Sciacca is a large town on the coast of south-western Sicily, near Agrigento, in an attractive setting with the old town running diown the side of the hill to the harbour below.
The town is surrounded by walls; the most recent of which date from the mid-16th century, which were superimposed on older ones from the first half of the 14th century.
There are three gateways into Sciacca through these walls: Palermo Gate, in baroque style and with columns adorned with a large eagle; the Porta San Salvatore, rich in Renaissance sculpture and built in the 16th century and through which we access the Piazza Carmine; and the Porta San Calogero, dating from the first half of the 16th century.
Your visit to Sciacca could start from the Porta San Salvatore, next to which you find two churches, with the Church of Santa Margherita on the right and the Church of Carmine on the left - both have characteristics of interest.
Church of Santa Margherita was built in the 14th century and renovated in the 16th century. The church was built by Eleanor of Aragon (1358-1382), the wife of the noble Peralta. The main church entrance is in the Catalan style, while the marble door on the right is attributed to Francesco Laurana [1430-1502].
The interior is in Baroque style and holds some polychrome stucco and 17th century frescoes by Antonino Ferraro (1523-c.1607). On the marble altar there is an early 16th century icon, a wooden statue depicting Santa Margherita from the same period, and also a 17th century wooden statue. In the nave you can see six large panels and medallions, also early 16th century.
The Church of the Carmine is notable for its tiled dome, and the gothic style rose window on the (unfinished) facade.
From this church head along the Via Gerardi to reach the Steripinto Palace. This building, in Catalan style, dates from the 15th century and has a façade with mullioned windows, battlements and a Renaissance-style portal.
In the Piazza Scandallato in the center of Sciacca the most notable building is the City Hall, which occupies the site of a 17th century Jesuit college. Inside it has an arcaded courtyard and a terrace overlooking the lower city and the harbour.
Continuing onwards you arrive at the 12th century cathedral, transformed in the 18th century but still retaining the original three apses. Also known as the Church of Maria Santissima del Soccorso the Cathedral was built by Juliet, daughter of Count Roger, in the 12th century. A reconstruction was carried out in the second half of the 17th century, designed by Michele Blasco (1628-1685), a local painter.
The church has three naves with monumental arches of the Norman style. The façade was not completed and shows the columns and arched portals. Three sculptures by Antonello Gagini (1478-1536) complete the decoration of the façade. Inside there are numerous works dating from the 15th-16th centuries, among which is a sculpture by Antonello Gagini and a statue depicting the Madonna della Catena attributed to Francesco Laurana.
Sciacca is a small town but very rich in churches, typically built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Among the most remarkable for their intrinsic artistic value and also the presence of valuable works of art are the 15th century Church of Sant'Antonio Abate (near the cathedral); and the Church of the College with an interior with a single nave and enclosed chapels. In the presbytery there is a painting by Domenico Domenichino (1581-1641), while in one of the chapels there is a "Madonna" by Michele Blasco.
Among other religious buildings of great value in Sciacca, all built for the local nobility and in particular the Peralta family, note the Church of the Spasimo and then the Church of San Michele in Noceto Square (founded by Guglielmo Peralta in the 14th and then rebuilt in the 17th century).
The interior of this gothic style church has three naves with columns and arches in the center. The church also contains a 15th-century crucifix, two 16th century fonts and an altarpiece from the same period, a sculpture and a wooden statue representing San Michele.
Also remarkable is the Church of Santa Maria delle Giummare, originally built by Judith and then rebuilt in the 16th century and flanked by two crenellated towers.
Continuing through Sciacca along the Via Castello we come to the remains of the Luna Castle, a fortress that belonged to the Luna family. Built in 1380, the Luna Castle is located in the eastern part of Sciacca, and includes the walls, the Large Tower, Cylindrical Tower, and the Palazzo del Conte.
The castle boundary is formed by high walls which served for defense. The Large Tower is of quadrangular shape and it is completely ruined, while the “Cylindrical Tower” is intact.
There is more to Sciacca than churches however! There are also numerous civilian buildings to be seen in the town. As well as the Seripinto Palace, we mention the Old Castle, of which some ruins remain such as the entrance to the courtyard; the 15th century Palazzo San Giacomo Tagliavia with its Empire style façades; the Bertolino-Tommasi Palace, with a neo-classical façade by Salvatore Gravanti (19th century).
Also worth a visit are the towers, the Bell Tower, close to the Church of St. Michael, dating from the mid-16th century and the 15th century Torre del Pardo.
Apart from the artistic and historical interest Sciacca is a seaside town with much to offer. Sciacca is also the oldest spa resort on Sicily and one of the major centers of the island's sout east coast. The town has hydro-thermo-mineral resources, as well as beach facilities to practice all sorts of water sports.
For those who enjoy excursions we recommend a visit to the so-called Cave of Daedalus on the Cronio mountain, where the so-called “Steamy Stoves” [“Stufe Vaporose”] are located, and also to the town of Caltabellotta or the Island of Ferdinandea, which only appeared as a result of volcanic activity in the first half of the 19th century.
The sea has always constituted an essential source of wealth for Sciacca and even today it is famous for its fish dishes, like the “spaghetti with sardines”, “spaghetti with cicadas”, the breaded and fried sardines. Do not forget to also try the "Soup of cicadas," and the "fish soup Paranza", and the small fried clams, known in Sicilian as “Cappuccettu frittu" during your visit to Sciacca!
See also history of Sciacca.