MELILLI

 

Melilli stands about 310m asl close to a mount overlooking the Megara bay and the industrial district of Augusta-Priolo. It is located in the Siracusa province and counts about 11,500 inhabitants.

It boasts a rather eventful history, the human presence apparently being attested since the Bronze age. Its strategic situation between the major cities of Augusta and Syracuse has played a critical role in its growth. In the feudal age, it became a dominion of the Augusta County and, later, the Moncada family.

It managed to revive after two devastating quakes in 1542 and 1693. Since 1842 it has been an autonomous city.

Numerous interesting building are scattered throughout its centre. The Chiesa Madre, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, has a ceiling finely painted with the Triumph of the Faith by celebrated Olivo Sozzi. The Chiesa di San Sebastiano, dating from the 1700ís, houses numerous paintings of by Sozzi, among which are a Coronation of Saint Sebastian and The Triumph of the Faith, and a fine marble altarpiece representing the Deposition of St. Bartholomew.

Saint Sebastian is very popular here and every year on 3 and 4 May he is celebrated with a fine festival drawing devotees from all Sicily. The Martyr lived in the 3rd century AD is celebrated by the the so-called Festa dei Nuri (festival of the naked) its name relating to the fact that popular iconography used to represent Saint Sebastian undressed; in old times the faithful taking part to the celebration showed completely undressed. Today the event has lost much of its importance and the participants wear white clothes with red stripes that cover some definite parts of the body, that are where the Saint was hit. Over night, they run to the church dedicated to the saint, where they toss flowers onto His statue and undertake a dance.

The city environs are also very interesting. The River Marcellino, flowing nearby, offers fine naturalistic spots and an old necropolis.

A final mention goes to the neighboring salt-mines of Augusta, that were an important economic resource as far as the end of Second World War.