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Piana degli Albanesi (Arbëreshë Albanian: Hora e Arbëreshëvet; Sicilian: Chiana) is a comune with 6,212 inhabitants in the Metropolitan City of Palermo, Sicily.

Piana degli Albanesi

Hora e Arbëreshëvet  (Arbëreshë Albanian)
Comune of Piana degli Albanesi
Bashkia e Horës së Arbëreshëvet
A view of Piana degli Albanesi
A view of Piana degli Albanesi
Coat of arms of Piana degli Albanesi
Coat of arms
Location of Piana degli Albanesi
Piana degli Albanesi is located in Italy
Piana degli Albanesi
Piana degli Albanesi
Location of Piana degli Albanesi in Italy
Piana degli Albanesi is located in Sicily
Piana degli Albanesi
Piana degli Albanesi
Piana degli Albanesi (Sicily)
Coordinates: 37°59′42″N 13°17′00″E / 37.99500°N 13.28333°E / 37.99500; 13.28333Coordinates: 37°59′42″N 13°17′00″E / 37.99500°N 13.28333°E / 37.99500; 13.28333
Metropolitan cityPalermo (PA)
 • MayorRosario Petta
 • Total64.92 km2 (25.07 sq mi)
740 m (2,430 ft)
 • Total6,157
 • Density95/km2 (250/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code091 857
Patron saintM. St. Hodegetria, St. Demetrius, St. George
Saint daySeptember 2 October 26, April 23
WebsiteOfficial website

Situated on a mountainous plateau and encircled by mountains, on the eastern side of the Mount Pizzuta, the city, which is mirrored on a large lake, is 24 km from Palermo.



Landscape of Piana degli Albanesi

Piana degli Albanesi is 800 metres (2,600 ft) above sea level in a mountainous valley that ends at the lake of Piana degli Albanesi. It is a mountain resort, whose natural environment and typical mild mediterranean climate create a peaceful and serene oasis. Its natural frame consists of a lake, the mountains and the typical rural quarters.

It is surrounded by four mountains (Pizzuta, Kumeta, Maganoce, Xeravulli), natural sites (Neviere, Cave Garrone, Honi), and the nature reserve Serre della Pizzuta. There are a number of recreational activities available in the area, such as hiking, cycling, horse riding, canoeing, and paragliding.

The territory is crossed by several streams. To the south-east, immersed in , there is the artificial lake formed in 1923 by damming the Belice Destro river (Lumi Honi), barred in the 1920s to allow for the construction of the Lake of Piana degli Albanesi, since 1999 a natural oasis protected and safeguarded by the World Wildlife Foundation.


Piana degli Albanesi was founded in the late 15th century by a large group of Albanian refugees coming from the Balkans during the conquest of the latter by the Ottoman Empire.[3][4] The exodus began after the death of Skanderbeg, who successfully fought Ottoman armies for more than two decades.[citation needed]

The village foundation was officially sanctioned on August 30, 1488, based on an official request sent in 1486–1487 to Cardinal Juan de Borja, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Monreale, demanding the right to remain in the lands of Mercu and Aydingli, located in the mountains in the province of Palermo.[5]

In 1482–85, after several attacks from the Ottomans, the Christian Albanians were forced to the Adriatic coast where they hired ships from Republic of Venice, escaped by sailing and managed to reach the island of Sicily.[clarification needed] They apparently were housed in temporary camps somewhere near Palermo until about 1486 or 1487, when they were granted land known initially as the "Plain of the Archbishop", inland areas of Sicily in the mountains above the city of Palermo. Signed the "capitulation" in Albanian and Italian, which were also recognized with followed by the Brief of Pope Sixtus IV,[6] the official concession of land was granted to the settlers in 1488, followed by the construction of what became the largest Albanian center of the island and primarily, religious buildings.[citation needed]

