferdinando Scianna, artists Renato Guttuso and Nino Garajo (1918—1977, Rome), gangster Joe Aiello, and film director Giuseppe Tornatore. Tornatore portrayed his love for his town in the multiple award-winning film Nuovo Cinema Paradiso in 1989 and the 2009 film Baarìa, featuring the history of the town from the 1930s to the 1980s through the life of a local family. Bagheria is also depicted in The Godfather Part III.
Bagheria celebrates its patron saint, St. Joseph, on the first Sunday of August each year. Religious celebrations are held throughout the week leading up to Sunday, with the more solemn ceremonies initiated on Sunday and festivities concluding the following Monday evening with a fireworks display. Don’t miss the chance to experience the history, architecture, and culture of this amazing town on your next trip to Italy.