architects — Giuseppe Caronia e Guido Puleo

date — 1940

area — contrada balletto

state of preservation — bad

Borgo Borzellino is located relatively close, unlike those visited so far, to a town in the Balletto district, S. Cipirello. It lies next to the road connecting Palermo to Sciacca (SS624) and the Palermo-Camporeale Railway, a stillborn project. Designed by Giuseppe Caronia and Guido Puleo, both members of the Palermo GUF (Gruppi Universitari Fascisti), Borgo Borzellino served P.R. 366-276-302-699-512 and is definable, due to the different provided services, as a large Centre or of type “A”. Its area of influence intersects with Borgo Schirò that is about 12km linear distance away, and had to include another Centre of type C, Borgo Desisa, that by the time of designing the Map-of-Villages on 31st December 1956 was still in its planning phase. As mentioned by Maria Luisa Madonna in an article published in 1994, and included in the volume “Studi in onore di G. C. Argan” (Studies in honour of G. C. Argan), Borgo Borzellino is characterised by a “porticoes forum, the entrance being dominated by the ‘Torre del Fascio’ and closing at the backend with a Neo-Franciscan church that rises in a certainly acropolic position at the end of a staircase, framed by two rows of cypresses”. In the article issued by Giornale di Sicilia on 4th February 1940, Maria Accascina noted, while remaining in line with the principles promoted by the ECLS, that it was necessary to adopt an architectural language

that needs to be approached in order to acknowledge about customs, weaknesses, traditional habits, thus preventing people living in the rural area from finding themselves "disoriented" on their own land, forced within unfamiliar architectural shapes and thus, subject to assimilate unusual habits. This being perhaps the only gap of the project as presented by GUF on behalf of Giuseppe Caronia and Guido Puleo, aiming at the reclamation of the upper Belice Valley and targeting Borgo Borzellino, that is placed on a knoll in the middle of the latifondium - a project that has great merit in identifying "a borgo" as a unitary system in which all buildings are crucial cells. An insistent and cohesive note is related to the arch that adorns all buildings and creates a common walkway porch. Dismissing the problems at the entryway as immediately hindered by the tower, the solitudes are fully content and concordant; though the village could be located in the Emilian provinces, or in any other, without emphasising any Sicilian characteristic. Accordingly, it is not to exclude that porticoes, being the main exogenous element, if moved from north to south and by valuing the shade offered during meridian arson hours as well as the protection under bad weather and frequent and often impetuous rains, couldn’t be other than well accepted in Sicily too.

The M.D. n.3714 of 14th August 1942 and n.4968 of 14th October 1942 assigned the construction works of Borgo Domenico Borzellino to ECLS, as approved by the C.T.A. (Technical Administrative Committee) of the Board of Public Works on 4th April 1940, voting on 15th and 16th April for an amount of 1.580.000 Lire, then integrated on 4th January 1942 with a supplementary appraisal requested by the two project managers, for an expenditure of 19.595,19 Lire. The construction project was assigned to Impresa Galassi, by contract dated 8th July 1940 and signed on 26th July 1940, that shortly after – on 18th November 1941 – had to suspend the works due to the difficulties caused by the state of war. Therefore, the Galassi company requested and obtained the termination of contract, pursuant of Law n.1772 of 28th November 1940, the resolution was stipulated by deed on 1st July 1942. The expenditure for the only Public Works executed up to that moment was of 123.839,56 Lire, figure amended to 124.823,92 Lire by Ing. Alfonso Cuomo, who was appointed by the Ministry to carry out the necessary assessments, Note n. 5172 of 14th October 1942. On 15th March 1943, due to price increase and the need for additional works that were initially not considered by the proposal, an enlargement project was drafted with updated figures and submitted in April of that same year, for a total amount of 8.130.000 Lire. The execution of the works was assigned to Impresa Mario Odorisio, stipulated by contract on 12th August 1942, that same company that was also in charge of the construction of Borgo Schirò and of the roads in the districts of Contrada Pietralunga and Patrìa – completed on 31st December 1942 -, of those in the districts Contrada Manale and Donna Beatrice, including also some homesteads, drinking troughs and buildings as located within the experimental fields of the Belice valley, between 1941 and 1943.
In a short time, however, the works were hold up by the state of emergency called on 10th July 1943, an event that influenced the work in progress at Borgo Guttadauro, Borgo Bassi, Borgo Callea, Borgo Ventimiglia and Borgo Caracciolo. By that date, the conditions of the state-owned works at Borgo Borzellino varied for most of the different buildings. While the School, the Institute’s Office (Ente), the Chief Magistrate Delegation, the Post Office and the Carabinieri Station were almost complete, the Church instead had finalised only the foundation excavation and the tower’s foundation casting. This is the only case of a never finalised religious building, despite being included in the planning of both designers. The identified location was on a knoll overlooking the entire square, likewise at Borgo Rizza and Borgo Gattuso.

