After visiting the interior of the castle, we were delighted to discover that the grounds were also open for us to explore
It turns out that Baron Carrado Arezzo was an expert botanist, and started work on the big park which lies around three sides of the castle and covers an area of 8 hectares, his work was continued into the 20th Century. He wanted to create a garden of amazement with a series of unexpected spaces to impress and entertain guests.
Access to the garden would have been gained via a panoramic terrace which stretches along two sides of the castle.
With two turrets, the ‘terrace of love’ has views of the Hyblean countyside, hills marked by dry stone walls, carob and olive trees and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
A grand staircase connects the terraces with the garden. Two buxom Egyptian sphinxes are at the top of the staircase and as you walk down the steps you see two lions sitting at the bottom looking along the avenue from the castle towards the Coffee House.
The bottom of the staircase is shaded by emormous Ficus magnolioides trees of approximately 25 meters high and trunks with a circumference of around 9 meters.
We walked down the tree-lined avenue from the staircase and came to the Coffee House. Following his death in 1895, Baron Corrado was temporarily buried here. In 1908 his remains were moved to the family chapel and the building became a ‘pavillion of delight’ known as the Coffee House.
Looking across from the Coffee House, we could see a temple above a natural cave camouflaged among the rocks
The circular temple is on a small artificial hill with views over the garden and surrounding countryside.
The dome is decorated inside with stars and moon on a celestial background. A little damaged now and tricky to make out!
We walked down from the temple to discover the Labyrinth which mirrors the layout of Hampton Court maze and apparently leads you on a journey to the center of life. The sign on the entrance said ‘the initial part of the route is obligatory and tortuous, designed to confuse’ so we gave it a try. The height of the walls were deceiving as you could see over some of them but seeing the centre didn’t necessarily mean reaching it.
This little guy was still trying to find his way out.
We eventually reached the ‘centre of life’, not quite the enlightenment that we were looking for!
The Baron obviously had a sense of humour and some practical jokes were also included in the garden for his amusement. One of these jokes to surprise visitors is the small church. Apparently the favorite victims were the pious ladies who went there to pray. As soon as the visitor put their foot on the step, a hydraulic gear system was triggered, a door flew open and suddenly a bearded monk sprang out welcoming the unsuspecting guest with open arms!
The ‘Soggy Seat’ was another of his jokes, there was a semi-circular stone seat with a pergola and climbing roses for couples to sit in intimacy. A hydraulic system was activated and through pipes camouflaged in the seat, surprised visitors were drenched by jets of water.
The castle was well worth the visit and would definitely recommend it. During the years it has been chosen as location for various cinema and TV sets including Visconti’s “The Leopard” and “The Viceroys”. The terraces have been used in scenes from the drama series “Inspector Montalbano” as the home of the aged Mafia boss Balduccio Sinagra.