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Collesano: Sicilian Traditions and International Friends

A few short kilometres from the beach, in the very heart of the island’s north coast, Collesano is one of the best places to buy a house in Sicily.

Whether you are looking for the excitement and social buzz of a town house in the middle of a friendly community, or the peace and privacy of a Tuscan-style villa in the countryside, the municipality will have what you need. Value for money is very good at all levels of the market, and there are properties to suit every budget. But what’s life really like if you buy property in Collesano?

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the town and its surroundings, explain why we think it’s one of the best areas to buy a home in Sicily, and introduce you to some friends who would be your new neighbours. Finally we’ll help you consider which areas in and around the town will be the best fit for your needs.

The Best Towns to Buy Real Estate in Sicily

You have decided that Sicily is the right location to buy a home in the sun. The next step is to find the island’s best value for money. In previous articles we have highlighted two beautiful hilltop villages where you can find houses to renovate and beautiful countryside villas with sea views and swimming pools. In panoramic Pollina, the Tyrrhenian Sea stretches out like a twinkling turquoise carpet as far as the eye can see. The hills and valleys around Gratteri are filled with olive groves and vineyards.

Now we want to introduce you to Collesano, a place every bit as beautiful and enchanting as Pollina and Gratteri. But it has a key element which sets it apart from those and many other small towns on the island.

A Burgeoning International Influence

Despite its quintessentially Sicilian look and feel, Collesano is also an international community, with a surprisingly diverse population and an active social scene.

If you aren’t yet a fluent Italian speaker, or are making the move to Sicily with any uncertainty about how you will fit in, Collesano is the perfect welcoming environment in which to find your feet in this complex and fascinating culture.

The last time we visited Collesano we bumped into a group of seven or eight of these new arrivals having a coffee together outside a bar in the centre of town. They told us about their plans to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving festival with a pot luck dinner at the house of some American friends. This is typical of the kind of close bonds formed by being an expat in this friendly Sicilian town.

Christine

Christine is really the heart of Collesano’s international scene. Originally from France, she moved here with her English husband some years ago, buying land in the surrounding hills and building their own home there from scratch. We’d love to claim credit for this move, but the couple didn’t meet us until after they had moved, and had to navigate the complex protocols and negotiations themselves.

“To tell the truth”, says Christine, “we’re a tiny bit jealous of people who are arriving just now and getting help from Valerio and his team!”

We know Christine’s being modest. She’s a tireless helper of many new arrivals herself, introducing them to new friends and always available to help explain the nuances of local life.

“It’s just wonderful to have the best of both worlds here now”, she says, “Collesano is still absolutely Sicilian in so many ways, you couldn’t be anywhere else –  but now we also have friends here from all over Europe as well”.

As Christine has even been asked to run for the local council, one thing is for certain – she’ll be a part of the Collesano social scene for many years to come!

Friendly and Welcoming Neighbours

Collesano is too big to be a village and too small to feel like a busy town. If you know the region well you can understand it as being much livelier than a Gratteri or Pollina, but certainly closer knit than Castelbuono.

Its population of around four thousand residents swells slightly in the summer, with many families from places like Termini Imerese and Palermo having summer houses in the municipality. This is enough to sustain a variety of schools, shops, restaurants and bars, but the streets of the town never feel crowded or noisy.

When you buy property in Collesano you’re getting the best of all of Sicily’s traits – friendliness but practicality, proximity to the sea and to nature, an international scene but an unmistakeably Sicilian pace of life.

A Magical Place in Motorsport History

Collesano took on a unique significance in the sports world at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the planet’s first ever sports car race, the now-legendary Targa Florio, began its annual journey through its streets and hillsides.

Both a competitive race and a classic car rally still pass along these roads every year, and the Targa Florio Museum, dedicated to the history of this remarkable event, stands in the heart of the town.

Mouthwatering Local Specialities

In Sicily, every town and village boasts their own culinary delicacies, and Collesano is no exception, priding itself on its honey, ricotta, the Christmas fig biscuits known as cucciddati, and a seafood dish called ghiotta, pairing salted cod with vegetables cooked in a sweet and sour sauce. In November the town hosts a cheese festival which showcases all kinds of mouthwatering specialities of the region and beyond.

Distinctive Majolica Ceramics

Majolica is a colourful, tin-glazed pottery which has exploded in population around the world in recent years, but long been a Sicilian staple. In Palermo, a museum dedicated to the craft contains over 5,000 examples of different local patterns.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Collesano was renowned as a real powerhouse in the production of beautiful ceramics in this tradition. The town even had its own distinctive style, using a thicker clay than was traditional, and simpler patterns – less floral and ornate patterns than found elsewhere, making judicious use of only one or two colours. Over the next hundred years this wonderful local speciality was lost completely, but in the past decade a resurgence of interest in the old ways of design has spurred a renaissance in the area.

Small-scale, artisanal producers like Cotto Meli have sprung up, bringing traditional Collesano style back to the marketplace with distinctive yet understated handmade pieces.

