land and its people – The Iblean Mountains border the South-Eastern
side of Sicily, almost as if naturally protecting the area. The
cities, notably those in the mountainside, with their plenty of
woods and slopes, have retained their agricultural traditions that,
throughout the centuries, have represented an invaluable resource.
The carob, an evergreen often standing alone with shiny dark-green
leaves, is a dominant feature of the Iblean landscape. Thanks to
their consistency in weight, the carob seeds were used to weight
gold, hence the term “carat”.
dry-stone wall, bordering and criss-crossing the fields of the province,
is another major feature. Commonly used to mark the fields’
boundries, they are made of the typical local limestone that is
formed in layers beneath the soil. Eroded or broken by water, layers
break into smaller rocks and stones that are largely used as a building
material. The dry-stone walling involves a long and difficult process
only made by skilled craft-workers, that are regarded as artists.
These fine walls, that you can only find in Apulie, first appeared
in the area during Counts Henriquez Cabreras’ rule and their
policy of granting lands on emphyteusis to the peasants.
Iblean Mountains provide an itinerary suitable for both nature and
arts lovers. The 130km round route can be covered in two days, overnighting
in Palazzolo Acreide or, if starting from the opposite side of the
chain, in Caltagirone. A short detour allows excursionists to reach
the city of Buscemi, with a highly panoramic view.
– It is a small agricultural village, with an unusual and
interesting museum known as I Luoghi del Lavoro Contadino, its rooms
scattered across the centre of the town. These eight rooms provide
a picture of the life and work of the Iblean people. They include
the blacksmith’shop, the oil-mill (where scenes of Lavia’s
La Lupa were filmed), a farmer’s and a laborer’s house,
the shoemaker’s and the carpenter’s shops, the millstone
(where the pressing of grape took place) and, next to this, a room
accommodating a small film-library. There visitors can enjoy the
projection of a short film on the activities of the past set into
the different rooms of the museum. The eighth room, located at Palazzolo
Acreide, consists of the water-mill (Mulino di S. Lucia). A small
Museum of The Wheat Grinding has been set up inside.
baroque monuments include the Chiesa Madre, with its fine façade,
the Chiesa di S. Antonio da Padova and the Chiesa di S. Sebastiano;
the quartiere contadino (meaning the ‘peasant quarter’)
with small and low stone-houses is worth-seeing.
– The city was the setting of some tales by the celebrated
writer Giovanni Verga, among which are La Lupa (recently adapted
into a movie by filmmaker Gabriele Lavia, who filmed scenes in the
cunziria area), Cavalleria Rusticana and Mastro Don Gesualdo. Worth-seeing
are all the places the writer mentioned in his books, such as the
tavern where Alfio challenges Turiddo to a duel, the church of S.
teresa where the village’s women go to pray, Lola and Santuzza’s
houses and the cunziria, the old tanners’ quarter, where the
two men fight. Also noteworthy are the house and the aristocratic
palazzi appearing in the background of Mastro Don Gesualdo tale.
developed around the central Umberto I Square, bordered by the fine
Palazzo Verga and Palazzo Municipale (the Town Hall). Next to the
latter is the Salita Marineo, a long stairway decorated with majolica,
completed in 1996, that recalls the Maria del Monte’s in Caltagirone.
The Mother Church retains a Gothic Norman portal (on its right side),
the only thing surviving 1693’s earthquake that destroyed
the entire city. Worth-seeing is the nice St. Sebastian façade
of the church of S. Maria del Gesù.
guided visit can be scheduled at the Pro Loco office (Address: 8
Via Lombarda, tel. 0933/965905). The A Cunziria (ph. 0933965507),
in the quarter of the same name, is an agritourism business situated
within natural caves, highly recommended for both its delicious
home-made foods and its cosy atmosphere.
– Grammichele was rebuilt in 1693 after a terrible earthquake
that ravaged all the South-Eastern Sicily. The city developed around
an attractive hexagonal square where stand the Mother Church and
the Palazzo Comunale used as Town Hall. Here are displayed archaeological
relics unearthed in the Terravecchia area, where lay the ancient
city of Occhiolà destroyed by the earthquake and successively
abandoned. A detour allows you to reach the neighboring Caltagirone,
only 15km away. Behind the hills appears, in the distance, the dark
and majestic Etna Volcano. Return to the main road; a panoramic
road leads up to Licodia Eubea.
Eubea - Probably built on the ruins of the ancient Eubea, founded
by Greek colonists from Leontinoi around the 7th century BC, Licodia
Eubea lies atop a mount overlooking the Dirillo Valley. Among its
main buildings are the Palazzo Vassallo (on Via Mugnos, at the end
of the Corso Umberto), with a baroque façade and a portal
with columns, several 1700’s churches and the ruins of a medieval
castle with a view of the underlying valley and artificial lake.
Following the road to Grammichele, you reach Chiaramonte Gulfi.
A sanctuary of historical importance is situated in proximity to
Sanctuary of Gulfi – Located in proximity to Chiaramonte,
the sanctuary lies secluded on an area where was a settlement before
an earthquake destroyed in 1693. According to legend, there a group
of bulls carried a statue of the Virgin – that they had found
at the nearby shore – and knelt. The story is painted on four
medallions preserved within the building;the recovery of the Statue
of the Saviour, today preserved into the homonymous church in Chiaramonte
Gulfi, is also related.
Gulfi – The Greek Akrillai, renamed Gulfi by the Arabians,
was razed in 1296 by the Count Manfredi Chiaramonte who then rebuilt
and named it after his own dynasty. The city’s medieval design
is still visible despite the ravaging eartquake in 1693. The Arco
dell’Annunziata, giving access to the old city, is the only
remain of the former city. Several baroque buildings are worth-mentioning,
like the Church of Saint John (atop the hill) and the Mother Church.
The main street, Corso Umberto I, is bordered by fine 1700’s
and 1800’s palazzi. At its far end is the Villa Comunale (Town
Gardens) offering a panoramic view of the valley. A nice pineta
(pine-wood) is situated in the high side of the city, providing
a relaxing and peaceful site with sights of the city and the Etna
volcano. There rises the Santuario delle Grazie, where, according
to legend, the Virgin in 1576 created a water spring to save the
city from the plague.
road leading to Monterosso Almo runs between gentle slopes bordered
by plantations and the typical dry-stone walls.
Almo – The Chiesa di S. Giovanni, dominating the omonymous
piazza, is the main attraction of this small agricultural city.
Attributed to architect Vincenzo Sinatra, the building has a nice
façade with columns and a belfry. Fine frescoes ornament
the interior. Medallions with low-reliefs, telling episodes of the
life of Saint John, adorn the central nave. Down to the low-side
of the city (like Ragusa and Modica, Monterosso is divided into
two – often vying – sides, following the 1693 earthquake)
is the Chiesa di S. Antonio (or Santuario di Maria SS. Addolorata).
On the same square stand the neo-Gothic Mother Church and the elegant
– The major artistic attractions of Giarratana are the Late-Renaissance
Chiesa Madre and the Baroque churches of San Bartolomeo and Sant’Antonio
Abate. The city hosts the traditional Onion festival, recurring
annually in August and attracting thousands of people. From Giarratana
the Lauro Mount is easily reachable.
Lauro Mount – The road climbing up the mount is highly panoramic
and bordered by carob-trees and pines. Soon, it rejoins the main
road to Palazzolo.
Castello di Donnafugata
Marina di Modica
Marina di Ragusa