How to visit the open-air museum in Sicily

The largest open-air museum in Europe and why include it in your travel itinerary

Along the Messina-Palermo highway, between Santo Stefano di Camastraa town famous for its artisanal ceramics, e Cefalù there is a little known secret but of inestimable beauty: Fiumara d’Artthe largest outdoor sculpture park in Europe.

Fiumara d’Arte is located in Tusa Castle and it is an artistic project conceived and created by Antonio Presti an art collector who, burdened by the loss of his father, decides to dedicate an artistic project to him along the Tusa riverbed of an ancient river once flowed between the Nebrodi mountains up to ancient Halesa.

The project was born not only for the purpose of remembrance but also for the desire that animates Presti’s life: make art accessible to everyone because it is inclusive.

The route explains itself along a path in the Nebrodi to be done by car or motorbike, the more vigorous can also do it by bicycle, which alternates vegetation, sometimes desolate and other times lush, from which it is not uncommon to see the glorious Tyrrhenian sea.

The 10 huge contemporary works of art they are quite distant from each other and can be reached by following often winding country and mountain roads.

An adventure that from the sea leads to the heart of the Sicilian mountains of small towns that seem to remain linked to the ancient traditions of all time.

I had never been to these parts until the summer of 2019, when I gave myself a few days with the intention of visiting this corner of Sicily which would be one of the destinations not to be missed when travelling.

We spent two nights in one of the art rooms of the Atelier Sul Mare. Therefore, being part of an artistic installation, we followed the entire route at a relaxed pace, dividing it into two days, thanks to the quiet and the low tourist influx despite it being the very high season.

Little known, a little out of the way for those who follow the classic itinerary of Sicily that goes from Palermo to Catania (or vice versa), it is worth including the destination to discover a little-explored corner of Sicily with enormous potential that re-evaluates a wonderful territory in a creative way that is truly accessible to all.

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The artistic journey of Fiumara d’Arte – The works with map

On the official website of the Atelier sul mare, Antonio Presti’s art hotel, you can download the mini guide with recommended routes depending on the time you have available and also the means.

Based on my experience, I recommend staying two nights and dedicating a whole day to what is called the 1-day tour below and then the other day to the 2-hour tour to conclude with the sea which is very beautiful and clean in the area.

The pyramid of the sun it should be left for last and make it coincide with the sunset, a mystical place that offers the perfect view when the sun goes down.

The route marked by gigantic installations scattered along the way blends perfectly with the rural and wild nature of the Sicilian hinterland which, unfortunately, is too often forgotten in travel itineraries covering the island. But perhaps precisely because it is little frequented, it is absolutely authentic and genuine.

It will be so pleasant to walk through the countryside, to get lost in it middle ground between the Nebrodi and the Madonie, almost forgetting that you are staying in a seaside resort, rediscovering the small towns where the young people now seem to have left and life continues as if on a parallel dimension. Ancient and outdated.

Fiumara d’Art therefore created with the aim of bringing everyone closer to art, it excavates and re-evaluates forgotten territories, unfortunately also mistreated and exploited, telling their beautiful and grandiosely simple side.

Fiumara art map

A night at the museum – Atelier sul Mare (currently closed – September 2023)

Unfortunately from August 2023 the hotel is closed, more information here. I hope it can reopen in the future because it is a wonderful place.

The hotel located overlooking the sea has 40 rooms in total, the the creation of 20 of these was entrusted to international artiststransforming rooms into real installations.

Antonio Presti, creator of the park and owner of the hotel, wanted to offer those who visit the park the opportunity to truly experience artfalling asleep inside a museum and therefore becoming part of the installations themselves.
“It is only by entering and inhabiting the room that the work will be fully realized; the presence, the use of the room, will be an integral and fundamental part of it”says Presti himself.

The rooms are all very beautiful and different from each other. Some have a sea view, others with few glimmers of light.
Each has a theme, a story and therefore offers different experiences to those who sleep there, which can be alternated during their stay.
In fact, the hotel allows you to change rooms if you sleep more nights.

Every day guided tours are held between the free rooms (at check out time), because even if it is a private structure the objective remains the same: the sharing of art made accessible to all and for all.

On the official website you can see all the art rooms, I recommend booking well in advance to have more choice.
In particular I mention The water carriers, the nest, The prophet’s room.

atelier by the sea

Photo Credit – Siciliaonpress e Atelier Sul Mare

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