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It is the Naselli castle and the churches that will be the main visit of your focus to historic Comiso.
Castle of the Naselli
In the north of Comiso is the Castle of the Naselli, an imposing structure built over many years and notable for the 14th century tower, a lodge of the 16th century, and a 14th century iron gate.
The Renaissance castle has its foundations on a building dating to the classical era, as seen in several busts and Roman inscriptions which were incorporated into the new building.
Over the centuries the building belonged to various lords of Comiso, such as the Berlinghieri, Chiaramonte, Cabrera and Naselli, who bought it in the mid-fifteenth century.
The oldest part of the Castle is the Baptistery, dedicated to St. Gregory the Great and with remains of Byzantine frescoes dating back to the 11th century.
The castle also has a round tower to the north, which was originally an Arabic “cuba”, and a square tower on the east side. The northern part of the castle features an elegant window with three lights, resembling the style of Sebastiano Serlio (1475-1554).
The numerous churches in Comiso are of great artistic value.
The Mother Church, dedicated to "Santa Maria delle Stelle," is characterized by a slender main façade and inside by a wooden ceiling decorated with 17th century frescoes. It was built in the 15th century on the site of a pre-existing temple dedicated to “St. Mary of the Mill”, because of its proximity to a mill.
After a disastrous earthquake in 1693 it was destroyed, and then rebuilt in 1699 thanks to the generous contribution of the Naselli family. The pillars and pointed arches of the nave remain from the original construction. The dome, of neo-Gothic style, was completed in 1894, while the tower was completed in 1936.
Inside we can admire a fine wooden ceiling by Antonino Alberti (aka Barbalonga, 1600-1649), a marble statue of Our Lady of Mount ‘Carmelo’, attributed to the school of Antonello Gagini (1478-1536), the high altar in polychrome marble and lapis lazuli and the funeral monument to Baldassarre V Naselli (1696-1753).
The Church of the Annunciation has a monumental stairway and is divided into three barrel naves decorated with fine stucco. The church was built on the remains of the earlier Byzantine church of St. Nicholas (XVI century). Again because of the earthquake in 1693 the temple was severely damaged, but it was rebuilt in neoclassical style in the late 18th century. The dome, designed by S. Girlando (a local artist, 19th century), was completed in 1885.
At the top of a staircase, the church has a Latin cross form and is divided into three naves with barrel vault supported by 10 large arches.
The interior is decorated with works of considerable importance, including a polychrome wooden statue of St. Nicholas of the fourteenth century, two paintings of St. Fiume depicting "The Resurrection" and "The Nativity", a wooden crucifix attributed to Brother Umile from Petralia of the seventeenth century, and finally a valuable painting of the 'Assumption of Mary ", signed by “Narcisus Guidonius”.
The Church of the Capuchins is located in the south of the town, a holds a precious tabernacle with wooden carvings and friezes. The Church had an adjoining cemetery, in which are preserved some mummies of men and women of local noble families.
The church is located in the upper part of the town, where the convent of the Capuchin fathers once stood, already home to Queen Margaret Hospital. The temple, dating back to the early decades of the 17th century, has a single nave and inside there are works of great artistic interest, among which a fine altar with wooden inlays.
The church of San Francesco, built in the 14th century in gothic-catalan style, adjoins an elegant cloister dating back to the 15th century. Inside is a marble sarcophagus with a statue by the School of Gagini.
The Church of San Francesco the Immaculate was built under the Chiaramonte, the feudal lords of Comiso, in the early 14th century. The Church has a single nave and a square apse, with a small apse dome clearly inspired by the Arab-Gothic style.
Next to the church is the convent of the Friars Minor, which has a cloister surrounded by a sober Renaissance-style portico. Inside there is the tomb of Baldassare II, by Antonello Gagini, with a sarcophagus on the cover of which is a statue. The monument is surmounted by a quadrangular tile depicting the “Madonna and Child”. There are numerous paintings by unknown authors, representing the “Immaculate Virgin”, “San Placido”, “Santa Tecla” and “ San Donato.”
The 16th century Church of San Biagio had three naves with a central dome, which were completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1693. In the 18th century it was rebuilt with a single nave, and with a small bell tower covered with baked enamel. outside was placed a stone statue depicting the patron saint. The façade, really impressive, is marked by pilasters and niches.
Last but not least is the Church of Jesus with the attached chapel of the Filipino fathers. The church was built in the early decades of the 17th century to house the congregation of the Filipino fathers. The façade, again very impressive, is marked by pilasters and niches. The building houses a valuable wooden ceiling by Gaspare Ciriaci (1691-1779), with a series of paintings depicting scenes from the life of St. Filippo Neri.
Other Comiso highlights
Also worthy of note in Comiso is the civic museum, located at the Old Fish Market in the “Piazza delle Erbe”. The museum houses a rich collection of fossils from different geological ages, and many remains of Quaternary vertebrates and minerals from Sicily. It also has hundreds of shells, about two thousand land and sea animals.
In the vicinity of Comiso, near the town of Victoria, we can also visit the ruins of “Camarina” colonized by Syracuse in 598 BC. Remaining parts of the city include archaic walls and a tower.
Of particular interest are the remains of some Hellenistic houses, such as the "Merchant's House", where some weights and measuring instruments were discovered. Also imposing are the remains of the “Athenaion”, the temple of Athena dating back to the fifth century BC, some sections of the port, and several cemeteries.
Eating out in Comiso
During your tour of Comiso we suggest a visit to some typical restaurants to enjoy the local gourmet "cavati" (pasta flour and water) or something sweet like "caddureddi" and the “mustata” (pasta flour, bran, mixed with the juice, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and chopped almonds).
Another excellent local product is the home-made bread, topped with cheese, anchovies and oregano, with dishes like the “spaghetti” with squid ink and the seafood omelette.
See also Comiso history and etymology.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.