Visiting Sicily's Stunning Scicli
Church of St. Ignatius
Before wrapping up my tour of Sicily, I would be remiss if I did not share with you our visit to the beautiful Baroque community of Scicli (pronounced Shi-Kli). Located in a gorge just a few miles from some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, this beautiful town is renowned for its wonderful Baroque architecture and stunning churches.
Tracing its origins back to 1500 BC, Scicli certainly has a long and storied history. Like much of Sicily, this community has changed hands numerous times over the centuries having been controlled at one time or another by the Greeks, Arabs, and Normans, to name a few, before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Like many other communities here in the Val di Noto of southeastern Sicily, Scicli was totally destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 1693. Due to the popularity of the Baroque architecture at the time, many of these cities were rebuilt in this Baroque style. What this means for the visitor of today is an opportunity to visit a stunningly beautiful community constructed with the unique and flamboyant flair of a time that has passed us by. You will certainly enjoy your visit to Scicli.
Church of San Matteo
What most visitors instinctively want to know when visiting a new region is what is there to see and do? Here in Scicli, wandering the streets and alleys is your reward for deciding to visit. There are a number of churches, palaces, and piazzas worth visiting and you will stumble onto most of them as you walk Scicli’s streets. Of particular interest is the abandoned Church of San Matteo, which is perched high on a hill overlooking the town. While the trek up may seem daunting, it is worth every step as you will be greeted with the most amazing view of Scicli from this unique perspective. Along the way, you will pass by some caves chiseled into the rock, known as the Chiarafura caves. These were dug out of the hills surrounding Scicli and were at one time inhabited. As recently as the 1950s, the poor of the community used these caves for shelter.
The church of San Matteo was at one time the mother church of Scicli up until about 1874. A peek inside through its massive front doors reveals a church that looks to be in remarkably good condition despite its years of neglect and abandonment.
While you’re up here take a rest and enjoy the scenery out over the town from this bird's-eye view. It truly is a spectacular setting.
When back down in town, be sure to visit the church of San Bartolomeo. This church dates back to the early 15th century. If you remember the year of the earthquake, you will quickly realize that this church must have survived the catastrophic event, which it did. Its façade was renovated in the late 18th century as the Baroque style was transitioning to neo-classical architecture. Of all of the churches in Scicli, San Bartolomeo has the most ornate interior with a number of notable works of art by Mattia Preti and Francesco Cassarino among others.
Church of San Bartolomeo
In addition to a number of churches, there is also the Palazzo Fava, which is the largest palace of Baroque architecture in town. The Palazzo Spadaro town hall, and the Palazzo Beneventano, built in the 17th century, are certainly two of the most beautiful buildings in Scicli. Both are also wonderful examples of the Baroque architecture.
The community also enjoys a number of annual events, which if you happen to time your visit correctly, will just add to the local flavor and culture of Scicli. The month of May brings the annual La Madonna a Cavallo festival, which celebrates the town’s liberation from the hands of the Arabs. Easter is also a joyous time to be in Scicli, as the celebration of Cristo Risorto (Risen Christ) takes place with the statue of Christ being carried through town on the shoulders of its residents.
We were so enamored with Scicli that we returned here twice during our visit to south-eastern Sicily. We had dinner one evening in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable as we dined outside at the Ristorante QuoreMatto, located in a small piazza with the church of San Michele the Arcangelo looming over us. It made for the perfect Sicilian setting.
Dinner in the Shadow of San Michele
The nearest airport to Scicli is in Catania and there is a daily bus service that connects the airport to Scicli with the AST bus company. The trip takes about two and a half hours. The AST buses connect most of the towns in this region of Sicily and Scicli is only about 10 km from Modica. Scicli can also be reached by train (trenitalia) as it is on the rail line connecting Siracusa and Ragusa.
We used a rental car to get around while here, which certainly provides a degree of freedom and flexibility. Beware, however, that once you get off of the autostrada the roads can get very narrow. I recommend using a GPS if you opt to drive. The most direct route from both Catania and Siracusa is to take the A18 autostrada south to Ispica and then follow SS115 toward Scicli.
For a wonderful place to stay in nearby Modica
This corner of Sicily has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since its inscription on June 26, 2002. There are eight towns here in south-eastern Sicily that are included under the heading of “Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto”. Some of the other towns included with Scicli are Modica, Ragusa and Noto. All were devastated by the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in the late Baroque style.
If you are planning a visit to this corner of Sicily I would suggest a visit to as many of these towns as your time allows. They are all unique in their own right yet all are splendid examples of the late Baroque architecture, which has presumably brought you to this corner of the world. If time limits you, I would suggest Noto and Scicli to visit. They are smaller and easier to maneuver around than the larger Ragusa and Modica, and have just as much to offer. In addition, they give you more of a small town feeling and both communities can certainly be seen in a day. I hope you enjoyed this visit to Scicli and the beautiful Val di Noto.
Ciao for now.
© 2013 Bill De Giulio