Sciacca is a lovely town showing a clear Arab feel, with striking white houses and buildings grouped on a flank of the Kronio Mount overlooking the sea. It is an outstanding fishing and thermal resort, drawings tens of thousands of tourists every year. Its majolica objects, available at the numerous pottery shops in town, are most renowned.
Scandaliato Square – It is the heart of the city, with a panoramic view over the sea and the harbor crowded with boats. Dominating the west side of the piazza is the 1700’s Chiesa di San Domenico and the ex-monastery of the Jesuit Fathers, now hosing the Town Hall. Nearby is the Piazz Duomo.
The Duomo – It is a building of Norman origin (the outer walls of the three apses only surviving), rebuilt in the 1600s. Its baroque front elevation remained incomplete. The cross-vault of the central nave is adorned with frescoes by the local artist Tommaso Rossi, depicting the Apocalypse and some episodes from the life of St. Mary Magdalen. Left of the chances, inside a chapel, is a nice Renaissance marble altarpiece by Antonio Gagini (1581), whose panels depict scenes of the Passion of Christ.
Palazzo Scaglione – A 1700’s house, now serving as a museum, where are diplayed objects and works of art from the 19th century collection of Francesco Scaglione. This comprises paintings, mostly by Sicilian artists, printings, coins, archaeological relics and ceramic pieces. In the last room is a cruficix made of ivory and mother-of-pearl. The building is ornamented with some fine majolica floors and frescoes.
Right of the Duomo stretches the Corso Vittorio Emanuele along which is Palazzo Arone Tagliavia featuring a lovely battlemented façade with three doorways and pointed arches. A Gothic three-light window above the main entrance is highly remarkable.
Shortly ahead, on the right hand side, is the southern façade of the 1800’s Palazzo San Giacomo (or Tagliavia), in the Empire style. The Southern façade, in a Venetian-Gothic style, overlooks Friscia Square that stretches out to the Viale della Vittoria. On the right side rises the Monastero di San Francesco, entirely restored and used as a convention and exhibition centre, with a lovely cloister home to sculptures by contemporary artists.
At the end of Viale della Vittoria street, stands the religious complex of Maria delle Giummarre, of Norman origin but rebuilt in the 1500s. In the central part of the complex there is a church with a baroque portal flanked by two square-towers forming the monastery. The façade is enriched with a battlement and two-light windows. Nearby are the remnants of the Luna Castle, a building of the late 1300s, rebuilt two centuries later and almost entirely destroyed in the 19th century. The external walls and an imposing circular tower are all that remain of the ancient structure. A sloping road in front of the castle leads to the pleasant Norman church of S. Nicolò la Latina.
S. S. Nicolò la Latina – It was founded in the early 1100s by Juliet, daughter of Roger I, with a simple façade with a doorway. It is a single-nave church with a latin-cross plan and three semi-circular apses typical of the Norman-Arabian style.
Returning to the castle, the Giglio road leads to the Porta San Calogero, a old gateway retaining remains of medieval walls. On Piazza Noceto stands the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria, adjacent to the Badia Grande (Abbey), and the nice baroque façade of St. Michael the Archangel. Inside, it has a fine 1700’s organ made of carved and painted wood; a Catalan Cross in Gothic style and an altarpiece of San Girolamo dated 1454 stand at right.
Follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele, turn down Via Licata where are two beautiful 1700’s palazzi, namely Palazzo Inveges and, shortly ahead, at right, Palazzo Ragusa.
Palazzo Steripinto – It is a palace in Catalan style dating back to the 15th century. It has an ashlar facade with mullioned windows and a ghibelline battlement.
The Church of the Carmine, undergoing several reconstructions throughout the centuries, retains a lovely rose-window on its front.
The Church of Santa Margherita – Dating from the 13th century, it was refurbished at the end of the 1500s. Its façade has a doorway in the gothic-catalan style; on its left side is another fine, and much celebrated, doorway in a gothic-renaissance style by Francesco Laurana and Pietro from Bonitate, with Santa Margherita and the Dragon in the tympanum. Inside, it contains a 1800’s monumental organ and, in the chapel on the right, a nice work illustrating episodes from the life of Santa Margherita.
