Off the Tourist Path: Castello Incantato - the Enchanted Castle and Stone Heads of a Madman
Deep in the southern part of the island of Sicily, near the town of Sciacca is a sad, yet wonderful story of a man, his madness and the amazing fruit born of his troubled mind. With no artistic training, this disturbed shell of a man carved thousands of stone sculptures at Castello Incanto, the "Enchanted Castle" at his farm.
Filippo Bentivegna_ was born in Sciacca on May 3, 1888--his father was a fisherman, his mother a housewife. In 1913 he emigrated to the U.S., following two older brothers and a sister, as many southern Italians were doing in the early 20th century. In America he suffered a serious blow on the head, which brought on amnesia and the inability to earn a living. Some claimed that he had been assaulted and sustained brain damage while others said a woman broke his heart which caused him to injure himself. He was subsequently considered unproductive and declared unfit for work and was repatriated to Italy in 1919.
Things went even worse for him after his return to Italy. It was determined that the time he spent in America was essentially an act of desertion from participation in WW I. He discovered that while he was gone, a judgement was handed down for desertion with a three year prison term--this was his new burden. But before he could be put in jail, he needed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation--which he failed. Not considered a threat to the public, he wasn't jailed, but some would say was thrown into a much darker place--his clouded and troubled mind.
With the little money he had, he bought a small plot of land on the outskirts of Sciacca. Living alone, he built a small hut and began to develop the rocky land... he began to carve heads from the outcroppings. In his mind's eye, he was carving the likenesses of people he had met in real life, both in American and Italy. He sculpted for over 35 years until there were more than 1000 heads. His work was never recognized while he was alive, and his eccentric behavior earned him the title of village madman.
The villagers mocked him as Teste Filippo (Phillip's Head) or Filippo il Pazzo (Phillip the Crazy) for his bizarre attitude--he demanded he be addressed as Excellency because he was the king of his little domain.
After his death in 1967 at age 79, his family turned the site into a tourist attraction and garden. People visit the site to admire his heads, the gardens and a series of frescoes Bentivegna painted inside his little house. The place was dubbed the Enchanted Castle. It is an amazing place to see these primitive works of art and try to understand the visions in the mind that created them.
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