This Sicilian town is regarded as the hidden gem in Noto Valley. Indeed, this destination is nearly unknown abroad. I am talking about Palazzolo Acreide, a pretty, baroque village nestled in the beautiful countryside of Noto Valley. Also Palazzolo Acreide has been included in the World Heritage list by Unesco. Its baroque churches, indeed, are considered as the most beautiful of Sicily. Do you want to visit it? Well, follow the paragraphs below, then.
Palazzolo Acreide is in the heart of the Iblei Mounts, in the province of Syracuse. The town is also called Palazzolu or Palazzolu Creidi in Sicilian. That is a baroque city that is a part of the network of the most beautiful villages of Italy. It is a few km from Noto, Syracuse, Avola and the archaeological ruins of Pantalica. Palazzolo lies near the mouth of Anapo river, in fact, this area is crossed by the Anapo Valley. Full of vegetation, bushes and Eastern trees, this valley hosts the nature reserve and the archaeological ruins of Pantalica. It is also hosts the grottos of the Cardinal and the Baulì wood, enriched with abundant flora and fauna. Baroque, weather, cuisine, local customs, the warmth of the locals make this pretty village (rich of history), a must-see destination.
History of Palazzolo Acreide
Palazzolo Acreide was founded by the Greeks, such as Syracuse. Its ancient name was Akrai. According to Tucidide, Akray was founded by the Corinthians in Syracuse in 664 b. C above all, for military purposes. The village was in fact the first step for the penetration of Syracuse the South East triangle of Sicily. The site also had favourable conditions to build a fortress which guarded and control the communication roads with the internal and external coastal colonies. The favorable position allowed Akrai to grow and enjoy a thriving economy as it is proven by a lot of monuments built at that time. The history of the ancient city of Palazzolo Acreide is closely linked to the one of Syracuse. Plutarco told that Dione made a stop in Akrai during his march to Syracuse in 357 b C. At the beginning of the first Punic war, this colony is also mentioned in the Peace arrangement between Rome and Syracuse in 263 B.C. At that age, the village went across its highest level of glory. In 241 B. C. Palazzolo Acreide hosted also Ippocrate. Unfortunately, the ancient site of Akray was destroyed by the Arabs and information about the current city of Palazzolo Acreide dates back to the XII century. Nowadays, on the ancient site of Akrai, there are the ruins and the rows of an ancient Greek theatre ( see the image) that you can visit every day, from 8 to 18,30 paying a ticket of 4 euros. Next to this area, you can also see the Necropolis of Pineta, the most ancient proof about the existence of Palazzolo Acreide. It is on the namesake road and consists of 54 graves and grottos dug in the rock. The medieval downtown was built near the ancient Akray, on a small rocky cliff where was an imperial palace built by the Normans and which gave the current name to the city of Palazzolo. Since the 1104, the village was inhabited by several notables from the son of the Ruggero count to the Ruffo princes of Calabria. Destroyed in 1693 by the awful earthquake that razed the entire Noto Valley to the ground, Palazzolo Acreide was rebuilt a bit in the ancient medieval site and a part around the current main road. In 1800, the local peasants rebelled against the feudal power and in 1812 Palazzolo Acreide became a dominical county. The long history of this pretty village is today mirrored by beautiful churches, stunning palaces and evocative alleys.
What to see
In Palazzolo Acreide you can see museums, churches, magnificent palaces, an ancient mill, the ruins of a medieval castle and the clock tower. I want to remind you that from Palazzolo you can also reach the stunning nature reserve of Anapo Valley, the archaeological site of Pantalica and the wonderful ponds of Cavagrande del Cassibile in Avola. I have already talked about the ponds of Cavagrande, but the Anapo Valley and Pantalica are likewise wonderful. For this reason, they deserve another long article. At the moment, I would like to show the tourist attractions you can see straight to this baroque town.
