where the largest Observatory in Sicily is located

Its position, between the Sicani Mountains and the Madonie Mountains, allows the visitor to enjoy a wonderful view that embraces a large portion of the Sicilian hinterland.

Muntidoru as it is known to the Sicilians or El Minzar which means “Panorama” as the Arabs defined it, is a small town in the Sicilian hinterland.

Montedoro, in fact, it is located in the center of the Vallone – the system of valleys between the Sicani Mountains, the Madonie and the hills on the border of the provinces of Caltanissetta and Agrigento – and from the top of Monte Ottavio it is possible to admire the splendid panorama overlooking the Fortress of Sutera, Mount Cammarata, Casteltermini, Milena.

Although it was already inhabited by the Sicans and then by the Sicilians, Montedoro was founded in 1635 with the construction of some houses and some rural warehouses around the main square, the Baronial palace and the Mother Church, a few buildings, but fundamental for the population, mainly peasant, and for civil and religious administration.

Montedoro still maintains the appearance of a small village where the square is connected to the surrounding landscape through a system of streets called “the way of the saints” still used today as a path for processions.

In the districts of Monte Ottavio, Mulinello, Palombaro, Fontana Grande and Fra Diego, there are still oven or cave tombs – a particular type of tomb carved into the rock, used mostly in Sicily during the Bronze Age whose shape recalls, in fact , that of an oven – and on Monte Ottavio, on the other hand, there is a tomb in Tholos, or dome, called Gruttu di li rimitu and testifies to the Mycenaean presence.

In the Marcello district, on the other hand, finds of pottery, bricks and various objects of female decoration were found. From 1815 to 1975, several sulfur mines were cultivated in the territory of Montedoro: Nadurello, Stazzone Sociale, Grottazze, Gibellini.

Today it is possible to retrace the history of the mines thanks to the Zolfara Museum, which is located at the entrance to the Urban Park, on Monte Ottavio, near the oldest mine in Montedoro: the Nadurello.

The Museum is dedicated to the Montedorese writer and poet Angelo Petyx, from whom it takes its name, preserves a permanent exhibition and with its collection of photographs, reconstructions, minerals and tools related to mining it wants not only to preserve and enhance the historical heritage- mineralogical but also to testify how life was at the time of the mines.

The Zolfara museum is part of a circuit that together with theAstronomical Observatory and al Planetary gives rise to the Montedoro Scientific Educational Park, inaugurated in 2011.

The Astronomical Observatory and the Planetarium are two places not to be missed absolutely. Also because we are talking about the largest Astronomical Observatory and the largest Planetarium in Sicily.

It is, in fact, one of the structures that boasts the highest number of visitors. Its position allows the visitor to enjoy a wonderful view that embraces a large portion of the Sicilian hinterland. The Observatory has a 60 cm segment telescope and the whole structure has a shape of thin prism and elongated that emerges from the ground.

This construction is oriented as if it were one compass on various directions that extend towards the sky and towards the earth. The prism is characterized by a turret with an opening and orientable dome for observing the stars.

The Planetary has a metal dome whose measures are 5 meters high and 7 meters in diameter inside which there is a large teaching room with 100 reclining seats and a screen thanks to which you can observe live images – enlarged and focused by the telescope – of the movements of the earth and planets around the sun, the birth and death of stars, galaxies and constellations. For this reason it is also the seat of scientific and cultural meetings.

All around the Planetarium and the Observatory there is a Urban park with trees of over 10 hectares, very well-kept and full of naturalistic and archaeological routes, such as caves and prehistoric tombs.

Another interesting attraction of Montedoro not to be missed are the Museum houses. These are houses that represent the typical home of the less wealthy farmer and miner. These were purchased by the Municipality and subsequently restored to allow visitors to enter and discover what the life of peasants and miners was like.

These houses, in fact, were composed of a single room called dammuso: everything was grouped together in this single environment which represented at the same time the house, the stall for animals, the deposit for straw and agricultural tools.

Then when the economic conditions improved, the house was transformed into a dammuso with a camara, therefore in a more spacious environment than the previous one.

Even today, therefore, in the ancient part of the town it is possible to visit some of these houses restored in compliance with the original construction techniques and transformed into museum houses with inside objects, tools, ancient photos that represent the true ethno-anthropological testimony of peasant civilization.

A legend linked to Montedoro is that of biddrina, a mythological animal that apparently lives in the wetlands of the countryside of the province of Caltanissetta and whose name derives from the Arabic and means “big water snake“.

In Montedoro its habitat is a marshy place fed by the sulphurous waters of the nearby sulfur mine. Legend has it that a snake that had remained hidden for seven years had turned into a biddrina, thus becoming gigantic almost as if by magic.

It is also said that this animal manages to attract the unfortunate who pass by those swampy places, enchanting them with their eyes. Probably the invention of this “terrible” creature was born as a bugbear of children to prevent them from going to bathe in these swampy waters with the risk of drowning.

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