“G. Garibaldi” Public Gardens
After the expedition of the Thousand and the proclamation of the Kingdom, the parliament was inspired by lay principles and, in some ways, by an extremist anticlericalism. In this climate it was promulgated a law (1866) that abolished the ecclesiastical institutions, confiscating their immense assets, which the State in turn assigned to municipalities to accommodate schools, barracks, boarding schools, poorhouses, etc. The convent of the Capuchins in Mistretta was also confiscated, with its adjacent vegetable garden. The latter, which originally was a field undistinguished from the surrounding countryside, later became a real green area in the center of the extended town. The “silva” (wood) of the Capuchins had been converted since 1656 onwards by the friars into a vegetable garden with rare aromatic and medicinal plants, whose representation is preserved in an amazing map, drawn by Brother F. Vincenzo Bruno from Catania around 1840.
In November 1866, after the law of abolition, the Town Council (in agreement with the initiatives of the most important towns in Sicily) deliberated to convert the vegetable garden into a public garden and, in 1868, entrusted Ignazio D’Onofrio Aversa, a landscape engineer, to draw up the project. He conceived for the villa a new structure that put together the informal character of the English garden and parterre and flowerbeds in the Italian style, completely erasing the arrangements and plants of the previous vegetable garden. In 1875, its perimeter was bordered with stones walls made by master builder Sebastiano Cannata, surmounted by the railings of the blacksmith Andrea Marinaro. In 1879, it was built a basin with sinusoidal borders, where they were introduced fish and ducks. The Municipality, during the last part of the XIX century, invested large sums of money to buy plants from the Botanical Garden of Palermo and from nurseries that provided flower species particularly rare and valuable, all equipped with cards with their respective denominations. In 1901, an oak tree was planted to celebrate the birth of Princess Yolanda Margaret of Savoy, ceremony repeated other times and finally, in 1993, a carob tree was planted in honor of judge Falcone.
On June 2, 1889, the garden was solemnly named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose memory was entrusted to a half-length bust of the hero realized in 1884 by Noè Marullo, who was doing his artistic apprenticeship in Rome with the economic support of the Municipality. Another bronze statue by the sculptor Benedetto Balistreri was realized in 1956 to celebrate Vincenzo Salamone, former mayor, member of Parliament and benefactor of the town. Finally, on November 12, 2000 it was erected the bronze bust to commemorate the same Noè Marullo, work by the artist Mario Biffarella.
Today the garden keeps about 120 botanical species, some of which unique in Sicily, but some monumental trees are missing, such as two imposing specimens of Sequoiadendron giganteum that characterized its entrance. After the Second World War, the main entrance was decorated with pillars in the Art Nouveau style, coming from the garden in front of the Matrogiovanni Tasca Palace, meanwhile withdrawn to improve the road condition.