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Scicli: Discovering the UNESCO heritage city

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October 11, 2019

Scicli: Discovering the UNESCO heritage city

Recognized by UNESCO as a “pearl of rare beauty“, immersed in the enchantment of the Iblei mountains, it is a gem in the heart of Sicily.

If you are spending your holidays in the Val di Noto, a fundamental stop on your tour must be Scicli, a baroque village recognized as a World Heritage Site. The landscape offers you the spectacle of a thousand limestone houses that respect the territory by being an integral part of it.

A nativity scene full of churches and bell towers, alleys and glimpses that give you beautiful landscape paintings. Walking through the streets of the historic center you are surrounded by buildings and churches in Baroque and late-Baroque style, but you will also understand that there are many cultures that have followed one another there.

A bit of history

The name Scicli is thought to derive from Šiclis, one of the names used to indicate the Sicilians, its origins are very ancient and date back, in all probability, to the Sicilian period, therefore over 3000 years ago.

Some findings attest to human presence in the area as early as the Eneolithic period, that is, the Copper Age and Ancient Bronze Age (III-II millennium BC – XVIII-XV century BC). In addition to the Greek remains, evidence was found of the presence of the Carthaginians, present on the island until the arrival of the Romans in the third century BC.

Under the Arab domination it experienced a period of agricultural and commercial flowering and of this domination there are many evidences of toponymy in the names of districts and sites.
With Ruggero d’Altavilla Scicli passed under Norman rule, following a battle that was fought at the Piana dei Milici and which is remembered every year with the Militia Festival, one of the main folk attractions of Scicli. In fact, it is said that the final battle, which took place in March 1091, was won by the Christians through the intercession of the Virgin Mary who got on a white horse to defend Scicli. The church of the Madonna dei Milici was built in the location of the event.

The Normans were followed by the Hohenstaufen, with Henry VI of Swabia and to these by the Aragonese. It was under the Aragonese domination that the County of Modica was formed, of which Scicli was part.
Between the 4th and 7th centuries the city assumed its topographical form and saw a growth in population, but the terrible earthquake of 1693 caused 3000 deaths and the destruction of much of it. From those rubble, Scicli was reborn in a Baroque style becoming, thanks to its particular shape and its monumental wealth, a place of attraction for many tourists.

What to see in Scicli: Monuments and places of interest

Walking through the streets of the city, you will let yourself be transported, to another era, by the immensity of the monuments that surround you. Every corner will give you the opportunity to admire the many beauties: the Church of San Bartolomeo, one of the most important monuments of the city, in the so-called “quarry” of San Bartolomeo, an ancient district of the city; the Church of Santa Maria La Nova, in the “quarry” of Scicli and in the same quarry the Church of Maria Santissima della Consolazione. The symbol of Scicli and the oldest building is the Church of San Matteo, the mother church until 1874, which stands on a hill overlooking the village.

At the top of the Colle della Croce stands the Convent of the Cross, a beautiful complex dating back to 1528, from which you can admire a suggestive view of the historic center. Here also reside the ruins of a castleprobably built on a previous Byzantine fort, a fortification that made the ancient town difficult to conquer.

The Baroque style dominates the streets of the center: via Francesco Mormina Penna is the most evocative of the city, full of noble buildings in the neoclassical style of the 1800s and late-Baroque stone churches such as that of San Giovanni Evangelista.

If you are a lover of the “Commissario Montalbano” you will recognize the Vigata Commissariat, as well as the Municipality of Scicli and the Montelusa Police Headquarters, as well as Palazzo Penna, chosen by the writer Camilleri and the director Sironi as ideal places to set the events of the most loved Commissioner Italy. While a few kilometers away you can reach Punta Secca, a seaside resort where the shooting in the famous villa of Montalbano was set.

You can step back into the past and relive history! Palazzo Spadaro, in the main street, houses the museum of Iblea cuisine, a place rich in culture and ethnography, with an exhibition of tools and utensils related to the domestic folklore of peasant houses from the end of the 19th century to the early 1950s of the 20th century, which allows us to keep alive the memory of ancient traditions.

At the Opera Pia Carpentieri, the costume museum is open, exhibiting artefacts from the history of the Sicilian folk tradition ranging from the 1700s to the first half of the 1900s.

Finally, the Museum of the Cavalcata di San Giuseppe, linked to one of the festivals of the local tradition, the spring festival, held in March with parades of flowered horses. The museum is set up in a “dammuso“, a typical house, and aims to evoke the atmosphere of an ancient stable in which artisans hand-sewed the looms, adorned with flowers, to be worn by their horses during the party.

In addition, the “dammuso” has been converted into an accommodation facility to give tourists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the past and live in symbiosis with the atmosphere and culture that reigns in the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage city.

So the cultural tourist offer of Scicli is really suitable for all lovers of art, monumental beauties and more !!!

Parties and events in Scicli

In addition to boasting this rich architecture linked to the history of the city, Scicli offers numerous festivals and folkloristic traditions that follow each other from year to year.

Linked to historical tradition is the “feast of the Madonna delle Milizie” during which a miraculous event that took place in 1091 is recalled on the occasion of the expulsion of the Saracens by Ruggero d’Altavilla from the territory. The story tells of the arrival and the apparition of the Madonna on a horse, who came down to help the Christian population. The sanctuary of the Madonna della Milizie was built on the site and the event is commemorated every year, on the penultimate Saturday in May, with a party that commemorates the battle with the arrival of the Madonna on horseback.

