Find the best things to do and see in the baroque town of Scicli
More understated, and generally less visited than some of its neighbouring crowd-pullers, Scicli is certainly worth a visit if you’re on holiday in southeast Sicily. One of the eight towns in the cluster of UNESCO Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, Scicli is both smaller and more lowkey than Modica and Ragusa, but nevertheless, utterly charming and with plenty of attractions to fill a day or two with leisurely sightseeing.
Where is Scicli?
Scicli is conveniently located between the coast and rural heart of the region, around 10km to the south of Modica and 25km south of Ragusa. The town has a dramatic setting in a gorge, overlooked by a rocky mass.
Just a short drive from the white sandy beaches of Punta Secca, Marina di Ragusa and the lively resort of Pozzallo, it’s a superb base for anyone looking to combine days on the beach with some gentle sightseeing. For those who want to venture further afield, it’s around an hour and a quarter’s drive to the magnificent city of Syracuse and for visitors from mainland Italy or overseas, Catania airport is less than 2 hours away.
The history of Scicli
The town’s name is thought to derive from its founders, the Sicels who lived in Sicily before the Greeks. Following centuries of rule by invading forces, in common with the other baroque towns of the Val di Noto, Scicli was devastated by the 1693 earthquake in which thousands of the town’s population died. The magnificent baroque buildings dotted around the town today are the result of the subsequent reconstruction.
Top attractions in Scicli
Much of the pleasure of visiting Scicli is derived from simply strolling past the magnificent architecture and soaking up the atmosphere. However, the following buildings definitely merit a visit. Start by getting your bearings in the very beautiful pedestrianised Via Francesco Mormino Penna, home to several Baroque palaces and churches, and a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
This 17th century building is best known for its superb façade, complete with curved balconies, monstrous gargoyles, frills and follies. The palazzo is on Via Duca d’Aosta, close to Piazza Italia and Via Penna, but is not open to the public.
Situated on Via Francesco Mormino Penna, Palazzo Spadaro dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and is home to several significant works of art. But its exterior is as beautiful as its interiors, adorned with balconies featuring geometric and floral motifs.
Montalbano in Scicli
If you enjoyed the detective Montalbano books and TV series, be sure to stop by the town hall, also on Via Mormino Penna, which was used as the fictional police station, the ‘Commissariato di Vigata’. Palazzo Iacono, in nearby Piazza Italia, was used as the exterior of the ‘Questura di Montelusa’, the fictional regional police HQ.
Churches in Scicli
Scicli’s largest churches are the Chiesa Santa Maria La Nova and the 15th century Chiesa di San Bartolomeo.
The interiors of the centrally located church of San Giovanni Evangelista are as striking as the church’s exterior. Decorated in a classic Sicilian Baroque style, highlights include several remarkable frescoes and a series of Ionic columns of precious white marble, in addition to the Crucifix of Burgos painting.
Other baroque churches include the Chiesa di Santa Teresa and the 18th century Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo. The Chiesa di San Matteo was once the town’s ‘mother’ church, set high above the town and accessed by a zigzag path with views of the gorges and caves beyond. The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Catena, set on the path that leads down from San Matteo, was built directly into the rock face but is now no longer open to the public.
Other sights in Scicli
Step back in time in the Antica Farmacia Cartia, a pharmacy on the Via Francesco Mormino Penna that will take you back to the turn of the 20th century. The original scales and cash register are still in situ and antique apothecary jars sit in glass cabinets lining the walls. And if you think it all looks familiar, it may be due to its appearances in the Montalbano series.
You can get a good sense of the history of the town in one of its oldest districts, the abandoned cave settlement of Chiafura. A visit to a ‘show’ cave home, A Rutta ri Ron Carmelu, provides a fascinating insight into cave life and the family history of owner Ron Carmelu.
A day at the beach
The coastline to the south of Scicli is characterised by a string of excellent beaches. Choose from fully equipped ‘lidi’ with sun beds, umbrellas and beachfront restaurants, or free beaches where you can just turn up and grab your patch of sand. Top spots include the 6-kilometre stretch of golden sand at Punta Secca and the family friendly Sampieri beach, while the beaches around Pozzallo offer a range of beach activities such as kite and windsurfing. Read our guide to some of the best beaches in southeast Sicily.
Villas in and around Scicli
Choose from a large selection of villas with pools around Scicli. For larger groups of 12-20 people, Casale Donna Costanza and Rocca di Pietra both offer plenty of space and easy access to Scicli and the other towns of the Val di Noto. Smaller properties such as Lavinia and Villa Gli Oleandri offer great value for money with all the benefits of a superb location.