Sicilian Marionettes

Located on the outskirts of Partinico, Palermo, Sicily, you will find la Real Cantina Borbonica an extraordinary building commissioned in 1800 as a winery by Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies. Today the building is primarily used as a museum of historical, cultural and agricultural traditions, and for special events, like weddings, concerts and banquets. It’s also home to marionette theater.

A marionette is a puppet controlled from above the stage using wires or strings. A marionette’s puppeteer is called a marionettist. Marionettes became popular in Sicily during the thirteenth century with the reign of Ferdinand II, and are considered an important part of the rich Sicilian folk culture. For centuries, young and old alike have enjoyed watching the reenactment of medieval characters and stories, such as Orlando (Roland), one of Charlemagne’s knights, the Norman knights of King Roger of Sicily, and the Saracens (Moors). There were historical families of marionnettists throughout western Sicily, such as the Greco of Palermo; and the Canino of Cinisi and Alcamo.

The Sicilian marionette theater Opera dei pupi was proclaimed in 2001 and inscribed in 2008 in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.