King John II of Spain and Sicily allowed the original refugees to occupy the present place and to preserve their Orthodox Christian rite.[7] These Albanian refugees were at the time referred to by the surrounding population as "Greeks" on account of their Orthodox faith and the settlement became known as Piana dei Greci.[8][9] For example, in 1673, the local priest Domenico Mamola in a note written in Greek refers to the settlement as Piana dei Greci.[7] In 1941 during Mussolini's invasion of Greece, the name was changed to Piana degli Albanesi so as to gain the locals support for the fascist regime's imperialist intentions toward Albania.[9][10] The name Piana degli Albanesi or Plain of the Albanians is a literal translation of the local Arbëreshë name: Hora e Arbëreshëvet.[9]

During the 19th century, the Arbëreshë of Piana degli Albanesi played a significant role for the Italian national unity, and participated in the stronger phases of the movement of Fasci Siciliani.[11] The inhabitants of Piana degli Albanesi were known to have a reputation for rebelliousness, but were not organized politically until the arrival of the Fascio in April 1893.[clarification needed][4]

In 1947, the regional Mafia hired the bandit Salvatore Giuliano to shoot down the annual May Day demonstration of the Pianesi, which took place in a remote mountain pass. The bandit and his gang indeed attacked them there, killing fourteen people in what came to be known as the Portella della Ginestra massacre.

Main sightsEdit

Overview from the hill Sheshi.

The historic center of the town has a late-medieval style, reflecting the social status and economic conditions of the time when the settlement was built. The city streets are narrow and consist of steps (shkallët) and neighbourhoods (gjitonia), the roads are generally narrow and provide a meeting place in front of the houses, with the exception of the main road (dhromi i madhë) which is wide and straight and divides the town into different sections. There is also a Piazza Grande (Qaca e Madhe) which is the centre of community relationships.

The churches of the town are among the most important architectural structures, the testimony of these two styles, the baroque linked to the Byzantine Empire and Italian. Of particular interest are the works of the architect and painter Pietro Novelli, very active in the Albanian community.

Religious architectureEdit

Monastery of Basilian monks (Sklica).

Churches in Piana degli Albanesi include:

  • The Cathedral of Shën Mitri Dëshmor i Math (St. Demetrius Megalomartyr), which serves as the principal church of the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi, the church dates to 1498/1590. It preserves some frescoes by Pietro Novelli. The most ancient work is the icon of the God Mother with the Christ (1500).
  • the Church of Shën Mëria e Dhitrjës (St. Mary Odigitria), located in the village main square, was built in 1644 in the style of Pietro Novelli. The church, the only architectural work by Novelli, has the nave divided from the two aisles by four pillars to support the octagonal dome with a small lantern. It preserves a Virgin Odigitria icon that is said to have been brought here by the refugees during their voyage from Albania.
  • the Church of Shën Gjergji Dëshmor i Math' (St. George), built in 1492, is the most ancient in the town. It preserves some remarkable frescoes.
  • the Church of Shën Kolli (St. Nicholas), an important church which houses precious icons from the seventeenth century.
  • the Church of Shën Viti (St. Vito), dating back to 1514, with an imposing portal, which is of Latin rite.
  • the Church of Shën Gjoni i Math (Anthony the Great), from the 16th century, has preserved an altar of Byzantine style.

The Monastery of the Basilian Fathers (Sclizza or in Albanian Sklica) of the Byzantine Rite is it in a panoramic spot over the town It houses mosaic works by Spiridione Marino (Dhoni), a local Italo-Albanian artist.


Within the territory of Piana degli Albanesi, in Contrada Sant'Agata (Shënt Arhta in Albanian), are the remains of an early Christian necropolis of late Roman age, called Pirama. They were brought to light in 1988.


The town is the most important center of the Albanians of Sicily, as well as the largest and most populous colony of Arbëreshë (Italo-Albanian or Albanians of Italy) and it is the episcopal see of the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi, constituency of the Italo-Albanian Church whose jurisdiction covers all Albanians of Sicily who practice the Byzantine rite.

The community has maintained many ethnic elements of Albanian culture like language, religious ritual, traditional costumes, music and folklore. The inhabitants are the descendants of Albanian families, including nobles and relatives of Skanderbeg, that settled in Southern Italy during the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.