In Palazzolo Acreide, the museums I suggest that you visit are: The home of the Poet Antonino Uccello, the archaeological museum G. Iudica, the museum of travelers to Sicily, the computer Museum. The first is the home of a famous Sicilian poet, also containing a stunning collection of Sicilian puppets. The second contains Greek and Roman pots and tools coming from the ancient city of Akrai. About the opening hours, you can visit the home of the Poet every day from 9 to 18,30 and paying a ticket of two euros. You can visit the archaeological museum, from Tuesday to Friday 09.00 – 19.00. Sunday and Monday 14.00 – 19.00. You can visit the Museum of travellers from Monday to Saturday from 9 to 13 and 15 – 19 paying a ticket of two euros. The computer museum retraces all the history of computing in the world with some meaningful models of the early hardware components. This museum is open every Wednesday, in the afternoon only.
Palazzolo Acreide has also beautiful baroque churches, some of them are more beautiful that the ones in Noto. The churches you must absolutely visit are: San Paolo cathedral and San Sebastiano cathedral. It is thanks to these two baroque churches that Palazzolo Acreide was added to the list of World Heritage in 2002. Their architectural style is as magnificent as the ones in Noto and Modica. It is also said they are also more beautiful than the churches in Noto. The other churches to visit are: the mother church, Annunziata Church, Immacolata church, San Michele church, San Francesco church and the convent. The Mother Church has a magnificent baroque style like the Annunziata church. The other ones were partially rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693.
Palazzolo also hosts stunning and noble Palaces, such as Ferla Palace, Lombardo Cafici Palace, Zocco Palace and Sardo Palace. Very beautiful are the municipal palace, built in a liberty style, Pizzo Palace, a clear, baroque construction and Iudica Palace, a magnificent property built in XVIII century and owned by Iudica family, the same who founded the namesake archaeological museum.
Ancient mill, medieval castle , clock tower and picturesque alleys
In Palazzolo Acreide, you can also see an ancient mill called Santa Lucia. That is a mill dating back to the XVI century and placed in the valley of Mills, namely an untouched valley filled with oak and nut trees next to the downtown. The mill is well preserved and it works thanks to the waters of Purbella torrent. In these surroundings, you can also see the ancient museum of grain mill. The ancient medieval castle dates back to the 827 A. C, namely the year of the Arab domination, but it was abandoned in 1693 after the earthquake. Today, there are only some ruins, but from them you can admire the wonderful Valley of Anapo river. The clock tower overlooks the evocative district of Lenza Orologio and the beneath district of San Paolo. The clock is entirely made of stone by local artisans, a real jewel of mastery. From this area, made of picturesque alleys ( see the image), you can see the small Soccorso church and reach the museum of the Sicilian poet Antonio Uccello.
How to get to Palazzolo Acreide
To get to Palazzolo Acreide, you must land at Catania Airport. Ride the highway Catania – Syracuse, at the exit Canicattini Bagni – Palazzolo, SP 287, called the road of Seas and Mounts. You can also reach Palazzolo from Syracuse and Ragusa. From Syracuse, ride always the SP 287. From Ragusa, ride the SS 194 up to Giarratana and then follow the SP23.
Where to stay
Palazzolo Acreide has the merit to offer very cheap and pretty properties to stay and visit this zone and the entire Noto Valley. They have the typical style of the Sicilian countryside and are located right in the fabulous countryside of Noto Valley, with large courtyard, plants and trees.
Property for rent
To stay in Noto Valley and Palazzolo Acreide for vacation, you can rent pretty, coutryside cottages. Located in the wonderful Sicilian landscape of Noto Valley, they offer you an unforgettable sight of nature and relax. The above image is the one of Antico Casale Pizzo, an ancient cottage in Palazzolo Acreide. This cottage is entirely renovated and highly comfortable. Price is around 90 euros per night. If you want to enjoy this property for vacation, you can see more images and rent this cottage here.
If you want to send questions to the owner of Antico Casale Pizzo or rent other cheap properties in Palazzolo Acreide and in Noto valley, for vacation, check here.
Featured image: Jens Shuder Flickr
Greek Theatre: borghipiubelliditalia.it/project/palazzolo-acreide/
San Paolo Church: museobuscemi.org
Palazzolo Acreide Alley: Eric Nouaille Flickr