Once the war ended and Sicily was freed from Fascism, the authority ‘Ente di Colonizzazione’ (ECLS) resumed its normal activities. Considering that the project’s preliminary investigation of March 1943 was not improved and that the prices for its implementation were exceeding already as result of changed market conditions, the ECLS requested amnesty for the works carried out till 10th July 1943, by fair report of 28th July 1941 and updated on 24th May 1945, for a total amount of 3.788.177,21 Lire; meanwhile applying for the assignment of caution-works of some already standing buildings, a project that according to the report of 8th May 1945 was worth 2.000.000 Lire.
The ECLS, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and the High Commissioner for Sicily received that same year a flame letter from the Odorisio company. On 22nd October 1945 indeed, Mario Odorisio lamented non-compliances and uncaring attitude towards his payments requests for the works he had realised over the years. Contract development problems were identified but eventually all agreements, although challenging and discontinuous, were fulfilled in all terms and in the best possible way, as for instance at Borgo Schirò. In this case, we read in the letter that

with a truly remarkable effort, (the company - ed.) succeeded in the year 1940 to conveniently advance and complete the construction works at Borgo "Giacomo Schirò", that was inaugurated on 18th December 1940, despite the fallen snow and that continuously kept falling in those days, representing the first expression of civil life in the deserted area of ​​the middle Belice

The Institute seemed to be hiding behind the military events to escape the fair pressures of the company claiming the fact that the constructions, although financed through own “suitable” capital, were however considered to belong to ECLS’s real-estate assets, and moreover, highlighting the significant devaluation of the invested means. All of this and the payment delays affected suppliers’ credits, payments to operators and insurance agencies. The letter ends with a direct exhortation, though composed

Any non-fulfilment has a limit, beyond which there is obvious negligence: this limit is about to be exceeded.

What the exact answer from the State was, we won’t know, but we can deduce that the relationship smoothened as payments were processed upon the granted concession of the Alto Commissariato della Sicilia, which ruled the southern regions including Sicily until 1947, according to Decree n.2327 of 19th June 1946. More in detail, the works of caution were realised by taking into consideration the available funds and consisted in completing the masonry at a height to reach the roofing of the classrooms, the execution of the missing perimeter slabs of the interior rooms and part of the roofing limited to the trusses and the planks inside the school. Furthermore, it included the completion of the walls at height to reach the roof’s laying surface, the framework structure and the entire roof for the Post and Carabinieri buildings. Completion of works was due on 6th August 1946. By 28th May 1948 the overall debt owned by the state to the Institute was very consistent: 3.345.618,17 Lire.
The ‘Ispettorato Agrario Compartimentale della Sicilia’ gave order, – Note n.26521 of 4th December 1951, upon request of Rosario Corona on 26th April 1948, who by the time was ECLS Commissioner under Art.92 | R.D. n.215 del 13th February, 1933 – to approve the project for the completion of the artisan’s shops and accommodations, to be completed within three months and for a total budget of 1.2961.000 Lire, including general expenses and different charges at 6%.
The Institute would benefit from a subsidy of 38% of the total amount, equal to 492.480,00 Lire, as established by the previous R.D., to which then was applied a retention of 0.70%, i.e. 3.477.36 Lire. The expense was covered by the financial year of the ‘Cassa per il Mezzogiorno’, which on various occasions – as for the Centres of the Valle del Tumarrano – contributed in supporting the works of land reclamation and land improvement.
In the ensuing years there is little information on Borgo Borzellino, until 1956, when ERAS decided to revive some rural villages in application of Law n.1, Colonisation of Latifondia of 2nd January 1940. It was Ing. Filippo Pasquini, director of the Institute’s Engineering Services, who promoted and requested the allocation of resources to the Agriculture and Forestry Department through Note n.22084 of 4th April 1956. About a month later, on 7th of May, the Department’s response arrived with Note n.3201, reporting that