Adjacent to it, is the Chiesa di San Gerlando, with a beautiful stone portal. The 1400’s Palazzo Perollo, a little further on, at right, has a late-gothic façade with three-light windows, and, in the courtyard, a catalan flight of steps, slightly ruined.
Thermal treatments in this area date back to ancient times, even if a proper thermal plant was only established in the mid-1800s, located in the so-called Valle dei Bagni (The Valley of the Baths), currently under-restoration. The Nuovo Stabilimento Termale (New Thermal Plant) is a large complex built in 1938 in a new-liberty style, right in front of the sea and surrounded by a nice park. The sulfur water which rises naturally is used for mud and bath treatments, (the former especially recommended for arthrosis, the latter for osteoarthrosis) and inhalation therapies. The thermal springs of San Calogero, on the Kronio Mount, and Molinelli are suitable for dermatological treatment.
OUT OF TOWN
The Enchanted Castle – It is set out of town following Figuli Street, in direction of Agrigento (SS 115) . It is an amazing garden populated by sculpted stone heads by Filippo Bentivegna or Filippu delli Testi, as locals use to call him.
THE CITY HINTERLAND
A route of roughly 110 km – allow at least half a day. From Sciacca continue north-eastward to Caltabellotta (19 km away).
Caltabellotta – The two roads leading to Caltabellotta offer nice views over the surrounding valley. The road passing by Sant’Anna is particularly panoramic. Caltabellotta stands at an altitude of about 900m. Its Arab name, Kalat-al-Ballut (Oaks’ Rock) evokes the look of the village that is perched atop a rock. Its dominant position contributed to protect it from the attacks of enemies throughout the centuries. In 1302, Caltabellotta witnessed a decisive event for the history of Sicily: the Anjous surrendered to the Aragoneses putting an end to the Vespers War, lasted for twenty years. On the peak rise the chapel and the hermitage of San Pellegrino and the ruins of a Norman Castle, at the foot of which are the old Mother Church, in an Arabian-Norman style, and the Church of the Saviour, with a beautiful late-Gothic portal.
Go back to the crossroad (about 13km away) and take right. Take the S 624 and continue in direction of Sambuca (29km away).
Sambuca di Sicilia – Many notable palazzi run the lenght of its central Corso Umberto I street. At the end of it a stairway gives access to a panoramic balcony. Behind it stands the Mother Church, currently under restoration.
From Sambuca follow signs to the Scavi di Monte Adranone (7 km away).
The Adranone Mount Excavations – Here was a Greek settlement going back to the 6th century BC grown on an earlier indigenous one. The site has a dominant position overlooking a fine landscape. It is naturally defended on one side and reinforced by strong defensive walls on the other two. The settlement, loosely identified as the ancient Adranon, documented by historian Diodorus Siculus, was likely ravaged in 250 BC during the First Punic War.
Tour – Outside the city walls was the necropolis, with subterranean tombs among which outstanding is that known as Tomba della Regina, lined with square-cut blocks of tufa. Nearby is the Porta Sud (Southern Gateway) flanked by towers. A building nestling within was identified as a farmstead. Up, in the acropolis, stand a big building with a rectangular plan, probably intended for public use, and, a little further on, a complex comprised of storehouses, shops and houses. On top, the acropolis overlooks the entire valley where are the city of Sambuca and the Arancio lake. The most significant building is the Punic Temple, flanked, on its right side, by a large cistern.
Make your way back down to Sambuca and return to Sciacca through the S 115.
The island that came and went – July 1831: anyone looking out to sea is unlikely to imagine what is about to happen. A great land quickly emerges from the water, featuring a volcanic outcrop that gently settled back into a truncated cone, giving life to many diverse theories. The island was christened Ferdinandea, in King of Sicily’s honour. After a mere five months it disappeared.