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Vizzini is a city nearly 600m a.s.l. in proximity to the springs of the Dirillo River (or Acate river). It is located in the Iblean Mountains, notably between the Castello, Maddalena and Calvario hills. Numerous grottos in its environs, much of them today barely visible, seem to attest to prehistoric settlements.
The earliest documented record on Vizzini goes back to the Greek time, while the modern city was founded in the Middle Ages around a noble castle. A remarkable urban growth was recorded in the Colle Calvario area in the early 15th century.
The city has plenty of religious and secular interesting buildings, notably in its historical side, and is renowned for being the hometown of Giovanni Verga’s family, one of the most outstanding Italian writers. Highly damaged by the 1693 earthquake, it has a largely Baroque structure, resulted from the post-quake reconstruction.
The old town centre clusters around piazza Umberto I, onto which look Palazzo Verga and the Town Hall. Next to the latter is the Salita Marineo, a long flight of steps with beautiful maiolica decorations. Completed in 1996, it recalls the Scala Maria del Monte’s in Caltagirone. The Gothic-Catalan portal of the Mother Church is the only remain of the city before the earthquake. Among the Baroque buildings, emerges the fine façades of St. Sebastian’s church.
Chiesa Madre – Dedicated to San Gregorio, it is the major religious building in town. It combines several different styles. Its Gothic-Catalan portal of the 15th century is particularly worth-mentioning. It has an octagonal plan divided into three naves with ogival arches. The wooden ceiling was designed by a member of the Bonaiuto family. Inside are various pieces of the figurative arts, such as two paintings by Filippo Paladini dating from the early 1600’s depicting the Martyrdom of San Lorenzo and the Madonna della Mercede.
Basilica di San Vito – Near the Mother Church is the Basilica di San Vito or Holy Spirit Church. It has a late-Baroque style with Renaissance traits; inside, are a fine wooden carved Crucifix, a chapel richly decorated with neoclassical stuccoes and a precious reliquary.
Chiesa di Sant’Agata – Initially dedicated to St. Peter, the church of Sant’Agatha was erected in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 18th century. Inside, are a fine altarpiece representing the Martyrdom of the titular saint and a Baroque chapel dedicated to the Holy Sacrement.
Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista – According to some sources, the church of St. John the Evangelist lies on what were the temples of Bacchus (Dionysus in Greek mythology) and Minerva (Athena). The church is divided into three naves and decorated with stuccoes by Bonaiuto.
Minor monuments and the city surroundings – Among Vizzini’s minor churches and buildings are the Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata, or Santa Lucia, ornamented with Baroque vault frescoes depicting the Saints, the church of Sant’Elena – also known as Chiesa della Madonna Santissima del Pericolo – with an internal grotto where is a 1400’s precious painting of the Virgin, and the 1400’s small church of Santa Maria del Gesù.
Vizzini is the place where Verga set some of his most celebrated tales, among which were La Lupa (the Cunziria quarter appearing in some scenes of the film adaptation by Gabriele Lavia), the Cavalleria Rusticana (that Mascagni made into its most celebrated opera) and the novel Mastro Don Gesualdo. The visitors can directly experience the places mentioned in his works and visit the tavern where Turiddo challenges Alfio to a duel, the Chiesa di Santa Teresa, where, in the Opera, women go to pray, the homes of ‘Gna Lola and Santuzza, and the Cunziria, the tanners’ quarter, where the two men eventually fight, the church and palazzi appearing in Mastro Don Gesualdo scenes.
To better experience Verga’s places
... ... it is advisable to read his tales before the visit; for a guided visit contact the Pro Loco (at 8, Via Lombardia; ph. 0933/965905).
When hunger sets in - “A Cunziria” restaurant, in the district of the same name, is a farmhouse situated within natural grottos, once used as dwellings, then stables and, now, restaurant. The place has retained its rural atmosphere which is even enriched with a traditional and cosy furniture.