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Scicli, the pearl of Val di Noto

the town of Scicli

In the heart of the Val di Noto – already a UNESCO heritage site – the city of Scicli stands as a direct testimony of the Baroque in Italy. A pearl in the pearl of the Ragusa province.

«The town of Scicli stands at the crossroads of three valleys, with houses on each side up the cliffs, a large square at the bottom straddling a river, and ancient ecclesiastical buildings that crown the semicircle in several points, like baroque acropolis of the altitudes … »

Elio Vittorini – The cities of the world

Territory

Scicli is 24 kilometers from Ragusa. Its municipal territory extends from the sea to the southern offshoots of the Hyblaean plateau. The landscapes are very varied: it passes from the coast (alternating the low and sandy to modest limestone cliffs) covered by the Mediterranean scrubland with the sweet slopes of inland alluvial origin with olive, almond and carob trees up to the limestone reliefs of the northern part and interior where the capital is located.

Rivers and Water

The municipal territory is crossed by several waterways which all have a torrential and almost seasonal character except for the Irminio; the other main streams intercept the center of Scicli and are the Mothucanus or Modica-Scicli stream, the stream of S. Maria La Nova and that of S. Bartolomeo. Over the millennia each of these has carved deep gorges into the plateau that today characterize the landscape. The modern city lies in the basin where these three canyons meet.

Mouth of the Irminio River
Mouth of the Irminio river

Monuments of Scicli

Palazzo Beneventano

Palazzo Beneventano was defined by Sir Anthony Blunt the most beautiful baroque palace in Sicily, (“of a pale golden-yellow color that in the sun acquires an indescribable opulence”). It is located on the slopes of the Colle di San Matteo in a central position between the ancient fortified citadel located at the top of the hill and the modern eighteenth-century city nestled in the two canyons of Santa Maria La Nova and San Bartolomeo (the “quarries”). Characteristic “irreverent” masks adorn the two monumental facades linked by a remarkable cantonal. At the top of this stands the crowned coat of arms of the Beneventano decorated with two Moorish heads, now one of the symbols of the City. It has been included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Detail of the Palazzo Beneventano in Scicli
Palazzo Beneventano in Scicli

Palazzo Fava

Palazzo Fava is one of the first, monumental baroque reconstruction buildings, representing the pivotal point between the natural scenery of the quarry of S. Bartolomeo and the perspective escape on the man-made landscape of Piazza Italia and Corso Garibaldi. The late-baroque decorations of the portal of honor and the balconies on Piazza Italia are noteworthy but reach the pinnacle of genius in the only balcony on Via San Bartolomeo adorned with griffins, monsters of medieval and Mannerist ancestry and several Moor’s heads.

Palazzo Fava in Scicli
Palazzo Fava in Scicli

Palazzo Spadaro

Palazzo Spadaro is located on Via F. Mormino Penna, it is one of the institutional offices of the Municipality. It represents the tangible proof of the progressive change of taste from the pompous and scenographic late Baroque to a refined and refined rocaille culture. The façade is slightly curved and follows the still medieval layout of the ancient Corso (via Francesco Mormino Penna). The interiors, both architecturally and purely decorative, refer to remodulations of the nineteenth century. Open to visitors, home to numerous temporary exhibitions.

City Hall

Seat of the Municipality. It was built in the early 1900s on the site of the demolished Benedictine monastery, attached to the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. It is in a neo-Renaissance eclectic style, showing elements of the early Florentine Renaissance (the mullioned windows and the ashlar-work of Palazzo Rucellai designed in the mid-fifteenth century by Leon Battista Alberti) but also michelangioesche quotations (the giant order). The town hall of Scicli is known to have been used as the headquarters of the Vigata police station in television series Inspector Montalbano (1999-in progress) and Il giovane Montalbano (2012-2015).

Religious Buildings in Scicli

Church of San Matteo

The church of San Matteo is a symbol of Scicli and the Mother Church until 1874, it is located on the hill of San Matteo, site of the old city. It is the oldest ecclesiastical building in the city, some historians trace its foundation back to the early Christian era, others to Norman rule. Certainly during the Middle Ages on the same site there was a large basilica with three naves with a high bell tower located to the south, behind the apses; the current plan should briefly reflect the medieval one: three naves with five bays that flow into a centric environment formed by the transept and the three rectangular apses.

Church of San Matteo in Scicli
Church of San Matteo in Scicli

Church of San Bartolomeo Apostolo

The Church of San Bartolomeo Apostolo dates back to the early fifteenth century; inserted in the “cava” of the same name, whose early 19th century tower façade recalls themes already developed in Ragusa by Rosario Gagliardi (of S. Giorgio) and by fra ‘Alberto Maria San Giovanni Battista (Church of S. Giuseppe) both in Ibla. The interior has a single nave with a Greek cross and is substantially late Baroque-Rococo; it houses a cycle of stuccos ranging from the eighteenth century to the nineteenth century.

San Bartolomeo Apostolo church in Scicli
San Bartolomeo Church in Scicli

Church of Santa Maria la Nova

The Church of Santa Maria la Nova has very ancient origins (probably Byzantine), since 1994 it has housed the Sanctuary of Maria SS. of the Pietà. The large factory has gone through particularly complex and troubled construction events. Most of the information we have is referable to the seventeenth-century building and subsequent reconstructions. The church has always been governed by a powerful Confraternity, which in the 16th century also acquired the vast inheritance of the banker Pietro di Lorenzo known as Busacca. These large sums allowed the Brotherhood not only to start a series of social actions (the construction of a large and modern hospital, the establishment of a fund for the gifts to be given to less well-off girls, etc.) but also to build in full center a worthy and majestic seat for the charitable foundation that was part of the revenues of Busacca and to rebuild its own church, entrusting the works to the most fashionable personalities. The neoclassical interior is the result of the last great reconstruction (preceded by the seventeenth-century reconstruction and the eighteenth-century post-1693 reconstruction), it looks like an enormous vaulted hall to which three chapels are domed on each side; these are communicating and constitute an axial view of the aisles. The deep quadrangular choir of Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia concludes the great hall from which it is separated from the usual triumphal arch. The imposing front is the result of a vast infill of the eighteenth-century façade (portico and loggia) still legible; as per south-eastern tradition the facades are plastic organisms with a remarkable vertical development (facade-towers) which often also functioned as bell towers. The entire complex is incredibly dense with sculptures, paintings and relics of great interest for its antiquity and value. Annexed to the ecclesial building is the so-called garden of San Guglielmo with the homonymous church and the trunk of the cypress tree which the tradition wants planted by the saint. In 1878, in the archives of the Archconfraternity of S. Maria La Nova in Scicli, ancient precious manuscripts were discovered, including the Sciclitani Codes.

Church of Santa Maria la Nova in Scicli

Church of Santa Maria la Nova in Scicli

Scicli in the media

Scicli is one of the places in the province of Ragusa that were the setting for the TV series RAI shooting Commissioner Montalbano (1999-in progress) and Il giovane Montalbano (2012-2015), taken from the novels and stories by Andrea Camilleri. In particular, the Vigata police station is actually the town hall of Scicli and the room of the commissioner Luca Bonetti Alderighi is specifically the office of the mayor of Scicli.

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