An old kiln was found in the historical centre of town, and with the help of an EU grant it will be completely excavated and turned into a museum. This will be overseen by the artistic school in nearby Cefalù, whose students will be given an opportunity to develop understanding and skills in a fabulous historic setting. One thing is for sure: majolica is going to be an important component of the town’s life and economy in the twenty first century.

Micky

Relatives of our Swiss friend Micky bought a property in the region, and after visiting them he knew he needed to get one of his own! A sociable guy with a gift for getting on with everybody, Micky purchased a top floor apartment right on the main piazza of the town.

“My favourite bit of trivia about my place is that the brother of the guy I bought it from actually used to be the mayor of Collesano. You know it’s been in good hands – and it was a great starting point for conversations!” The ex-mayor’s brother is a potter, who had helped him fill the place with some really nice tiles and finishing touches. “That’s a really big deal for this part of the world, so it’s like I was able to get straight into being part of the town.”

Just as he discovered the area by visiting relatives, Micky’s become such an evangelist for Collesano that he’s actually looking for more property to invest in.

A Rejuvenated Old Town

Recent years have also seen a concerted investment in the historic heart of Collesano, where significant public and private money is being invested in the restoration of the twelfth century castle, home to generations of the Counts of Collesano. Previous noble occupants of the mighty structure include the great Sicilian dynasty of the Ventimiglia, as well as the Aragona, Moncada and Ferrandina families.

With the ancient history of the town being refreshed and presented to future generations, Collesano is set to become a fixture on the historical tourism circuit of the region, and a great choice for investment in property.

Spectacular Sea Views

Curving around the slopes of a hill around 500m above sea level, the houses of Collesano town are built in long parallel streets which allow almost every house to have a sea view from their top floor. Those that don’t currently have a roof terrace will have potential to add one – the perfect spot from which to soak up the sunshine and enjoy a drink or meal with a bird’s eye view of green hills and deep blue sea.

The Beautiful Madonie Park

Collesano lies around six kilometres south-west of Gratteri, in the lower hills of the Madonie Natural Park. This huge reserve of protected land runs inland for another 20km, towards the twin central cities of the island – Enna and Caltanissetta. With peaks nearly 2000m high, its upper slopes are well above the snow line in winter, and the resort of Piano Battaglia offers a slope for skiing and snowboarding. Adrenaline lovers not content to wait for winter can descend thousands of metres in seconds on the Zipline Sicilia, or at a more sedate pace by paraglider. You will even find Europe’s highest swing!

In more moderate weather, throughout the rest of the year, the Madonie are a fabulous spot to explore on foot, by bike, car, motorbike or even on horseback. In 2015 it was added to UNESCO’s list of protected national geoparks. A haven of biodiversity, they are home to rare species of flora and fauna including red kites, fallow deer, a wood composed entirely of giant hollies, and the endangered Sicilian fir tree. The oldest single tree in the Madonie is an oak, in the Macchia dell’Inferno region, which has towered over this landscape for more than one thousand years.

The UNESCO citation for the park also noted the relationship between the landscape and the communities who call it home, including the important education relationship between the park authorities and local schools.

Daily buses connect Collesano to all of the main villages in the park, as well as to Cefalù at sea level. So even if you don’t want to spend your life driving around, you’ll never feel cut off from your beautiful surroundings.

So, you’re hooked on the idea of Collesano – who wouldn’t be? But where is the best area for you to look? Let’s look at the advantages of three areas.

Where Should I Buy Property in Collesano?

The Town Itself

Collesano town is a clean, quiet and green little town where all shops and amenities can be found within walking distance of your front door: you can walk from one end of the town to the other in fifteen minutes.

The new town makes up the majority of Collesano, neat rows of terraced houses usually dating back less than a hundred years. You can find unbeatable value if you’re prepared to take on the romantic challenge of renovating a property here, with houses and apartments often changing hands for less than €100,000.

 

Contrada Bosco

Two roads connect Collesano to the beaches of Lascari, Campofelice and Cefalù below. The more easterly of these is the SP128 provincial road, which will get to you the coast in just twenty minutes. As the name (‘bosco’ means forest or woodland in Italian) suggests, this is a green area, with plenty of olive groves as well as deciduous trees. The quality of the olive oil produced here is said by the locals to be second to none.

Many of our properties are found along this winding route, and it’s one of the nicest places to buy a house where you can feel truly immersed in nature.

 

The ‘Happy Fields’ of Campofelice

The SP9 road to Campofelice (you can guess from the title what the name means) is one of the main routes of the Targa Florio, which means it’s been particularly well maintained and runs a little faster than the Contrada Bosco. Here the land is more open and the sea breeze keeps the air feeling particularly fresh and comfortable even in the sticky heights of a Sicilian summer.

The views are spectacular, and the open countryside means that properties are easier to access. You’re also slightly closer to Palermo and the bigger market towns of Bagheria and Termini Imerese.

If you’re planning to build your own property in Collesano, this territory makes for a great choice. The flat land does not need as much levelling work to be ready for construction work to begin.

So, now you know your way around Collesano, you’ll want to check out what we currently have on offer in the town.

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