The hidden treasures of Scicli

ScicliThe first time I visited Scicli was in the summer of some years ago. I went to the nearby beaches of Sampieri and Donnalucata and after a few hours I decided to move to this small baroque village. As soon as I arrived in the town, I remained struck by its stony look and by the crowd of tourists who visited it because they wanted to see the places where the movie of Inspector Montalbano was shot. Scicli, indeed, represents the imaginary village of Vigata, where Inspector Montalbano works. Maybe why I also live in a baroque village, but initially, Scicli appeared to be too similar to my Sicilian town. However, during my private day tour, walking along the ancient and small alleys, I discovered some interesting sights of Scicli that worth a visit during your vacation in Sicily. If you want to know more about them, read the subsequent paragraphs and discover the hidden treasures of Scicli.

Tourist information

Scicli by nightScicli is a baroque village located in the South – East of Sicily, in the wonderful Noto Valley, namely an interesting group of historical villages which also include Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Syracuse and Catania. Scicli is just a few kms away from the most important baroque cities of Noto, Ragusa and Modica. This town stretches a large lowland nestled in three narrow valleys called the valley of Modica, the valley of Santa Maria La Nova and the valley of San Bartolomeo. The latter hosts the namesake church of San Bartolomeo (see the image). These valleys come from very ancient tectonic shakes which turned into the streams of torrents and rivers. Due to these geological shakes, the village is surrounded by steep rocky hills with very evocative caves and grottoes dwelled by the same inhabitants of Scicli until the past century. The name of Scicli derives from Siculi, the first , ancient inhabitants of the village. Inhabited by the Greeks, Carthaginians and Byzantines, Scicli were razed to the ground during the awful earthquake in 1693 that destroyed the entire Noto Valley. The downtown of Scicli was rebuilt after the quake with a baroque style like Modica, Ragusa and Noto. But, while the three famous and large cities have a magnificent baroque style, Scicli kept is charm hidden in its narrow lanes that lead to the places used to shoot the famous TV movie of Inspector Montalbano. Thanks to the magnificence of some of its historical palaces, such as Beneventano Palace, Scicli has been added to the World heritage list by Unesco along with the other eight towns in the South East of Sicily, namely: Caltagirone, Catania, Militello Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide and Ragusa. All of these Sicilian cities were rebuilt after 1693 near the surroundings destroyed by the earthquake. They represent the most brilliant witness of the baroque architecture in Sicily, Italy and in the world. But, in the first paragraph, I mentioned the hidden treasures of Scicli and now it is the time to unveil them.

 WHAT TO SEE IN SCICLI

In Scicli, you can visit and admire seven hidden treasures: the Nature Reserve of Irminio river, the Vivarium, Beneventano Palace, San Matteo Church, San Bartolomeo Church, the grottoes and the Museum of the ancient clothes. Discover more about them in the following paragraphs.

Nature Reserve Irminio river

nature reserve irminio river scicliThe nature reserve of Irminio river is an untouched place with lush green and birds. The nature reserve is just in Scicli, and crosses a sandy shoreline surrounded by dunes. On the left of the mouth of the river, you’ll find a solitary beach , where you can also sunbath. Thanks to the vegetation of the nature reserve, that is a partially shadowed area, you can enjoy relax and peace also in the hot days of the Sicilian summer. On the right of the mouth of the river, instead, sunbath is forbidden. That is an untouched paradise that offers you a mesmerizing sight and the true touch of nature. In both of the sides of the mouth of the river, you can admire the thick vegetation and near the mouth, a sandy dune. You can also hike a path surrounding the same dune. This way, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable trip dived into nature and the crystal sea of Scicli.

