Sortino is a town of nearly 9,200 located in the Siracusa province at some 430m asl. Its history is closely related to the neighboring Pantalica (see PANTALICA). The earliest records go back to the 14th century; it was successively possessed by the Moncadas, the Eredias and the Gaetanis. It grew to town size in the low Middle Ages but it was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1693 that forced survivors to settle elsewhere, near a mount called Cugno di Rizzo.
Presently, it is laid out on a rectilinear grid plan with two main axis that meet in the octagonal Piazza dei Quattro Canti. The urban plan reveals some Arab features.
The tour of the town can begin in the city’s main building, the Chiesa Madre dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. This has a fine baroque façade on three storeys, with a Latin-Cross interior and three naves. It contains many interesting works of art: frescoes in the vault and the apse are by Giuseppe Crestadoro, as well as the paintings depicting San Giovanni Evangelista and the Vergine e San Gaetano; a painting depicting the Deposizione is by Palermo artist Vito D’Anna; finally, a baptismal font and a 1700’s organ are also worth-seeing.
The 1700’s Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate has three fine doorways and a simple interior with one nave; the vault is frescoed by Giuseppe Crestadoro; the 1700’s Chiesa dell’Annunziata is preceded by a fine staricase; its façade is rather simple with an imposing portal and columns. Inside, is a single nave ornamented with 1700’s frescoes by Crestadoro and an altarpiece representing the Annunciation of the Virgin by unknown in the 16th century. Adjacent to this, is the Chiesa del Purgatorio, with an octogonal dome, a single nave and a semicircular chancel.
The tour then stops at the Chiesa di San Sebastiano completed in the early-1700s. This also boasts works by Crestodoro as a 1700’s frescoed Martyrdom and Judgement of Saint Sebastian, and a 1700’s statue of the saint. The Church dedicated to the Nativity of Mary is a baroque building standing next to the Monastero di Montevergini. The church interior has a single nave ornamented with fine works including frescoes by Sebastiano Lo Monaco. The floor is made of majolica tiles and is portrayed with a La Pesca Miracolosa.
The minor churches include the three-naves Chiesa di Santa Sofia – with a statue of the Christ at the Column and a 1700’s Santa Sofia –, the single-nave Chiesa di San Pietro and the Chiesa dei Cappuccini housing a library holding precious 1500’s and 1600’s works.
In the town vicinity, between the Cava Grande and Anapo valley, stands Pantalica, a site that testifies to the presence of remote settlements, notably related to Hybla, a city from the 13th century BC.