Scicli, Sicily: a charming baroque town in the Val di Noto UNESCO listing

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The town of Scicli is found in south-east Sicily, a short distance south of the towns of Ragusa and Modica. As one of the towns in the area severely damaged by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in baroque style, it forms part of the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the earthquake, 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.

Explore Scicli

Italy This Way comment: Scicli remains rather undiscovered especially when compared to others in the Val di Noto group and the coast and beaches just south-west of Scicli are perhaps the principal attraction here, but the town centre - although quite small - is very impressive and if you visit 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.

Scicli old town

The town centre is not complicated: almost all the important buildings in Scicli are along one main street and around the square at the top of the street. Various churches and attractive buildings can also be seen in the surrounding streets.

Although our photos suggest there is a great deal to see, you should be aware that most can be seen without walking far, although we did walk a long way in Scicli before we found the town centre, which is not well signposted. Search for Via Francesco Mormino Penna on your phone.

The 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 the town 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 here are the churches, although the town is also dominated by a rather impressive castle.

Churches in Scicli

The most interesting religious buildings in Scicli are the churches of San Bartolomeo and Santa Maria La Nova, outside the main town centre, although there are also baroque churches closer to the centre (the church in the photo below is in the centre of Scicli).

Church of San Bartolomeo

This church is south-east of the centre on Via Guadagna, surrounded by cliffs.

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.

Church of Santa Maria la Nova

This church is on Via Selinunte, to the east of the centre

The Church of Santa Maria La Nova has multiple 'characters' because of the complexity around its constrution. The church has a façade with three orders divided into three sections by pilasters. 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).

Scicli church

Scicli castle

The first development at Scicli was around the 'Castello dei tre cantoni' at the top of San Matteo hill that overlooks the town. 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.

Scicli castle

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.

Various buildings in Scicli are used in the filming of Inspector Montalbano, a popular Italian detective program, for example you can see the Police Statio for Vigata (the ficticious town used for the program). 

For gourmets the traditional cuisine of Scicli offers fresh and semi-mature cheeses, and a speciality called “pasta ’ncasciata.”

Attractions nearby

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.

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.

You will want to visit Ragusa and Modica which are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Val di Noto late Baroque towns of Sicily as part of your tour of south-east Sicily. Also nearby you can visit the prehistoric caves of Ipsica.

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

See also:

Map of Scicli and places to visit

Places to visit near Scicli

Modica

Modica

Modica is an impressive town built up the sides of a gorge.

Modica guide

Church of San Nicolo Inferiore

Church of San Nicolo Inferiore

The Church of San Nicolo Inferiore is an unusual 12th century cave church with ancient frescoes in the heart of Modica old town

Church of San Nicolo Inferiore guide

Duomo Saint George

Duomo Saint George

The duomo in Ragusa is an imposing church, built in the baroque style in the heart of Ragusa Ibla (old town)

Duomo Saint George guide

Ragusa

Ragusa

A magnificent town, Ragusa is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Baroque architecture.

Ragusa guide

Ispica

Ispica

Ispica is home to an extensive prehistoric cave system.

Ispica guide

Comiso

Comiso

Visit the lovely baroque architecture of Comisco.

Comiso guide