Carretto Siciliano – The Sicilian Cart
Nothing represents Sicily’s culture more vividly than the exquisitely carved and painted cart. When the first roads were created in Sicily in the early 19th century, so began the colorful history of the Sicilian donkey cart, which were used to transport people, produce, wine and virtually anything else that needed transporting. The carts were marvels of engineering and art, generally consisting of some 60 parts, all handcrafted by cartwrights, woodworkers, painters, ironsmiths and other skilled artisans. The creators passionately carved and painted elaborate scenes from history, often celebrating the exploits of Charlemagne’s knights or depicting scenes from famous operas like I Pagliacci. Carts reached the height of their popularity in the 1920s, when many thousand were on the island. Miniature carts, or Carrettino Siciliano, are often sold in Sicily (or in Italian shops and restaurants in other countries) as souvenirs. The Sicilian Carretto is made in several provinces in Sicily each with their own style. Carretti made in the province of Palermo have more of a square box design, those made in Catania are made with more elaborate ‘keys’, and then there are the carts made in Agrigento which have their own distinctive style
Arguably, some of the most acclaimed cart painters of the last century are the Ducato Brothers of Bagheria, near Palermo. Three years ago, at age 80, Giuseppe Ducato was quoted as having painted the cart that now sits in Epcot. Ducato and his son are among the few artisans still producing this dying art. The art and craft of cart building has diminished greatly, beginning during the 1950s when motorized vehicles became abundant and eventually replaced the donkey cart as a means of transportation. Today, they can often be seen in local parades and celebrations.
A recent photo of Giuseppe Ducato.
- The Carretto Siciliano at Epcot by Gene Duncan: Originally posted on the Disney Parks Blog