Sciacca, The Pearl of Sicily

Sciacca, Sicily

Sciacca is a lovely Sicilian city nestled in the fascinating area of Agrigento.

This place is known for having the most attractive beaches of Sicily, and this feature is absolutely true, but Sciacca has many other hidden gems to admire.

The village is charming in itself and in its deepest essence, because marvelous pieces of Sicilian culture and tradition live amid the alleys and the downtown of Sciacca.

That is why I wrote this comprehensive travel guide. It will help you better know and visit this pearl of my beloved Sicily.

Tourist Information

As said, Sciacca is a Sicilian city located in the awesome province of Agrigento. It has almost 41,000 inhabitants and is considered the most populated city of this zone of Sicily.

The ancient Sciacca stood in the internal walls of the town, along the coast of the Channel of Sicily (Canale di Sicilia). It soared in the opposite end of the island of Pantelleria and Tunisi, in the middle of the shores of two rivers: Platani and Belice.

In the East of Sciacca, there is San Calogero Mount, while in the West zone, there is the breathtaking landscape of Capo San Marco. The latter is a stunning nature reserve which contains the most beautiful beaches of Sciacca and the entire Sicily.

Moreover, Sciacca overlooks the turquoise Sicilian Sea along the southern slope, from a spur known as Coda di Volpe (Tail of Fox), on the white cliff of Cammordino.

The downtown of Sciacca has kept its peculiar structure of the districts, each of them laid down on one of the three inclined floors of the rock slipping toward the sea.

The Greek origin of the city is well expressed through the classical shape of an amphitheater.

The Origin of the Name and the History

The name of “Sciacca” was given by the Arabs in the IX century. In most ancient times, between the V and VI centuries before Christ, the Greeks called it “Thermae Selinuntinai”. Afterwards, the Romans named it “Thermae Selinuntinae” because it was under the domination of the nearby city of Selinunte.

The Arabs, anyway, left deep signs in Sciacca, these are still visible in the grid of winding alleys which are a typical feature of the Arabic culture.

After the Arabs, Sciacca was ruled and dominated by the Normans and the Franks. Sciacca went through a great economic prosperity between the XV and XVI centuries, when the maritime trades along the Channel of Sicily made it the most important city of my island.

What to See

Sciacca stair

Sciacca is a city of great beauty overlooking the sea, a small pearl in the territory of Agrigento, where the heart of the Greek and Arab cultures is still pulsing in its most evocative places.

In addition to the beaches, this Sicilian destination is also popular for artisanal ceramics and the Carnival. But the parade of the awesome and incredible wonders of Sciacca does not end here.

There are many other hidden gems to discover.

Thermal Baths of Sciacca

Sciacca thermal baths

Officially opened in 1928, the thermal baths of Sciacca had already existed during the Greek and Roman ages. Indeed, as you can see in a previous paragraph, these ancient civilizations called Sciacca with the names of Thermae Selinuntinai and Thermae Selinuntinae, for the vicinity with Selinunte.

The early thermal plants were activated in the XIX century, in the so-called Valley of Baths.

Today, the thermal baths of Sciacca arise in a garden perfectly built with a Liberty style and regarded as the most beautiful architecture of the XX century in Sciacca.

Unfortunately, the thermal baths are currently closed. The place is dilapidated by now, abandoned for a long time. This is a sad sign of a tragic Sicilian attitude to never care for its monuments.

The Legendary Tree of Sciacca

Sciacca Tree

In the surroundings of Sciacca, in a street called Contrada Schiunchipani, about 8 km away from the city, you can admire the Oleaster tree, a century old olive tree dating back even to 1300.

There are several folk tales and legends around this tree; a few peasants of Sciacca believe the tree is haunted by evil spirits and elves.

The olives, in fact, are picked only 1 time per year, when they fall from the tree, because, otherwise, whoever touches and harms the tree will have a bad year (na mala annata in the Sicilian language).

The Magic Castle

Sciacca magic castle

The magic or enchanted castle is the most loved tourist attraction in Sciacca. It is, actually, an eccentric open sky museum. Its history is bonded to artist Filippo Bentivegna, a local peasant, who, in 1913, when he was only a young boy, left my island for the United States.

He hoped for a better future out there, but life reserved him a different fate.

With a diagnosis of mental illness and defined as the fool of Sciacca, Filippo returned to Sicily after 6 years. Fortunately, he had earned a good nest egg abroad, and so, he decided to buy a land on Cronio Mount, the peak towering over Sciacca, and pursue his dream as an artist.

He dug, sculpted and created for 50 years. And what he created? The magic castle, namely an amazing park with thousands of sculptures, misshaped, sad, smiling faces, quaint lanes and real pathways engraved amid the mount and the grottoes. It looks a bit like Mount Rushmore in the United States…

This wonderful artwork overlooks the sea, it is not a manor, it is a magic succession of artistic shapes.

However, for the locals, this place was only the work of a crazy man. Fortunately, an expert and master of Art, gave it the proper value, considering it a remarkable artistic work.

