Rampinzeri Castle, the history

Rampinzeri Castle is situated in Santa Ninfa area, on a little hill about 500 meters on sea level. The principal front is in gothic style, covered by merlon with soaring pinnacle; it dominates the underlying valley. There are two courtyards: in the first one, larger and outer, there were the colonist apartment, little church in neogothic style, sheepfold, stall, stables, granary, olive-press, millstone for the grapes-press, bakery; in the second one, smaller, there were main house and some minor corps of service. In the center of the external courtyard there is a big well for the rainwater collection, still in use today, descripted by Tomasi di Lampedusa in the novel “Il Gattopardo”: “… near the building a deep well… it silent offered different service it was able to give: it was able to become a pool, prison and cemetery. Quench they’re thirst, spread the typhus fever, safeguarded sequestered Christians, hid animals and men’s carcass until they become anonymous smooth skeletons…”.

Historical notes.

The history of Rampinzeri Castle is strictly connected to that of Santa Ninfa Municipality, so called by the founder Luigi Arias Giardia, Palermo’s citizen, in honor of Palermo’s martyr Santa Ninfa.
First certain information about the foundation of city and Rampinzeri farmhouse date back to the end of 1500; in a 1578 document, Partanna’s Baron Goffredo IV Graffeo take possession of 6 feuds including: “Litremuli, Bartulotta and Rampinzeri”.

In 1603, for the plague, piracy and famine, Graffeo family sold the feud of “Rabinseri”, 2.680 hectare, to Don Adriano Papè (maybe a member of Valdina Princes), but he took on this territory few people for the cultivation of the ground and then, after two years, he sold the feud to Don Luigi Arias Giardina; he desirous of affirm his power, in 1614 obtained by the Viceroy the “ius aedificandi et populandi”.

Giardina Family.

Don Luigi Arias Giardina, baron and marquess of Santa Ninfa, in Santa Ninfa built wide streets and squares with checkerboard layout, churches (Mother Church destroyed in 1968, the Church of Sant’Orsola today called Purgatory, a convent of San Francesco D’Assisi with the Church of Sant’Anna). In order to enlarge the town and have a lot of vassals, don Luigi leased some parts of the feud ground, houses and shops; people come to Santa Ninfa and the land was divided into little parcel where were planted olive trees, vineyards and figs.

In 1616 Santa Ninfa’s lands and Rampinzeri feud were offered to Orsola, the daughter of Don Luigi, that offered them to his first-born Simone Giardina Bellacera. He didn’t have children; when he died in 1641 the successor was his brother Giuseppe, that gave everything to his first-born son Mario, that died young; in 1650 the owner became the second-born Simone Giardina Bellacera, Prince of Monteleone. When he died, the property goes to the third-born Pietro Giardina Bellacera, that died in 1688. The son Giuseppe, eighth Marquess of Santa Ninfa and third Prince of Monteleone, that was the last heir of the Giardina Bellacera; died when he was 16 in 1699 and with he the ancestry finished.

The lands of Santa Ninfa go to Luigi Gerardo, that was another component of the family; he never conquered the fidelity and respect of his citizen, and in 1718, refugeed in Castelvetrano, sold the territory to Eleonora Bellacera, married with Federico di Napoli, Prince of Resuttano. This presence, continued with  sons, lasted about one century till the abolition of feuds (1812).

De Stefani Family

De Stefani family, that came from Partanna, date back to the first middle of 1500 with Antonio De Stefani. From the first of his six sons, GiovanVincenzo, originated the branch that moved in Santa Ninfa thanks to the lease concessions of Luigi Arias Giardina with very extended lands; already economical affirmed in Partanna, the De Stefani became “domini” in the lands and obtained prestige and fame.

In 1822 Giuseppe De Stefani (1790-1886) became lessee and owner of Rampinzeri feud for the big amount of 8.000 ounce that he had to pay to Resuttano Princes; he provided to the renovation of the Castle and edification of little family’s church, after ask for the permission to Mazara Bishop (1828). After the marriage with Giovanna Falco, eleven sons had born; Rampinzeri property was given to the son Angelo, that had sixteen sons with Marianna Tagliavia.

The knight Giuseppe De Stefani was mayor of Santa Ninfa and Provincial Counselor in Trapani; he ordered the construction of carriageway road that connected the town of Salemi with Castelvetrano; he was decorated by Pope Gregorio XVI with the papal title “Gold knight”, the highest role given to not-catholic person; that is given to reigning, princes and head of the govern.

In 1860 De Stefani family disappointed openly Borbone in favor of the Unity of Italy, supporting the Thousand enterprise. Under the guide of Ippolita De Stefani Perez the women sewed the tricolor flag that was delivered to Garibaldi in the eve of Catalafimi battle. To the Thousands of Garibaldi toke part a lots of young men of Salemi and some of Santa Ninfa. In 1973 Rampinzeri Castle hosted military actions attended by King Vittorio Emanuele III, the king’s son Umberto, the duke Amedeo D’Aosta, the head of govern Benito Mussolini. The king was hosted in the Castle and Gaetano De Stefani, in order to remember this event, ordered to build a headstone affixed in the principal front. The king went to the Castle a second time in 1942 with his son Umberto: toke part to the mass into the chapel while in the external court there were deployed infantry battalion of Aosta division.

In the second half of 1950, Gaetano De Stefani left to his heirs their quote of feud; after had been done modification to the inner part of the building for obtain some independent residentials units. After the strong earthquake of 1968 the Rampinzeri Castle became condemned, it was abandoned, vandalized and destroyed, together with the garden, by continuous fires.

Recent times

1911- The Municipality approves “the project of realization of Santa Ninfa’s Cave natural reserve”, that foresee the renovation of the Castle and its destination as headquarter of natural reserve.

1999- the owner Mario and Giuseppe De Stefani give some part of the locals to the Horse club “La Giumenta” in order to renovate them and converted in equestrian center.

2008/2009- the complex (building and lands) of Rampinzeri Castle was bought and in part renovated by Sant Ninfa Municipality with European founds supplied by Territory and Environment Regional Department, in order to acquire an extraordinary heritage  of history, culture and identity, and destine some spaces to natural reserve “Santa Ninfa Cave”. Part of the spaces was destined to Institution for the Management of the Reserve Legambiente Sicily, that realizes, in little time, a center for the natural fruition and valorization of the territory.