The Vivarium

vivarium scicliIn Scicli, there is also a vivarium called Gli Aromi di Russino ( The aromas of Russino). Gli Aromi di Russino is a vivarium of aromatic plants located on the Santa Rosalia street in Scicli. That is a private company that lets you visit a picturesque vivarium of 200 stunning Sicilian plants belonging to several Sicilian varieties of the southeast coast of Sicily, such as sage, fennel, capers, Umbelliferæ and Labiates which emit mesmerizing scents nestled in the typical dry walls of stone in this picturesque part of Sicily. These plants can be used as home decorations or as seasoning for the Sicilian dishes or to decorate the location of your Sicily wedding. The vivarium, indeed, cooperates with the local restaurant Satra, by chef Rita Russotto, located in the center of Scicli. They also sell typical Sicilian seasonings such as pate of capers, pate of thymus and the delicious pate of wild fennel and caciocavallo cheese. To visit the vivarium and taste his specialties, you can see here.

Beneventano Palace

beneventano palace scicliThe charming Beneventano Palace is one of the most meaningful and original baroque monuments of Sicily. It is formed by two identical magnificent sides surmounted by a molding that works as a joint of the two angles. It is enriched with artistic decorations along the line. There are also very scenic wrought iron balconies supported by big balustrades where fairy animals are depicted. The windows of the lower floor, instead, have funny masks and human caricatures in the vault arch. To visit Beneventano Palace, you must walk along the Mormino Penna street, in the downtown. This is the main street of Scicli, the heart of its baroque charm . Walking along the street, you’ll meet other scenic palaces, such as: the municipal palace, Fava palace and Palazzo Veneziano Sgarlata. If you move to Spadaro street, instead, you’ll visit another magnificent Palace, built in the late baroque age. Inside, this palace, namely Spadaro Palace, is decorated with the stunning ceramic of Caltagirone.

San Matteo Church

San Matteo ChurchThe church of San Matteo is the magnificent first cathedral of Scicli dedicated to the apostle Matthew, the patron of Scicli and surfers. The building is placed on the top of a hill. The Church was built on catacombs and basements where the corpses of the first Christian inhabitants were buried. Outside, there is a large courtyard with the clock of Saint Matthew, while inside, the church has three naves separated by pillars with the shape of a cross.

San Bartolomeo Church

This church has been defined by Portoghese architect a pearl in a shell, because nestled in a natural scenery of rare beauty. The style of the church is perfectly baroque and its magnificence resembles the cathedral of Noto.

The grottoes

scicli grottoAs said, Scicli offers a natural landscape made of stunning grottoes used as dwells by the locals until the past century. Those are the grottoes of Chiafura, a rocky agglomerate of 100 black caves emerging from the meridional side of the hill of San Matteo. The grottos of Chiafura represent one the most ancient settlements of Scicli. These grottoes are hidden behind the Church of San Bartolomeo. In the past centuries, they were used as dwells by the ancient habitants of Scicli. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the ancient inhabitants climbed the hill and dug the grottos to build their homes. In a nutshell, they dug the rock of the grottoes to gain homes to be inhabited. People inhabited the grottoes until the past century. These grottos are very scenic. There, poor people and Sicilian homeless piled beds, sacred images, stone ovens and donkeys (see the image). This way they had the illusion to live in a home. When the components of the families increased, they continued to dig the grottoes to gain other rooms and host the newborns along with kitchen and work tools. The families were evicted from the grottoes in 1954. Today, these grottoes show an impressive proof of the history of the ancient Sicily, a proof about the way the poor Sicilians lived in a past made of misery and poverty. When they were evicted from the grottoes, they even burst into tears. Just think that these picturesque grottoes are used nowadays as luxury stone hotels. You can find picturesque accommodations like these grottoes, here.

The Museum of the ancient clothes is another hidden treasure of Scicli, I already talked about it at this link.

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And you? Have you visited Scicli? Let me know if you enjoyed the things I discussed about in this post.

Photocredits:

Michiluzzo Flickr (featured image, nature reserve, San Matteo Church)

Wikimedia commons scicli by night

Luigi Strano Flickr – Beneventano Palace

Tripdadvisor.it – Vivarium

Comune.scicli.rg.it – Scicli grotto

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