Some of these sculptures are today showcased at the Art Brut Museum in Lausanne. A nice shot for the fool of Sciacca.

Sciacca Seaside

Sciacca seaside

The coast of Sciacca is a mesmerizing sequence of shorelines of golden sand and a crystal sea.

The beach you can reach from the historical center is the Tonnara, this bay has a nice sea equipped with services and shops.

The most beautiful bays of Sciacca are five:

  • Sovareto, with fine sand and a partially low seabed;
  • Torre del Barone, pebbled beach;
  • San Marco, nature reserve for those who love bays with a wild landscape;
  • San Giorgio, the most loved and suitable for families and children;
  • Renella, free half sandy and rocky beach.

From the bays of Sciacca, by car, you can also reach the wonderful white beach of Scala dei Turchi.

Other unmissable beaches in the surroundings of Sciacca are Porto Palo di Menfi, the bays of the reserve in the mouth of the Belice River and their adjacent dunes.

Those who love a more natural landscape must visit Torre Salsa nature reserve, a pristine piece of coast, with a limpid sea, lush green and a quaint landscape of chalk cliffs and limestone dunes.

Very picturesque is also the small port of Sciacca, with the boats anchored to the shore. This area is lively and busted in summer, but from May to September, fog banks may reduce visibility for the coming boats.

In this same area of the port, in a district with picturesque and narrow alleys, you can admire the ceramic stair of Sciacca (see the image in the third paragraph), a brilliant heritage from the Norman and Arab culture.

Historical Center

Sciacca Porta di San Calogero

The beating heart of Sciacca is Scandaliato Square, a terrace on the sea which is a popular gathering place for all age folks. The square also houses the municipal palace and San Domenico Church. The Mother Church, instead, is in the close square.

The other monuments deserving a captivated gaze are:

  • the ruins and the tower of Luna Castle, a true fortress, this time, dating back to 1300;
  • the Porta di San Calogero (see the image), a well-preserved ancient door which was one of the five gateways of the city;
  • the small church of San Nicolò, a medieval building dating back to the XII century.


There are several museums you can visit in Sciacca. The most original ones are:

  • Scaglione Museum, a former palace turned into a museum by his owner who collected ancient coins, artworks, precious items, ceramics and old clocks;
  • Soap House Museum (Casa Museo del Sapone), where you can learn the history and manufacturing of the Sicilian soap, with the opportunity to buy a few scented soaps of Sicily;
  • Toy Museum, an odd and funny museum showing a stunning collection of Sicilian toys, categorized per decades, with the owner who explains history, details and usage of the toys over the centuries, for the happiness of your kids.

Sciacca Carnival

Sciacca Carnival

That is the second most important Carnival after the one of Acireale. That also is an occasion to visit Sciacca in Winter, not only in Summer. The event begins on Fat Thursday, when Peppe Nappa, the king of Carnival, receives symbolically the keys of Sciacca.

The third day, everybody goes wild, distributing wine and sausages.

For Carnival, the locals participate in a stunning fancy dress parade with big and funny floats like the ones in Rio de Janeiro.

What to Eat in Sciacca

Sciacca ova murina

In this sweet pearl of Sicily, you can enjoy the best of Sicily’s dishes, such as:

  • the cucchiteddi, real morsels in almond paste stuffed with green pumpkin, similar to the one used for the Sicilian cassata, with a filling of citrus jam;
  • a delicious pizza with onions, pecorino cheese and black olives, called Tabisca saccense;
  • the Ova murina (see the image), a soft dessert filled with cream and small chocolate-almonds pieces.

The latter is considered a summer version of Sicilian cannoli.

Most of the pubs, summer taverns and restaurants are in an ancient bay called Stazzone, where you can eat the delicious pasta alla Norma and tasteful recipes with fresh fish.

How to Reach Sciacca

The simplest way to get to Sciacca is to land at Palermo or Trapani airports and rent a car from there. Sciacca is between 120 and 100 km away from them.

You can also take buses from these airports, but the path is winding and long, hence it is better if you use a car, a private transfer or a taxi.

Sciacca is 60 km away from Agrigento and to reach it from this chief town, you must proceed in the Nord direction.

Once you have arrived in Sciacca by car, you can leave the vehicle at the parking lots near the main streets, or in Modigliani Street or in Consiglio Square, the latter is on the pier of the city, with a charming sea glimpse and perfect to taste a Sicilian granita. These facilities are public and for free.

Hotels and Accommodations in Sciacca

In Sciacca you can find several types of accommodations, such as hotels, apartments, residences, resorts, villas, vacation houses and B & B.

Many of them are near and in front of the beaches, with a stunning view of the sea and equipped with swimming pool, wellness center and thermal bath, just to relive the atmosphere of the true thermal baths of Sciacca.

You can choose and book your favorite accommodation in Sciacca here.

Photocredits in order of appearance:

Paolo Zito for

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