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Tusa is situated on the coast of northern Sicily, east of Cefalu, where it is a popular and developed seaside resort. Our visit concentrates on the town itself rather than the resort...
The heart of Tusa retains its medieval character with narrow and winding streets, while from the historical and artistic point of view the town stands out in particular for its many churches.
Cathedral Church of Tusa
The Cathedral Church dates from the 16th century and was restored in the 18th century. The present building, situated in the Old Town of Tusa near the Civic Tower, has a façade with two portals, a medieval pointed arch, and also one in Baroque style.
The church has three naves separated by columns with round arches, with the main nave covered by a barrel vault. The cathedral façade is unfinished, while the interior was decorated in the 18th century by Michele Calabrò with a painting of the 'Assumption'. On the main altar a marble triptych attributed to Antonello Gagini (1478-1536) was placed.
In the altar there is a wooden statue of Our Lady of the Assumption, carved by Simeone Li Volsi in the 17th century. He also made the plaster sculptures of saints and prophets that adorn the walls of the choir. There are several chapels of interest inside the cathedral:
The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament has an altar carved by Salvatore Allegra (18th century); the Chapel of the Rosary stands out for a wooden statue of Our Lady by Simeone Li Volsi; the Chapel of the Crucifix is home to a marble statue, attributed to Gagini and depicting the "Madonna of Mercy"; the Chapel of the Souls in Purgatory has a picture by the painter Zoppo di Gangi (1588-1630) and on the first altar of the left aisle, dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian, is a painting by Francesco Bonomo (18th century).
Church of San Nicola di Bari
According to tradition, the Church of San Nicola di Bari was the first church built in Tusa, and served as the mother church throughout the 15th century. The church has two aisles of unequal height, divided by columns and pillars on which the arches rest.
The cover is made of wood; in the smaller nave the arches and the side portal belong to the earliest phase, while the nave was rebuilt in the 14th century.
Church of Saint John the Baptist
The Church of Saint John the Baptist is in Arab-Norman style and is situated in the oldest part of Tusa. It is almost square and is divided into three naves by two rows of columns. The nave is covered by a vaulted ceiling with windows.
On the main altar there is a statue of St John, attributed to Giovanbattista Li Volsi (17th century). See also the bell tower that has a spire of majolica and was attached to the church in the middle of the 17th century.
Other churches in Tusa
The Church of Sant'Antonio Abate, of uncertain date, has a single aisle. In the 16th century it held the Confraternity of the Holy Rosar.
Historically in Tusa the Confraternities were very numerous, among them those of the Most Holy Rosary, St. Nicholas, the Holy Cross, Mount of Mercy, Purgatory, St. John the Baptist and St. Michael the Archangel). In Tusa today only the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament survives.
The Church of St. Joseph was built around the beginning of the 17th century. The church has a nave covered with a barrel vault, while the statue of St. Joseph on the main altar and on the side altars were carved by members of the Li Volsi family.
Last but not least the Church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria was built in the 16th century just outside the walls in the neighborhood called “Il Borgo”. The church has a nave with a barrel vault and inside there is a picture of the "Delivery of the Keys to St. Peter”, attributed to Alonzo Rodriquez (1578-1648) and another with the “Madonna of the Rosary”, by Galbo da Castelbuono (18th century).
Other notable highlights in Tusa
Another monument of particular importance in Tusa is the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament, built in the 17th century and situated in the main square, most notable for its Baroque style facade. It has a single nave covered with a barrel vault. The oratory was the seat of the Confraternity of the Compagnia del SS. Sacramento.
Among the other monuments of great interest is the Riggieri Bridge, situated on the consular road toward Herbita and Enna, originally known as Via Frumentaria. It was along this road that agricultural products were transported to be shipped to Rome. The current ruins are of uncertain date, but they presumably date back to Roman times.
Another civil artifact of great interest is the so-called MigaidoTower in the valley of the Tusa River. It is a cylindrical tower, probably dating from the ninth century, during the Arab invasion of Sicily. The tower has walls with a thickness of about 3 meters and its primary function was as a watch tower.
Your cultural visit to Tusa can perhaps be completed with a visit to the archeological site of Halaesa Archonidea, located in the district called "Santa Maria delle Palate".
In recent years the town has also gained a well developed tourism sector, based along the coastline that extends from “Milianni” to the village of “Castel di Tusa”. The section most used today for the bathing season is around the fishing area (west of “Castel di Tusa”) at the mouth of the stream Tusa.
Tusa has longstanding traditions in both local food products and in crafts. In particular note several typical local cheeses (provolone, "Tuma" and ricotta cheese), and also traditional sweets such as the "taralli” and biscuits with almonds and pistachios.
Visitirs who are fond of antiques will find some high quality craftworks, very representative of the local region, such as the so-called lace "a tombolo", documented until the 17th century, which flourished at that time and features very original designs. Other local handicrafts include examples of wrought iron gates, carved wooden main doors, and stair railings carved in local limestone.
See also Tusa history and etymology.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.