From the town come the university founders of "Albanian Language and Literature" in Naples and Palermo and is headquartered, since 1945, the "Italo-Albanian Seminary", already in Palermo (1734). Its ancient tradition musics and songs Byzantine is part of the ""Registro Eredità Immateriali della Sicilia" (Intangible Heritage Registry of Sicily) recognized by UNESCO. The municipal government uses bilingual documents and road signs in Albanian and Italian under existing Italian legislation on protecting ethnic and linguistic minorities.


Italo-Albanian priests of the Byzantine rite.

The Comune is the Episcopal see of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi for the Arbëreshë of Sicily.[12]


The town preserves unique Easter traditions, held every year according to a typical itinerary: first of all is the Divine Liturgy, where the Gospel is read in seven languages, including Arabic. After the religious ceremony, there is a procession through the main street, all the women and several men dress in traditional Arbëresh costume, the procession leads to the square after the blessing the red eggs are distributed as a sign of Christ's resurrection.

Traditional costumeEdit

(Ncilona) Traditional Arbëresh costume worn during the wedding ceremony performed according to the Byzantine rite.

The traditional female costume of Piana degli Albanesi, along with language and the Byzantine rite, is one of the most obvious signs of Arbëreshe cultural identity. There are several artistic works on the clothes of Albanians of Piana degli Albanesi, including Vuillier prints of the 18th century, and paintings by Ettore De Maria Bergler, partly preserved at the Art Gallery of the monumental complex of Sant'Anna in Palermo and other private prints, postcards and watercolors by unknown authors.

The opulent clothes are worn on special occasions such as baptisms, Epiphany, Easter and especially marriage, continuing to be carefully preserved by the women of Piana degli Albanesi. It costs thousands of euros to make and repair these costumes, and the majority of women use them on these occasions. Embroidery is done using a pillow, a frame or a needle alone.


Bilingual signs in Piana degli Albanesi

The Albanian language (Arbërisht) is spoken by all, and can be seen in street names, road signs, and shop signs in the village. The language shares the widespread language variations seen in southern Albania, mixed at times with Greek phonetics. The language is recognized by the local government and primary schools as a minority ethno-linguistic language. Arbërisht remains the dominant language in the region. Piana degli Albanesi is officially bilingual; the official town documents are written in both Albanian and Italian. The citizens are bilingual, able to use both the Albanian and Italian languages.[13]

The Albanian language is used in radio stations (ex. Radio Hora or Radio Jona), and especially in books and periodicals (ex. Mondo Albanese, Kartularet e Biblos, Albanica, Fluturimi i aikullës, Lajmtari Arbëreshvet or Mirë ditë).


The music and chants of Piana degli Albanesi are deeply tied to religious tradition. The weekly liturgies, festivals and other officiating are always adorned with a ceaseless flow of melody.


Honorary citizensEdit


Traditional bread of Piana degli Albanesi


One of the main local resources of income is tourism, but because of the vast areas devoted to agriculture and its climate, its economy is based primarily on the production of dairy products, cereals, olive oil, wine and fruit, and by herds of sheep, cattle and goats. The office and industrial sector is thriving, the country is precisely known for the presence of accommodation such as guesthouses and restaurants that specialize in preparing dishes of those particular goods

Artistic craftsEdit

Art and craft products include Byzantine style icons created according to the traditional canons. Modern painters of icons (religious pictures on wood) draw inspiration from Byzantine art and spirituality.

