A local guide for those who want to visit Scicli, best places to see and top attractions.
Scicli sits in a gorge just a few miles from the long sandy beaches of Sampieri and Donnalucata and is overlooked by a towering rocky mass on which the Church of San Matteo sits.
The town shares much of its history with the other UNESCO Heritage Site towns of the Val di Noto, most specifically the fateful earthquake of 1693, during which over 3,000 of the town’s population died. Scicli, like the towns in the area, was totally rebuilt in pure Sicilian Baroque style. Today, it is a joy to wander round.
Scicli’s history, of course, long predates 1693, and it is thought to have taken its name from its founders, the Sicels, one of the three main tribes that inhabited Sicily before the arrival of the Greek colonists. Like the rest of the island, it was passed from one invading conqueror to another, reaching its economic and cultural peak during the Arab and Norman dominations.
Palazzo Bonelli Patanè
Never judge a book by its cover, or a palazzo by its facade. Take the 19th-century Palazzo Bonelli Patanè, its demure neoclassical facade tight-lipped about the Liberty-era decadence beyond. A swoon-inducing feast of silk wallpaper, stuccowork and precious antique furniture, the palace flaunts the luxury enjoyed by Scicli's upper class in the early 20th century. Among the highlights are dashing frescoes by Sicilian artist and decorator Raffaele Scalia, who spent part of his career working in New York.
Chiesa di San Bartolomeo
Although its origins lie in the 15th century, the luminous church standing today was built between the mid-18th and late-19th centuries. Like many of Scicli's churches, the facade consists of three orders. Here, the bottom columns are Doric, the middle columns Ionic and the top columns Corinthian. Giovanni Gianforma's rich rococo stuccowork adorns the interior, whose treasures include Francesco Pascucci's late 18th-century altarpiece Martyrdom of St Bartholomew and a monumental 18th-century presepe (nativity crib) attributed to Neapolitan craftsman Pietro Padula.
The Unesco-listed 18th-century Palazzo Beneventano is Sicilian baroque on steroids. Fantastical stone creatures taunt, terrorise or merely bemuse from the palace's corbels, arches and cornices. Among them are turban-wearing Moors and shaven, collar-wearing black slaves, unusual features in Sicilian baroque decoration and a sobering reminder of Europe's historic slave trade. The palace itself is named for the Beneventano, a noble family originally from the Sicilian town of Lentini, south of Catania.
Chiesa di Santa Maria la Nova
Sporting a relatively restrained neoclassical facade, this church took shape in the 18th and 19th centuries. Among its numerous notable artworks is 18th-century altarpiece The Nativity of Mary, recently attributed to Tommaso Pollace. In the right aisle is 17th-century canvas The Martyrdom of St Adrian, considered the work of Antonio Barbalonga Alberti, while in the third chapel on the left is a sculpture of the Madonna of the Snow dating from 1496.
Chiesa Madre San Guglielmo
It's in this church that a warrior-like Madonna delle Milizie (Madonna of the Militias) crushes two hapless Saracens on her white horse. Made of wood and papier-mâché, the 18th-century simulacrum is paraded around Scicli on the patron saint's feast day in late May. According to legend, it was an apparition of the sworded heroine that led the Normans to defeat the invading Saracens in 1091.
If you're a fan of the hit detective series Inspector Montalbano, you may like to take a wander down the beautifully conserved baroque street of Via Mormino Penna where you'll find the fictional police station from the TV show. The base from which Montalbano strived to work out whodunit is actually the town hall of Scicli, and the fictional regional police HQ is a few steps away in Palazzo Iacono.