Francofonte is a town of nearly 15,000, nestled atop a hill at some 300m asl, in the Siracusa province. The Canale Creek, offering fine naturalistic spots, flows nearby.
Tolomeno held that the ancient Greek city of Hydra was once located in this area. A hamlet developed in the 14th century around the Castle of the Chiaramontes. Over the centuries, the town was ruled by several lords: Berengario Cruyllas, Ferdinando Moncada and the Gravinas, last ruling as far as the feudalism abolishment in 1812.
After a period of economic and demographic decline that would culminate in the devastating 1693 quake, the town enjoyed a new prosperity most related to the thriving citrus trade, today still producing a major income.
The main attractions include the Palazzo Palagonia – former Marchese’s – now used as the Town Hall. It was built in the 18th century by Ferdinando Francesco Gravina using a wing of the castle; largely ravaged by the quake, it would be rebuilt and its interior finely ornamented with a balustrade and baroque masks. The Chiesa Madre, also rebuilt after the quake, has a fine monstrance created by Messina’s craftsmen in the 18th century and a Novelli-style painting depicting the Madonna del Rosario.