Other products include the women's costumes, mosaics, gold jewels and marble art.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Popolazione Residente al 1° Gennaio 2018". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ Widmer, Mary Lou; Landrieu, Moon (September 1, 2006). New Orleans 1900 to 1920. Pelican Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-58980-401-2. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1971). Primitive rebels; studies in archaic forms of social movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. Manchester University Press ND. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7190-0493-3. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  5. ^ Petro Scaglione (1921), Lumo Skendo (ed.), Historia e Shqipetarevet t'Italise [History of the Albanians of Italy], New York, pp. 38–62, OCLC 40821704
  6. ^ Storia e cultura > Cenni storici della Comunità. Retrieved April 21, 2006.
  7. ^ a b V Centernario della Stipula dei Capitoli. Patrimonio Librario ed Iconografico, catalogo della mostra. Mezzojuso, 2002. Catalog No. 4, p. 27.
  8. ^ Lanaia, Alfio (2008). "Lo schipetaro, il truffatore e il balbuziente: alcuni prestiti albanesi nel siciliano? [The shqiptar, the crook and the stutterer: some Albanian loans in Sicilian?]". Quaderni di semantica. 2. (1): 141. Come sappiamo, gli abitanti dei paesi vicini chiamavano i coloni arbéreshè con l'etnonimo di "greci" o "grecioti" e "Casale dei Greci" era il nome del nucleo urbano da essi abitato, prima che si affermasse l'attuale toponiimo di Biancavilla. Allo stesso modo anche il paese attuale di Piana degli Albanesi, nel palermitano, era chiamato fino al 1941 Piana dei Greci, (a motive del rito religioso) [As we know, the inhabitants of the neighboring areas called the Arbereshe settlers with the ethnonym of "Greek" or "Greeks" and "House of the Greeks" was the name of the urban centre inhabited by them, before they claimed the current toponym Biancavilla. Likewise the present village of Piana degli Albanesi, in Palermo, was called up to 1941 Piana dei Greci, <due to the religious rite>]
  9. ^ a b c Fracchia, Joseph (2004). Subaltern Studies and Collective Memories in Piana degli Albanesi: Methodological Reflections on a Historiographical Encounter. Asian Journal of Social Science. 32. (2). 247–248: Piana degli Albanesi or Plain of the Albanians is a literal translation of the village's Albanian name, Hora e Arbëreshëvet. The name provides a quick insight into its history and geography. Piana was founded in 1488 by Albanian refugees fleeing the Turkish conquest of the Balkans and has been inhabited ever since by descendents of the original settlers. The village is situated 24 kilometers south of Palermo on an elevated plain about 740 meters above sea level, and is encircled by rather steep mountains which separate its inhabitants from their Italian neighbours. Not least because of this enclosed geographical site, the Albanians, or Arbëreshë, of Piana degli Albanesi, still retain their language, and religious and cultural traditions. Though most of the several hundred fifteenth-century Albanian settlements in Italy have long since been assimilated, Piana remains "the most self- consciously Italo-Albanian" village and is considered "the spiritual center of the Albanians of Sicily (Hobsbawm, 1965:102; Serra, 1987:12). The other striking historical fact is the long tradition of Pianese revolutionary commitment which led the British historian Trevalyn to call Piana "the hearth of freedom in Western Sicily" (1909:158), and which attracted Hobsbawm's attention. The early struggles were of the Pianese against outsiders: feudal overlords, followed by monarchs. Since the 1890s, however, bitter social conflicts within the village that pit Pianese peasants against the local landholding elite gave rise to a remarkable degree of revolutionary activity, with some two-thirds of the adult population enrolled first in the socialist and then, after 1919, in the communist party."; p. 269. "Rossi, and Hobsbawm and Guha following him, refer to the town as Piana dei Greci — a name it received from the Italians because of the Albanians’ Greek Orthodox Christianity. Mussolini, presumably in an attempt to gather support for his imperialist intentions toward Albania, changed the name to Piana degli Albanesi."
  10. ^ Di Marco P., Musco A. Aspetti della cultura bizantina ed albanese in Sicilia, Officina di Studi Medievali, 2005 p. 85
  11. ^ The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Edwin E. Jacques, 1994.
  12. ^ "Diocese of Piana degli Abanesi". Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  13. ^ New Albanian Immigrants in the Old Albanian Diaspora: Piana Degli Albanesi. Eda Derhemi
  14. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in Italian) DE PLANAE ALBANENSIUM VIRIS ILLUSTRIBUS: Personaggi illustri Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Comune di Piana degli Albanesi (Accessed October 31, 2010)

External linksEdit