Less well-known than its prestigious neighbours (like Noto or Ragusa), but just as fascinating and beautiful, Scicli is well worth a visit if you’re ever in southeastern Sicily. It sits in a gorge just a few miles from the long sandy beaches of Sampieri and Donnalucata and is overlooked by a towering rocky mass on which the Church of San Matteo sits. The town shares much of its history with the other UNESCO Heritage Site towns of Val di Noto, most specifically the fateful earthquake of 1693, during which over 3,000 of the town’s population died. Scicli, like the towns in the area, was totally rebuilt in pure Sicilian Baroque style. Today, it is a joy to wander around. Scicli’s history, of course, long predates 1693, and it is thought to have taken its name from its founders, the Sicels, one of the three main tribes that inhabited Sicily before the arrival of the Greek colonists. Like the rest of the island, it was passed from one invading conqueror to another, reaching its economic and cultural peak during the Arab and Norman dominations. The many aristocratic palazzi, such as Palazzo Beneventano, are also fun to see, brimming over with characterful gargoyles, elegant swirls, and decorative fancies. A stroll along Via Francesco Mormina Penna is also strongly recommended as it provides a perfect example of a late Baroque street, harmonious in its wholeness and equal to anything found in the neighbouring towns of greater fame.
Photos by Edward Kanarecki.
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