Fair and ancient, perhaps the most beautiful of all: Scicli, the pearl of Baroque

Elio Vittorini in “The Cities of the World” describes the scene of a shepherd who together with his son arrives in Scicli Scicli and for the first time sees it:

Rosario continued, “It is the most beautiful city we have ever seen. More than Piazza Armerina. More than Caltagirone. More than Ragusa, and more than Nicosia, and more than Enna…” His father did not deny this. He regarded the stone without saying anything, and Rosario was able to add: – Perhaps it is the most beautiful of all the cities in the world. And people are happy in cities that are beautiful….”

Scicli, the pearl of the Baroque, is a living nativity set between three valleys: a monumental city, protected by rocky ridges, sloping down to the sea.

The historic center of Scicli, which can be visited on foot, offers the visitor endless evocative views. So why not leave the moorings and dive into history with a walk to discover the time that was?

The history of Scicli is the history of Sicily: the first settlements are traced back over three thousand years, then Greeks and Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and Barbarians.

Scicli flourished again under Arab rule as witnessed in the first half of the 12th century by the Arab historian Edrisi: “[Qui godesi] every good thing of God and every happiest condition: the gardens produce all sorts of fruit (…) the farms and sown fields are most fertile and excellent above all others; the countryside vast and fertile: and everything is for the best in this country. The rivers [del territorio], abundant in water, move of many mills.””

A feudal city with the Normans, to whom the legend of Our Lady of the Militia is linked, Scicli suffered under the Angevins: it rebelled in April 1282, participating with the cities of Modica and Ragusa in the insurrection known as the Sicilian Vespers.

Under the Aragonese it became part of the county of Modica, becoming its armed garrison with respect to the sea: Scicli was until 1754 one of the ten Sergenzie (military districts) of the Kingdom.

From the middle of the 14th century the expanding city was transformed, moving from the surrounding hills to the plains, until it assumed its present urban layout in the valley. However, the plague epidemic of 1626 and the tremendous Val di Noto earthquake of 1693 dealt severe blows to the city, destroying much of it and decimating its population.

Scicli is reborn once again, even more beautiful, baroque.

Its present-day charm is due to this reconstruction; noble palaces date back to this period: Palazzo Spadaro, of late Baroque style; Palazzo Beneventano, of Baroque style, built on the rubble of the earthquake; Palazzo Fava; the Town Hall; Palazzo Veneziano-Sgarlata; Palazzo Bonelli-Patanè; Palazzo Conti; and Palazzo Papaleo.

While surviving the earthquake and remaining as earlier architectural evidence: the Convent of the Cross, the Terranova-Cannariti palace, and the troglodytic Chiafura neighborhood.

The reconstruction carried out in the valley during the 1700s and 1800s, which is expressed in sumptuous palaces and late Baroque churches, does not preclude the city’s relationship with the working-class neighborhoods inserted on the rocky ridges, which were already used as rock settlements in Byzantine times and until the middle of the last century.

So too does the town manage to keep alive its conversation with nature, in the words of historian and architect Paolo Portoghesi: “The relationship with nature in Scicli is more successful than in any other center in the entire southeastern area.”

Scicli, beautiful and proud, is certainly worth a visit: you can embrace it all with your gaze from the Colle di San Matteo, a steep, barely ten-minute climb that will be made up for with breathtaking views.

Opulence and creativity, the Palace alone is a tour through the history and architecture of an area, that of Scicli, which centuries later does not cease to fascinate.

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