This is the only festival in the world where there is a warrior virgin. On the same day culinary tradition and folklore come together, in fact the famous festival of the “Testa del Turco”, a typical Sciclitano dessert, is celebrated: a large cream puff that reproduces the features of an Arab turban.

On 19 March, however, St. Joseph is celebrated with a ride organized in honor of the saint. It is a parade of horses that are adorned and decorated with fabrics bearing sacred images and decorations, made with flowers of various colors.

During the parade, the knights instead wear the typical clothes of the peasant tradition (kept throughout the year in the Costume Museum) and carry bundles of ampelodesm that were once turned on to shed light during the walk. In the streets you can breathe a unique emotion thanks to the inhabitants who celebrate with grilled meat and red wine in front of huge bonfires.

One of the most anticipated holidays, however, is Easter. On this day, the “Feast of Joy” of Christ is celebrated, which begins on the evening of Holy Saturday and takes place over the entire Easter Sunday. On Saturday evening the statue of Christ is exposed to the public, in front of the Church of Santa Maria la Nova, placed on the “vara” ready to be carried on the shoulder the following morning. At 13.00 the parade begins: the bearers go outside with the statue accompanied by the sound of the band and with this they make the procession go around the streets of the center, giving the impression that the statue runs and turns by itself in the crowd.

Looking at the enthusiasm of the citizens, you will understand how much they feel linked to tradition this festival which lasts until 3.00 am on Monday, when the statue is returned to the Church.

For lovers of popular music, the “Taranta Sicily Fest” is held at the end of August, which attracts musicians from all over Southern Italy and is organized in an open-air theater, in via San Bartolomeo, where you can have fun with pizzica and tarata .

Throughout the year, the city organizes parties, festivals and events that will make you spend pleasant moments in the name of typical Sicilian tradition and folklore.

Where to eat in Scicli

When you go on vacation you bring with you the desire to get to know and discover new places, to see the riches of art and nature, but also the desire to savor and enjoy the local specialties. The cuisine of Scicli boasts a culinary tradition substantially linked to the products that the territory offers: from fish to delicious meats, from cheeses to vegetables. In addition to the classic arancina and granita you could try the “Cuccidatu scaniatu“, a donut made with flour, lard, pepper and sausage or the “nfigghiulata“, a savory pie made with ricotta, sausage and eggs.

Try the restaurant “Non Lo So” in via Caneva which combines tradition and modernity or the restaurant “La grotta“, in the quarry of Santa Maria La Nova in Via dei Dolomiti.

The Osteria del Ponte Scicli, in Via Aleardi, offers traditional Sicilian dishes with products at km 0; while in Piazza Italia you can admire the beauties of the place on the terrace while enjoying excellent typical dishes. And again, the “Ùmmara” restaurant which has a welcoming and modern place, where local wines, craft beers and Mediterranean cuisine are served, with proposals for vegetarians and gluten-free dishes.

For an excellent pizza I recommend “Pura Follia”, in Via Nazionale in one of the most beautiful areas of the historic center, it offers gourmet pizza with a great variety of doughs; or “Perciasacchi” in Via Santa Maria La Nova.

Clubs and bars in Scicli

Although it does not present itself as an ideal place for nightlife, the historic center of Scicli still offers the opportunity to spend an evening in the company of a drink and good music.

There are wine bars, lounge bars and pubs that often organize happy hours with DJ sets and evenings with live music. In via Francesco Mormino Penna we find an “Irish Street Pub & Bar the “97 Novantasette” where you can have an aperitif and spend an evening with friends; in the same street the “Cosmopolitan Food & Drink” is also ideal for brunch. In via dei Dolomiti the “Prosit Sicilian Bistrot” which organizes happy hours with DJ sets and themed events.
There is no shortage of clubs but for a more frenetic nightlife, just move along the coast or in the nearby Marina di Ragusa.

The beaches in Scicli: Donnalucata and Sampieri

Scicli is located inland, but the sea, which is just a few kilometers away, is renowned and known and is a strong point for the entire area. They are about 18 km of coastline, ranging from the borders of Sampieri to those of Marina di Ragusaand are characterized by beaches with golden and very fine sand, clear and shallow sea.

Just 7 km from the city you can appreciate the beach of Donnalucata, a fraction of Scicli, made up of the fine sand typical of the coast and bathed by the turquoise sea.

The beach is very wide and gives you the opportunity to relax comfortably even in periods of greatest crowding. Near Donnalucata there is the equipped beach of Playa Grande, on the edge of the Irminio River Nature Reserve, which extends for about 600 m and ends with a limit of suggestive rocks from which you can dive and swim in the crystal clear sea.

Always 11 km away from Scicli there is a small cove that rises on a coastal strip about 4 km long within the Costa di Carro Park and is the Costa di Carro beach, ideal for those who love to stay away from the confusion and want to enjoy the sea ​​in complete tranquility, even in the months of July and August.

Sampieri, a seaside hamlet of Scicli, is the right place for all those who intend to spend a relaxing day at the beach with the convenience of having every comfort at hand. Sheltered by a pine forest that offers you a bit of coolness in the hottest hours, the beach of Sampieri is wide and long and gives you the opportunity to stroll along the shore admiring the beauty of the landscape.

The Iblean coast, in the south-east of Sicily, is one of the most beautiful and, thanks to the mild and sunny Mediterranean climate during most of the year, it is an ideal vacation spot for both young and old !!!

There are many beaches, just venture out and discover them among the charming seaside resorts and ancient fishing villages.