Overlooking one of the most beautiful gulfs of Sicily, Santa Flavia is a seaside resort located about 15 km east of Palermo on the Tyrrhenian coast. A tour of Santa Flavia can only start with the archaeological site of Solunto, on Mount Catalfano, to admire the ruins of the ancient Greek-Roman city built sometime around 4th century BC. From the promontory you can enjoy an enchanting view over the inlets and coves, grottos, cliffs and castles overlooking the sea.
Santa Flavia abounds with historic villas and residences. Those worth seeing include Villa Filangeri, a historic summer residence of princes of the area and now the town hall, and the park at the back which covers about 9,000 square metres. Then there is Villa San Marco, a rare example of civil architecture in mannerist style, with two beautiful walled gardens. During the Second World War the writer Giuseppe Tomasi of Lampedusa, cousin of the Filangeri family, lived there. On a hill at the edge of the Solanto plain, surrounded by olive and citrus groves stands Villa Spedalotto, designed by a student of the architect Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia, the greatest exponent of Neoclassicism in Sicily. It has hosted illustrious personages and in the nineteen nineties it was chosen as a location for some scenes of the film “Johnny Stecchino” by Roberto Benigni. Other beautiful examples include Villa Valdina, Villa Campofranco, Villa Oliva, Villa Cefalà, Villa Torremuzza and the extravagant Villino Basile, the first work of Ernesto Basile, built toward the end of the eighteen hundreds with the cooperation of his father Giovan Battista Filippo.
Next to Villa Filangeri stands the Soluntina Basilica, dating from 1600 but built on the remains of a small pre-existing church dedicated to Saint Anne. It contains some fine works of art and a picturesque cupola with finely frescoed octagonal ceiling coffers. Another interesting thing to see is Solanto Castle which overlooks the sea and was built at the time of King Roger at the top of a large cliff for the protection of an adjoining tuna fishing trap.
One of the most important of the main events is the feast of Our Lady of Light which takes place in October at Porticello, a picturesque seaside village very close to Santa Flavia. The devotion of the people of Porticello to their patron is something truly unique. The faithful already begin to recite the rosary in the days leading up to the celebrations in the main squares of the town. The day dedicated to the Madonna is Monday. In the morning the band goes around the entire town and after celebration of the mass the solemn procession of the cart on which the painting of the Madonna starts. The painting is then placed on the reliquary float. Here the Madonna is covered with numerous flowers which are offered to her by the children of the town and the faithful applause and try to kiss her. An evocative moment occurs when a copy of painting emerges from the sea because it is precisely here, according to the legend, that the original was found by fishermen by divine grace.
The local cuisine is based on local fish. The specialities are shellfish, boiled octopus and the much sought-after bottarga but in the fried-food shops offering old Arabic flavours you can also taste the delicious panelle (fried battered vegetables). Santa Flavia is also renowned for the Sagra della Zagara (the citrus blossom fair) which takes place every year from 26 to 28 June. The high point of the event is the parade in period costume which re-enacts the life of the Filangieri family. During the Festival the most beautiful girl of the town is crowned Queen of the Zagara and there is a “slushy” competition with strictly local lemons and also a music competition.