An eighteenth-century strip of land overlooking the Mediterranean.
Ispica is a pretty town on the eastern edge of the province of Ragusa, bordering that of Syracuse. Long known as Spaccaforno, the town was renamed Ispica in 1935 at the behest of the local Podesta.
Ispica lies on a hillside overlooking the Sicilian Channel and is bordered on the east by the southern stretch of Cava d’Ispica, a long river valley that crosses the Hyblean plateau from Modica to Ispica for more than 13 kilometers. The long quarry preserves remains of prehistoric settlements, Christian catacombs, rock-cut dwellings, and exceptional biodiversity.
Ancient Ispica was also located inside Cava d’Ispica until 1693, when following a devastating earthquake the city was rebuilt on top of the nearby Calandra hill. Even today from the center of Ispica the remains of the ancient settlement can be seen.
Post-earthquake reconstruction will give us back a city with a regular urban layout with wide streets and squares that are home to wonderful late Baroque monuments, such as the churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and Annunziata, and grand Art Nouveau buildings, one above all the stunning Palazzo Bruno di Belmonte.
Ispica has been chosen by numerous directors as a film set. “Divorce Italian Style” starring Marcello Mastroianni and Stefania Sandrelli, several episodes of the series “Il commissario Montalbano,” the historical films based on Andrea Camilleri’s novels (“La mossa del cavallo,” “La stagione della caccia,” and “La concessione del telefono”) and many other films and TV shows were filmed in the city. The many productions that have chosen the town testify to Ispica’s beauty and have helped make it a popular tourist destination in southeastern Sicily.
The places to visit
Church and loggia of Santa Maria Maggiore
The church of Santa Maria and the loggia are the most interesting monuments in Ispica. The square in front of the church is enclosed by an elegant 18th-century loggia that embraces the church’s elevation. The religious building shows late Baroque and neoclassical architectural elements fused into an outstanding monument. The interior of the church houses one of the most important painting cycles in the entire Hyblean area signed by the great painter Olivio Sozzi, whose mummy is preserved in the basilica.
Piazza dell’ Unità d’ Italia and church of San Bartolomeo
Piazza dell’ Unità d’ Italia is the largest square in the town. The two main buildings facing it are the Palazzo Bruno, an important example of Art Nouveau architecture, and the Church of St. Bartholomew, which towers above a high flight of steps. The elegant church shows late baroque and neoclassical elements that testify to different construction phases
Church of the Most Holy Annunciation
A deep and scenic square announces the Church of the Annunziata. The fine elevation was rebuilt in the 19th century and is concluded by a large window that opens to the blue sky. The bell tower echoes the same color with majolica tiles the color of the sky. The interior is a triumph of stucco work signed by artist Giuseppe Gianforma.
Bruno di Belmonte Palace
The palace of the Bruno di Belmonte family is the most important Art Nouveau building in the area. The structure, as mighty as a medieval castle, is lightened by Art Nouveau decorations and friezes thanks to the architectural insights of Ernesto Basile. The corner tower, wrought-iron grilles, and colorful majolica tiles on the elevation are the most interesting elements. The building was given to the municipality in 1975 and is now the seat of Ispica’s town hall.
Church of St. Anthony Abbot
St. Anthony’s Church is a small one-nave house of worship. Inside is a significant wooden Crucifix, a holy water font and a baptismal font that date back to the pre-earthquake church.
Convent of St. Mary of Jesus
The Jesus Monumental Complex overlooks the coast and enjoys exceptional views of the countryside and the sea. The church and convent built on the fortress respond to a very simple architecture.
Cava d’Ispica and Forza Park
The Force Park is located in the southern portion of Cava d’Ispica. The remains of the ancient city of Ispica destroyed by the 1693 earthquake can still be traced in the archaeological park. All around are numerous rock dwellings and caves now used as warehouses. Among the most important remains are the church Santa Maria della Cava and the Tannery Cave. The park’s caves host an interesting living nativity scene every year.
Sea and Nature in Ispica: beaches and excursions
On the coast we find the seaside resorts of Santa Maria del Focallo, Marina di Marza and Ciriga. On the long beach of Santa Maria del Focallo, which is popular with tourists and locals alike, the Blue Flag flies. The nearby bay of Punta Ciriga is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stretches of the Ragusa coastline thanks to its stunning coves and small stacks.