Home of the writer Gesualdo Bufalino
The town of Comiso in a wide valley between the Hyblean Mountains, about 17 km from Ragusa. The first traces of settlements in the territory date back to the Neolithic period, when the Sicels lived there. Comiso is the heir of the ancient Greek colony Kasmenai, the remains of which are located at Cozzo di Apollo, a hill near the current-day city. Later, the population moved to what is now the city’s definitive location, near the Fonte Diana (Fountain of Diana), around which Roman-period ruins were found. The city was fortified, the urban layout developed, and the first churches were built during the Byzantine domination.
The arrival of the Arabs brought with it a new period of development. During their rule, the dry-stone walls characterizing the hilly land side of the entire Hyblean territory were built. After the invaders were expelled, the city experienced the same destiny as the other freed Hyblean centers, and in 1393, the fiefdom was transferred to the County of Modica, initially under the dominion of the Cabrera and later the Naselli families. In this period, the city underwent a tremendous economic and urban development, with the construction of numerous convents and monasteries.
Following the construction of the nearby town of Vittoria, a portion of the population left Comiso. The subsequent plague of 1624 and the earthquake of 1693 provided the final coup de grace. However, after the tragic earthquake that devastated all eastern Sicily, a period of great architectural revival began for Comiso as well, with the construction of churches, public and private Baroque-style buildings.
The military airport, today has been converted into a civilian airport and is an essential link for Sicily, especially for tourism in the province of Ragusa, was inaugurated during the fascist period, During these years, a little known historical event took place in Comiso: at the end of 1944, insurrectional uprisings were taking place all over Sicily to avoid the enrollment of soldiers in the royal army engaged in the liberation of continental Italy. The so-called “We won’t leave” riots found fertile ground, especially in Comiso, where the rebels proclaimed the “Independent Republic of Comiso” but stopped after a week under threat of bombardment.
The city, home of the writer Gesualdo Bufalino, is rich in history and culture: of particular interest are the remains of the Roman Baths of Diana, the prehistoric tombs and caves of Cava Porcaro, and the Aragonese Castle, home of the various lords who ruled the city. Of the churches, standing out are the Church of S. Francesco all’Immacolata, dating back to 1300 and to which the convent and the Arabian cloister were later added, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria delle Stelle with its large outdoor plaza, which was restored to its former glory after the earthquake of 1693. On one of the hills surrounding the valley of Comiso is the “Peace Pagoda,” one of the few pagodas in Europe, built by a Buddhist monk entirely of white stone, so as to be visible from all over the city.