It is currently not possible to intervene as there is no budget available, though to examine which of the aforementioned villages are within parcelling areas and thus agree, with the competent office of the same Department, on the execution of restoration works [...] to be carried out with financial means in compliance with the Agrarian Reform (A.R.) law.

On 15th June that year, the director of land transformation services and recipient’s assistance, Prof. Rosario Berna, expressed in note n.8709 his further favourable opinion on the reactivation of Sicilian Rural Centres and on providing assistance to the families under the A.R.
Therefore, in addition to Borgo Borzellino were identified also Borgo Gattuso, Borgo Fazio, Borgo Cascino and Borgo Schirò. The assessment of buildings’ condition at Borgo Borzellino in 1956 was not very positive – mainly because of the lack of funding for both, maintenance and completion works, so that the Centre fell under “the most declining conditions”. Consequently, a first intervention was necessary to finally achieve full efficiency for the entire rural complex. The expenditure included the construction of the access road for an amount of 1.500.000 Lire, the aqueduct for 1.000.000 Lire, some buildings’ demolition and remake of ceilings, slabs and floors, the remake of architraves with reinforced concrete, the partial replacement of marble doorways and knockers for windows and stained glass partitions, the removal and remake of exterior and interior plasters, the repair or replacement of exterior and interior fixtures, the placement of shutters, the window glass installation work, the replacement of sanitary ware, the colouring of fixtures and plasterwork on walls and ceilings, the inspection and replacement of internal water systems, the construction of railings and the completion of the Trattoria and the Institution’s Office. All this for a provisional amount of 40.000.000 Lire. The repair of the piazza and streets, furthermore, would have weighed 3.000.000 Lire, while 4.000.000 Lire were shared costs for the furnishing of school, municipal delegation and post office and related water and sewage services.

On 31st December 1958, ERAS called for an ordinary maintenance assessment of the buildings, auditing part of the sums granted by the Agriculture and Forestry Department with note no. 123030 on 27th November, allocated to public reclamation works for the scope 1958-59. The investment for the works was of 16.000.000 Lire and included maintenance works for all buildings of the village, with exception of the Trattoria and Rivendita.
About a year later a second ordinary maintenance audit was carried out, on 24th December 1959, disposing once more of resources made available by the competent Assessorato, Note n.5 / 10472 of 24th October 1959. This second audit was analysing expenditures for 13.770.000 Lire, undertaken by Geom. Antonino and assisted by Augusto Firmaturi as accountant of the Institute, determining that the budgeted works alone would not have allowed Borgo Borzellino to function in full efficiency. Therefore, it was decided to intervene and finalise the building of the Trattoria and Rivendita. In fact, until then the building was “unfinished” and incomplete, as built up only till the slabs’ panel level of the ground floor roofing.
However, according to the two experts’ opinion, the needs of Borgo Borzellino were not satisfied, hence a further funding of 45.000.000 Lire was requested and granted by the Reclamation Department with Note B0 / 17277 on 10th December 1960, meant for the improvement of some areas, such as internal and external streets and squares of the Borgo as well as maintenance works for the School basement. Specifically, as estimated in the project signed by the Geom. Antonino Seminerio on 30th January 1961, the works amounted to 8.000.000 Lire, subdivided in 6.823.170 Lire for the finishing of exterior spaces and 449.530 Lire for the School, adding another 10% overheads.
The 1968 Belice earthquake deeply marked the western part of Sicily, involved 14 towns and caused more than 70.000 displaced people in need to find a quick accommodation. Many ended up in shanty towns, while others in makeshift facilities. So that on 14th February that year, ESA tried to provide adequate accommodation to some families by hosting them in the post office building and of the artisan’s, at the tobacco shop and the trattoria. Altogether, Borgo Borzellino welcomed about 60 people during the months following the earthquake; entire families, widows with children, fathers and mothers, mostly coming from San Giuseppe Jato and San Cipirello. However, by inspection of Geom. Liborio Marsala it was noted that

