In Saint Alfio, in the province of Catania, grows a chestnut tree which is between 2000 and 4000 years old, according to botanists. It is considered the oldest tree in Europe and the oldest in Italy. Its longevity is still a mystery.
Its size is so impressive that it has been the focus of studies by major naturalists and the object of famous painter’s works
In 1965, the chestnut was expropriated and was declared a national monument. At the end of the XX century, some local authorities launched a series of studies to protect and preserve the chestnut. Also, it was requested to become part of UNESCO’s patrimony. Of course it couldn’t miss out on such a legend like this!
It is said that Queen Joan I of Aragon, travelling from Spain to Naples, stopped in Sicily and came to visit Mount Etna on horseback, accompanied by the nobility of Catania. A storm came and she took refuge under this tree. Due to the thickness of its leafage, the tree was enough large to shelter the queen and all her knights from the rain: hence the name Tree of the Hundred Horses. According to others, the legend is linked to the insurrection of the Sicilian Vespers. In this case, the legend is about the reign of Queen Joanna I of Anjou. The storm lasted till the evening and the Queen passed the night under the fronds of the chestnut tree with one or more lovers. Some of them were knights of her entourage. Probably this isn’t true and it’s the result of popular imagination. In fact, the Queen Joanna of Anjou, although known for some debauchery in love affairs, has almost certainly never been in Sicily.