Photo of San Giuseppe Jato

Visit San Giuseppe Jato

While the highlight at San Giuseppe Jato is undoubtedly its archaeological park (below), there are also some religious buildings of great historical and artistic interest, including the Mother Church.

Mother Church of San Giuseppe Jato

Among the many churches, as a priority you should visit the 'Mother Church', dedicated to the Holy Redeemer St. Nicholas of Bari and built in 1792 when Prince Beccadelli laid the cornerstone. A landslide in 1838 compromised the structure of the church, which was rebuilt and designed by Achille Viola in 1848. Located along the “Corso Umberto I” , it  is dedicated to the cult of St. Joseph (until 1784 the patron saint of St. Joseph of Mortilli).

The church is a basilica with three naves and a transept topped by a dome, and predominantly in the Neo-classical style. The nave contains three paintings by Francesco Padovano (1842-1915), the "Annunciation of Mary", "Nativity", and "Presentation in the Temple".

In the vault of the presbytery are some paintings by Giuseppe Carta from Palermo (1809-1889) depicting the Coronation of Mary, and on the right The Magdalene and the Samaritan. On the altar there is a crucifix in the Neoclassical style, attributed to Girolamo Bagnasco (1759-1832). The main Chapel nave is dedicated to St. Joseph and has a wooden statue by  Bagnasco.

Archaeology Park of San Giuseppe Jato

Three kilometers outside the village you can visit the archaeological zone of Mount Jato, with the remains of the ancient "Ietas". The oldest finds from Monte Jato are fragments of hand-made painted ceramic decorated with engravings - these types of decorations are also found elsewhere in eastern and central Sicily and date from around 1000 BC. The pottery has geometric designs, decorative ribbons, diamonds and concentric circles. These vessels are no longer made by hand, but on the lathe, a tool which is also inherited from Greece.

The oldest strata of the settlement of Mount Jato have so far been found intact in only a few places.

The theater was built in the 4th century BC on the model of the Athenian Greek theater of Dionysus. The theater of “Ietas” is about 70 meters long and held about 4000 spectators. The thirty-five tiers of seats were separated by two semi-circular corridors (ambulatories). The three lower tiers with backrests (“proedria”) were occupied by the magistrates and priests, separated from the rest of the audience and the orchestra sat in the centre of the hemicycle.


Access to the theatre was by two side corridors (“parodoi”) that separated the orchestra from the stage and still partly visible. From here we have four statues - two satyrs and two maenads - found in 1973 and which are kept inside the local museum.

The Temple of Aphrodite was built around 550 BC and it is the city's oldest public work. Designed by a Greek architect and built using Greek techniques it belongs to the type of temples called “oikos”, that is “the house of the deity”. It is only partly preserved but we can see the “adyton”, a separate room reserved for the cult and special sacred ceremonies.

A vessel found near the temple that was used during ceremonies and has the letters 'AFR' engraved on it has led to the idea that this sacred edifice was dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love; the so-called Greek temple of Aphrodite presumably dates back to  the sixth century BC.

The main square of the Greek city, the so-called "Agora", was the site of meetings and represented the political, social and business place of the polis. It consists of an open area of 50 X 40 feet, paved with slabs of sandstone arcades. It originally had two colonnades to the north and east, and housed the “bouleuterion”, which is the semicircular hall where the council of citizens held their meetings.

The “Bouleuterion” was built in Roman times in the west of the Agora. The peristyle house is certainly one of the most interesting archaeological finds of the ancient city. The noble dwelling, called the peristyle house because it is built around two colonnaded courtyards, represents one of the largest and oldest houses known in the Greek-Hellenistic world.

Built with stone walls around 300 BC it was the residence of a noble local citizen. that consisted of twenty-five rooms divided into two different parts. The banquet halls had the capacity to accommodate 72 people comfortably stretched out on couches. The baths are also well preserved - built in the mid-second century BC it consists of a hall, a spa and a sink (all heated by a tube system that allowed people to wash with hot water).

In one of the rooms there is a tessellated mosaic of rosettes with three petals. The mosaic is among the oldest of Sicily, and it is contemporary to the construction of the house, which is itself contemporary to the urban plan of  Iaitas, dating back to 300 BC.

The medieval ruins here date from the last decades of the life of “Giato”, when the city, before and during the great insurrection against the emperor Frederick II of Swabia, become the last refuge of the Muslims. The houses, erected with stones taken from the ancient walls, are rather poorly constructed and finds from the ruins of these houses are scarce.

Cuisine of Iato / San Giuseppe Jato

Finally worthy of your interest when you visit San Giuseppe Jato is the ancient cuisine, originally a symbol of the independence of the city by the Greeks. The main courses consist of soup with vegetables and legumes and pasta topped with tomato sauce, according to ancient custom; then we have home-made pasta seasoned with "astrattu", (concentrated sun-dried tomatoes). Another typical dish is the "pasta with sardines" and the fennel in the mountains.

Typical main courses include "u braciuluni ", which consists of a large bundle containing meat, boiled egg, bacon, peeled tomatoes, cheese, and then there's the “carni di crastu cu l'ammogghiu” which consists of roast sheep which is coated with sprigs of mint or oregano, an oil-based sauce, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.

See also San Giuseppe Jato history and etymology.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.

See also: 

Map of San Giuseppe Jato and places to visit


San Giuseppe Jato places to visit



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