The peculiarity - and attraction - of Scicli is partly due to its setting and the surrounding natural environment. As well as several beaches and resorts on the coast to the south-west the town is also at the intersection of the valleys of San Bartolomeo and Santa Maria La Nova, known as the "Cave" with the rocky hills of San Matteo, Rosario and of the Croce nearby.
As one of the towns in the area severely damaged by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in baroque style, it also forms part of the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore Scicli: tourism and travel
Scicli remains rather undiscovered especially when compared to others in the Val di Noto group. The coast and beaches just south-west of Scicli tend to be the principal attraction here. The coast of Scicli is the largest in the whole province of Ragusa and it extends from Pozzallo to Marina di Ragusa, with several seaside resorts nearby such as Sampieri, Costa Carro, Cava d'Aliga, Donnalucata and Playa Grande.
However if you have made it to Scicli you won't be disappointed. The wooded hills surrounding Sicli can be seen from the town adding a dramatic backdrop to the lovely baroque architecture you can admire as you explore.
After the earthquake that devastated much of the region in 1693 the rebuilt town kept its original medieval layout while the new monasteries and convents were built with typical baroque opulence and paid for by the local nobility, in the early 18th century.
This Baroque style is evident everywhere in Scicli, not only in the civil and religious buildings, but also in its details. This Baroque style is also sometimes accompanied by a Neoclassical style.
The most impressive examples of Baroque architecture in Scicli are found in the religious architecture, in part because many aristocratic palaces were lost as a result of urban renovation carried out between the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result many of the highlights are the churches in the town although the town is dominated by a rather impressive castle.
The first development at Scicli was around the 'Castello dei tre cantoni' at the top of San Matteo hill. The Castello dei tre Cantoni is actually composed of two separate fortifications, the Castelluccio higher up and the Castellaccio at a lower level.
This was a defensive structure that, over the centuries, was enlarged and used first by the Arabs, then by the Normans and then later as a military outpost of the County of Modica. The current castle is dated to the 13th century although studies date its origins to the first half of the 12th century.
The Castle has a triangular tower, while to the north-east stands a large wall terminating in a quadrangular tower. The reason for having an unusual triangular tower is unknown, but thought to be symbolic (possibly related to the three points of Sicily itself) rather than a military function. See also Scicli history and etymology.
Churches in Scicli
In the valleys below Scicli castle the most interesting religious buildings are the churches of San Bartolomeo and Santa Maria La Nova.
Church of San Bartolomeo
The interior of the Church of San Bartolomeo is the most richly decorated in the city in terms of works of art. Worthy of mention is the "Deposition" by Mattia Preti (1613-1699) in the left transept. In front of the painting by Mattia Preti, in the north transept, there is a crib scene which is one the most important of Sicily.
The origins of the church date back at least to the 15th century, and it does not seem to have been seriously damaged in the earthquake of 1693. The façade reveals the transition from late Baroque to Neo-classical architecture: the façade was started at the end of the 18th century by Antonio Salvatore Mazza then redesigned by Salvatore D’Ali (19th century) and concluded in 1815 by P. Ventura. In 1822 the wrought iron gate by S. D’Ali was added.
The church interior has a single nave and a Latin cross plan. On either side of the entrance there are marble tombs built by Francesco Lucchese (17th century). Among the paintings look out for the Immaculate Conception with Saints Bartholomew and William, by Francesco Cassarino (1582-1637), located in the south transept near the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Also notable is the altarpiece of 'the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew' by Francesco Pascucci (1748-1803).
Church of Santa Maria la Nova
The Church of Santa Maria La Nova has multiple 'characters' because of the complexity around its constrution. The interior has three naves and it is in an eclectic Neo-classical style. Note particularly the wooden sculpture of the "Risen Christ" attributed to F. Pastore (18th century).
The church has a façade with three orders divided into three sections by pilasters. The original design was by Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia (1729-1814) with changes during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the apse note the large painting depicting the "Nativity of Mary", by Sebastiano Conca (1680-1764) or Tommaso Pollace (1748-1831). Another notable painting is the "Virgin of Mercy".
In the vault there are five paintings by G. Di Stefano (19th century), depicting scenes from the life of Christ, the “Adoration of the Shepherds”, “Presentation of Jesus in the temple”, “Jesus among the doctors”, and “Christ and the holy women.”
Other Scicli highlights
Among the civil buildings in Scicli the Palazzo Beneventano is among the most interesting, and certainly stands out for the inventiveness of the balconies decorated with bizarre grotesques.
For gourmets the traditional cuisine of Scicli offers fresh and semi-mature cheeses, and a speciality called “pasta ’ncasciata.”
Where is Scicli?
The town of Scicli is found in south-east Sicily, a short distance south of the towns of Ragusa and Modica which are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Val di Noto late Baroque towns of Sicily. Also nearby are the prehistoric caves of Ipsica.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.