Scicli is a most lovely city in the province of Ragusa, lying on a vast valley amidst rocky mountains, where the San Bartolomeo, the Santa Maria La Nuova and the Fiumara di Modica rivers join. Its 18th century look most resulted from the reconstruction that followed the terrible earthquake of 1693. Thanks to its elegant palazzi and churches, and its picturesque shape, it is famously known as the “Baroque Jewel”.
Scicli has remote origins, even partly unknown. Sciclis is likely to have been its earliest name, at the time of the Sikels – considered to be on of the most ancient Sicilian peoples. They settled in what is now called the San Matteo hill; a necropolis there is still clearly visible, as well as the ruins of an ancient castle and of a triangular tower, likely served to guard against assaults of Greeks. Greek, Roman and Carthaginian’s relics have been discovered at the area.
Scicli was one of the 72 Roman città decumane (that is, liable for tax). Roman specimens, mainly consisting of pavements, have been brought to light near the mouth of the Irminio river. Called Sikia during the Arab rule, the city, as well as the other Saracen dominions, enjoyed a period of extraordinary growth and development, that was notably emphasized by Arab historian Edrisi.
Several occupations were to follow: the Normans, who established the feudal system; the Swabian, under whom Scicli maintained its autonomy of city-state; the French Anjou and the Spanish Aragon, under whom Scicli was assimilated into the County of Modica, ruled successively by the Mosca, Chiaramonte, Cabrera and Henriquez dynasties. In 1693, a terrible earthquake almost razed Scicli to ground. In 1860, a plebiscite proclaimed it a city of the newly born Kingdom of Italy.
Thanks to its fertile and flat grounds, Scicli is mainly an agricultural city. The intensive production is largely focused on hothouse and early fruit cultivations, Scicli being a major producer in Sicily. Most of its industrial businesses are involved in processing agricultural products. The outputs of oil, wheat, wine, citrus-fruit, carob derivatives and, of recent, flowers are highly remarkarble.
The tour of the town can start in the central Piazza Italia, where, admidst a number of 18th century buildings, rise the churches of the Madonna delle Milizie and Sant’Ignazio, both ornamented with precious stuccoes and paintings. The Chiesa di San Bartolomeo, few distant, dating from the 15th century, houses a wooden nativity, later restored, dated 1573. The Santuario della Madonna delle Milizie, about 1.5 km off town, near the coast, is a fine specimen of the Arab and Norman epochs. Palazzo Beneventano is one of the most impressive baroque monuments in the entire province. Other interesting monuments are the 1386’s Monastery of the Carmelite Fathers, the 15th century church of Santa Maria La Nuova, in a neo-classic style, San Matteo and Santa Croce. The Via Mormino Penna, lined with amazing palazzi, churches and monuments, provides with an unforgettable baroque picture. Here stand the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), the Palazzo Spadaro and the churches of San Giovanni, San Michele and Santa Teresa. Some religious events are particularly awaited in town: the Cavalcata di San Giuseppe, on 19th March, is a charming procession on horseback throughout the streets of the town, that are all illuminated by fires. The Holy Family on horses adorned with flowers, leads the procession. Another worth-seeing event is the Uomo Vivo (the living man) or Festa del Gioia, celebrated on Easter’s Day. The statue of the Resurrected Christ is carried shoulder-high by a group of worshippers in triumph across the streets of the town.