Avola, in the province of Siracusa, managed to revive after the terrible earthquake that in 1693 destroyed all the south-eastern side of Sicily. It was rebuilt on a modern grid of perpendicular street within an exagonal perimeter. A large and square piazza with nearby minor ones marks the heart of town, according to the typical Renaissance design.
The new Avola developed around the Monte Aquilone district, the site of the ancient city, and stretches to the plain and the coast, these miraculously left undamaged by the nature disaster. The reconstruction was much fostered by the Prince Nicolò Aragona Pignatelli, Duke of Terranova.
Visitors can enjoy several fine churches begin with the Chiesa Madre dedicated to San Nicola di Bari. Its frontage is graced with panels representing the Seven Sacrements. The façade, is so-called a torre (towered) because it is divided into three tiers. The courtyard is embellished with some statues representing Saints. The interior is divided into three naves with chapels, and is ornamented with fine pieces of art such as the painting depicting the Sposalizio della Madonna attributed to Olivo Sozzi.
The three-naves Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, recently restored, is ornamented with neo-Classical stuccoes and precious paintings dedicated to the Baptist’s Martyrdom by Gregorio Scalia. In the aisles are fine paintings depicting scenes from the life of San Corrado Confalonieri.
The Chiesa della Santa Croce – housing a fine ciborio –, the minor Chiesa di Santa Venera dedicated to Avola’s patron saint, the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio da Padova with 1700’s stuccoes and the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Gesù with a fine Immacolata con San Francesco e Santa Rosalia, are also worthy of note.
Avola’s most attractive secular buildings include the Palazzo Ducale, near the Mother Church, flanked by a 1800’s clock-tower, and the 1800’s Palazzo di Città.
The site of Avola Antica, the ancient city, in the Monte Aquilone district, is of historical interest, with the ruins of the medieval city and features that testify to the existence of prehistoric settlements at the site.
A well-known naturalistic spot stands few kilometres off town, the Cava Grande del Cassibile, consisting of a natural huge gorge stretching across the Iblaean plateau to the coast. The valley at the bottom of the Cava, being amongst the largest in the Iblean area, is enclosed by steep walls. It preserves numerous cave-tombs forming part of the Cassibile necropolis ranging in date from the 11th to the 9th century BC and two cave-settlements. One of these, on the northern side, can be reached following a trail traced by the shepherds, starting at the Cassibile river. Several spiral staircases carved into the rock along the trail are pretty interesting. The southern settlement, larger, and already visible from the top of the Cava, is also very charming.
The Cava is divided into three main zones and provides incredible naturalistic spots featuring grottoes, springs of water and a richest Mediterranean vegetation comprising orchids of multiple shapes and colors, plane-trees, oleanders and spurges.
Recently, it was designated as a Nature Reserve.