Scicli - Ispica

Scicli and Ispica are two charming baroque cities south of Syracuse, which can be easily reached by train (on the route Siracusa-Ragusa-Modica-Noto) or AST bus. Buses and train leave from the stations 50 meters from the hostel. The beautiful beaches of the south coast of Sicily are very close.

The centre of SCICLI is the big Piazza Italia. We reach it from Via Nazionale, the main street. It can also be reached, from the Modica side, by way of Via San Nicola and Piazza Busacca. Busacca was the nickname of Pietro di Lorenzo, a 16th century philanthropist of Scicli, to whom the monument by Benedetto Civiletti in the middle of the square is dedicated. Here also, to one side, is the Chiesa del Carmine (1751). The Chiesa di Santa Maria la Nova, well known for its great size, is in the street named after it. The neoclassical façade is really impressive. The altars in the naves and aisles and in the sacresty contain various figurative and sculpted works that deserve a visit; among them is the Madonna della Pietà, a cypresswood statue, perhaps of Byzantine origin, which arouses great veneration. Equal veneration is reserved for the papier-mache Madonna dei Milici, who crushes two Turks with her white horse: this is in the Chiesa Madre, Sant'Ignazio, in Piazza Italia which, as we have said, is the centre of the town; it is there that we retum in order to climb to the Chiesa di San Bartolomeo, another impressive and scenographic building, looking out over a rocky landscape of ever-changing colour. Scicli also has characteristic civil architecture: the Town Hall, Palazzo Spadaro and Palazzo Beneventano, with their unusual baroque decorations which well deserve the visitors attention.

ISPICA is a small baroque pearl, which is close to the charming and picturesque quarry Cava D'Ispica, not to be missed. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore stands in the square of the same name. In front of it there was once a colonnade, now closed in. The façade is elegant and simple in form, with two orders, three portals and pilaster-strips with flowered festoons. The interior is Latin cross with stuccos and frescoes by Olivio Sozzi. There is a painting by Vito D'Anna in the high altar representing The Madonna of the Quarry with Saints (1768). Via XX Settembre leads to Piazza Maria Josè where, at the top of two ramps of stairs, stands the 16th century Chiesa Madre, San Bartolomeo, a Church with a geometric façade characterized by flat pilaster-strips. On the central portal is the coat of arms of the Statella farnily, which has become part of the symbol of the town. From here, by way of Corso Garibaldi, we reach Piazza dell'Annunziata, with the Church of the sarne name, on which building began in the early 18th century and was completed in the 19th (the facade is of 19th century ); it contains a magnificent series of stuccos executed around the middle of the 18th century , with Old and New Testarnent stories. In Corso Umberto I we can see Palazzo Bruno-Belmonte, built by Ernesto Basile in the early years of the 20th century , in pure Art Nouveau style. Today it is the Town Hall.

Sightseeing at Ispica is not complete without a visit to the Parco della Forza and Cava d'Ispica. The 3-hectare Park is a very sensible creation, near the entrance to Spaccaforno, the old Ispica, which serves to protect and facilitate visits to the fortilitium, which centres around a limestone monolith called Forza. It is reached by way of la Barriera, a road on the outskirts of the town that winds between rock faces that are riddled with caves, once inhabited and now used for a number of purposes. In the Parco there are testimonies of various ages that enable us to retrace the prehistory and the history of ancient Ispica. Noteworthy are the remains of the 15th and 16th century Statella castle fortifications and of Palazzo Marchionale, with its multicoloured floors, and of the adjacent Chiesa dell'Annunziata, which has many tombs beneath the floor (these buildings collapsed in the earthquake in 1693). Here too there are cave dwellings while at the far end of the Cava, just outside the Park, are the rock-church of Santa Maria and the cave of St Ilarione the hermit; 2 km further on are the catacombs of San Marco and all the rest of the Cava. A curious feature of the Park is the Centoscale: this is a tunnel with 280 steps dug into the rock stretching below the level of a river (it was the Busaitone), used to get water in time of siege. In another cave is the Antiquarium, which has a rich collection of flint and lava tools, vases, coins, epigraphic tablets, etcentury Even if we just happen to be passing through this part of Sicily, a visit to Cava d'Ispica is an absolute must.