almost all buildings, except of the tobaccos shop and the trattoria, suffered serious damages mostly in the lower floors, in fact, all perimeter walls show different lesions in vertical, horizontal and in some, also transverse direction [...]. The tower of the house intended for the Municipal Delegation presents serious damages in every sense with a tendency to cave in, so that responsive action is urgently required. In the opinion of the undersigned it is necessary to immediately secure the tower with wooden fences and other material, so that the numerous displaced people living in the village, particularly children, are not at risks. The damages affecting the other buildings do not currently constitute immediate danger, although in case other shocks occur, it is necessary that buildings are kept under continuous control by possibly placing appropriate alarm spies inside the most serious cracks, while awaiting to be able to organise and perform repair work, preventing possible increased damage and its consequences.

Until first of November 1974 the Borzellino was granted a security service, first ensured by Mr. Gioacchino Leto until 1st March 1961, and later by Mrs. Iolanda Dotto, who took advantage of the “early retirement” scheme, as by Law n.336 of 24th May 1971.
A brief report, drafted at ‘Ufficio Stralcio – Borghi Rurali’ by Dr. Giuseppe Cimò, confirms that between 1980 and 1982, ESA accepted project applications on the rights of use for some free and accessible premises, like the one by Palermo Youth Cooperative CRAOP that implemented social and welfare activities for disabled people. The Borgo’s premises were then granted temporarily and free of charge, as stipulated on October 13th between ESA and the SAMAN Therapeutic Community Association, to welcome and assist drug addicts and alcoholics (Resolution n.285 / C.E., 27th June 1989). After about four years from this last taking-over, the Authority and the Municipality of Monreale, territory within which falls Borgo Borzellino, formalised the acquisition of the Centre according to the decisions taken by the Municipal Council of Monreale with deed n.79 on 30th June 1992, ultimately approved by the Palermo CPC during the session of the following 14th July and by effects of Law 890/1942. On the basis of Article 1 of that same Law, the rural villages’ communal buildings and installation had to transfer free ownership to Municipalities, with obligation of perpetual use for public utility only.
Despite its closeness to nearby villages within the Valle dello Jato, the Centre never was a point of reference for the surrounding population. To date the village is still unexploited: the artisan’s building, the school, the barracks and part of the town-hall show partially collapsed roofs, the school presents instable walls with obvious detachment of the two bodies at different heights, the remaining wooden structures are unsafe, the fixtures are crumbling. Only the Trattoria-Rivendita is in fair conditions, in use until a few years ago by the Institute’s Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation, but currently devastated by acts of vandalism. Initiatives like the project promoted by ESA “La via dei borghi” to relaunch the rural village in the Balletto district and the academic dissertation by Alessandro Squatrito of the Venice IUAV, were however not enough to reactivate the Centre. This in brief is the story of one of the villages designed with the aim of bringing new life and redemption to the Sicilian agricultural economy.
From a sound related point of view, Borgo Borzellino presents some peculiarities linked to its closeness to the state-road SS624, one of the main arteries connecting Palermo with the area of Agrigento. In fact, passing-by cars create a saturation on one side of the village, also depending on the time of day, while on the other side a shepherd has occupied a ruin for his grazing cows, thus hearing bells on the west side. In the centre of the village, on the piazza, it is possible to clearly hear the fusion of these two landscapes that are just outside the Borgo. On windy days it is also possible to hear the village playing likewise an instrument, as windows, hooks, joints and wood are freely moving and feeding the site’s sound image. In this regard, the investigation at the Borgo has been enhanced by these sound suggestions, having their own peculiar features and characteristics that limit abstract retrospect attitudes and are willing to emphasize these matters.