Acate (34km from Ragusa; 7640 inhabitants; 199m a.s.l.; zip code 97011; area code 0932) is set on a plateau in the Dirillo Valley. The city is surrounded by a vast flat agricultural area. Its main square, Piazza Libertà, accommodates the most important monuments, notably the Chiesa Madre and the Castello. The city is laid out on an orthogonal plan. About thirteen kilometres away is the seaside village of Macconi, deriving its name from the sandy dunes typical of the shore running from Scoglitti to the Dirillo – or Acate – river’s mouth.
Numerous finds discovered at the area provide evidence for the prehistoric roots of Acate and the presence here, in succession, of the Sikels, the Romans and the Byzantines. A village named Odogrillo – its name deriving from the Dirillo river – developed during the Arabian rule; but only few specimens are held from that age. The earliest information on Odogrillo goes back to 1278, at the time of Charles of Anjou. The hamlet was later assimilated into the County of Modica dominions, under the Chiaramontes’ rule, successively abandoned because of its scarce population and its mostly marshy grounds. Another hamlet, Biscari, had been growing nearby – to reach town dimensions in the 15th century – under the rule of the Castellos, a local aristocratic family. Ignazio Paternò Castello was proclaimed Prince of the town by the Count of Modica in the early 18th century, following the devastating 1693’s earthquake. The town’s current name was adopted since 1938 due to the initiative of local historian Carlo Addario; it derives from Achates, that is the Roman name of the Dirillo river.
The tour of Acate begin in the central Piazza Libertà, with the Chiesa Madre and the Castello, the city’s major buildings. The church, reconstructed after the 1693’s and 1846’s earthquakes, retains few of its original structure, notably the arches of the chorus’ vault and sections of the apse and the transept. The castle of the Biscari princes, presently in a miserable condition, was built in 1494, restored in the 18th century and successively abandoned. Only the prisons, inside, were somehow preserved. The three-naves’ Chiesa di San Vincenzo, near the Piazza, contains the relics of the Saint and numerous precious stuccoes. San Vincenzo, patron saint of Acate, is celebrated with an annual feast and a Palio (a horserace) in the streets of the town.
Acate is primarily an agricultural city, thanks to its flat and, after intense reclamations, fertile lands. It is a major producer and exporter of wine, olive oil, citrus fruit and related products. The hothouse cultivation is outstanding. Industry and commerce are both scarcely developed except for farming-related businesses.