Mazzarino, the family palace transformed into a cultural embassy. But the Superintendency wants to close it

An eccentric town in Sicily, an anonymous letter, an eighteenth-century noble palace, a notary-patron and the papers of an oily bureaucracy. The protagonist of the story is Andrea Bartoli, the notary who with his wife Florinda gave life, twelve years ago, to the urban regeneration project of “Farm cultural park” in Favara, one of the most visited tourist sites on the island, awarded in 2020 with the human city design award of the city of Seoul.

Urban recovery commitment that, for some months, has moved to Mazzarino, a town of ten thousand inhabitants in the province of Caltanissetta. The eighteenth-century family palace in Corso Vittorio has been transformed into a cultural embassy. A place that in eight months has hosted a thousand international guests: delegations from the UN, UNESCO and US diplomacy. A sort of dream made in Sicily which also records full collaboration with the municipality of Mazzarino thanks to a public-private partnership agreement that has also granted the notary the use of the adjacent Tortorici building, in abandonment and closed for several decades.

Thanks to the financial contribution of the notary, the commitment of the municipality and of volunteers, the building has been recovered, furnished and destined to host youth empowerment activities that will involve all the schools in the country. The second floor of Palazzo Tortorici will also host a very modern “Magazine library”, a modern version of a newspaper library that can count on a hundred magazine and newspaper subscriptions, including the New York Times. Newspapers that will be made available to students. A dense series of meetings with journalists and authors is expected. An activity that brings to mind the work of a historical figure of Mazarin, Carlo Maria Carafa, an enlightened nobleman who in the 18th century introduced free education for the children of peasants and created the first printing center in Sicily.

Up to here the chronicle of a modern fable. Until you reach the final game that seems to have slipped from a page by Leonardo Sciascia. An anonymous letter breaks the spell. As in the novel To each his own. Only this time the recipient is not the pharmacist Manno but the notary Bartoli. An anonymous complaint which was followed, in less than eight months, by five inspections by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Caltanissetta. Classically trained officials, called upon to deal with a fluid, ever-changing artistic modernity.

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So much so that an expertise is requested from the technicians of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Palermo who in their inspection report state that: “(…) None of the installations or decorations have diminished the existing one, adding, indeed, value and peculiarities and enhancing a historical continuity that is not disturbed and that supports the dialogue in a strong way. And that the spirit of the place, its genius loci, has not been compromised but rather strengthened by a new expression of art and beauty (…) ”.

Despite this flattering appreciation, this time as in a page of the good Camilleri, a peremptory measure arrives: an immediate demolition order. To have to fall under the ax of the provision should be the “Garden of long-lasting love”. An installation by a famous design studio that should have housed a forest of camellias. A sort of homage to the oriental tradition whose construction was blocked during construction.

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In this regard, the technicians of the Superintendence of Caltanissetta have entrenched themselves behind a blanket of institutional secrecy and do not issue statements on the incident. In the meantime, the story records the use of a public petition hosted on Change.org which, in a few hours, registered thousands of adhesions in favor of the work of the notary Bartoli. Therefore Mazarin, which literally is an immediate reference to an opaque story of the friars of Mazarin, a story that had intrigued Leonardo Sciascia not a little, risks rather than rise to the news for yet another story of complexity of making changes in Sicily.

Mazzarino, the family palace transformed into a cultural embassy. But the Superintendency wants to close it