Chiaramonte Gulfi (19km from Ragusa, 9000 inhabitants; 668m a.s.l.; zip code 97012; area code 0932) stands between the Iblean mountains, near the Arcibessi peak that with its 903 m is the tallest. It is set in the middle of a beautiful pine-wood, recently equipped with wooden tables and seats, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy the spectacular panorama. Pre-historic settlements dating back to the Neolithic age were discovered in proximity to the town. The finds included skeletons, ornamented ceramics and several graffiti from the Iron Age (2000 BC); nearby (by the Dirillo River) also stands the settlement of Scornavacche, a stopping place founded by the Greek-Syracusans along the road that connected Siracusa, Gela, Agrigento and Selinunte. Most of the finds are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Ragusa. Remarkable, among them, are several kilns where clay and by-products were cooked.
The roots of Chiaramonte Gulfi date back to the 6th century BC, when Greek-Syracusans founded, some 70 years after Syracuse, the town of Akrillay, that would be later ravaged by the Arabs. The survivors took refuge on the Arcibessi Mount, where Gulfi was established. In 1299, it was ravaged by the French Anjou’s army, most of its inhabitants being massacred. At the behest of Manfredi Chiaramonte, Count of Modica, the town was rebuilt on a higher and safer site and surrounded with walls. Manfredi had a Castle built there and named the town after his own dynasty, Chiaramonte. In 1693 the city was highly damaged by an earthquake which destroyed all of the Eastern Sicily. The addition of the name Gulfi, by a royal decree on 8 August 1881, was meant to celebrate the glorious past of the town.
Chiaramonte boasts several interesting industrial activities, most involved in the production of shoes, steel, carpentry, furniture, marble extraction and processing, pre-fabricated building, canneries. Its economy, however, remains mainly agricultural, it being an important producer of almond, flour, fruit and, above all, olive oil, which is internationally renowned. Breeding is as much important; it provides with many typical products such as pork-meat, sausage and various types of cold meats such as salami, mortadella, etc. Worth-mentioning is Chiaramonte’s salsiccia festival, taking place in Carnival time.
Thanks to its panoramic location Chiaramonte is known as the “Balcony of Sicily”. From almost every corner in town one may enjoy a dramatic view comprising Gela, the Etna volcano, the Ippari Valley and its cities, the Erei slopes up to Caltagirone, the African Sea and the Iblean mountains. The medieval form of Chiaramonte is completed by a baroque style dating from the post-quake reconstruction.
The tour of the city can start in the Gothic Duomo di Santa Maria La Nuova and the nearby Chiesa di San Filippo, housing the nice Chapel of the Rosary. Built in the 15th century and restored in 1720, the Duomo is a splendid building containing beautiful frescoes, paintings and sculptures. A gateway, called the arch of the Annunziata, with a pleasant view over the church of San Giovanni, is a remain of the ancient walls. The church of San Giovanni, just mentioned, has a nice doorway with two Doric columns, and, inside, precious frescoes and a wooden statue of Saint John dating from the 15th century. North of Chiaramonte is the Santuario di Gulfi, the only building remaining from the ancient city. Here is venerated the Madonna di Gulfi.
A lovely pine-wood, just out of town, is the result of a re-afforestation started in 1693.