Val di Catania
Militello in Val di Catania is a town in the province of Catania that is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list of Val di Noto from 2002, together with Caltagirone, Catania, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa, Modica and Scicli. Several hypothesis have been made about the foundation of Militello. The most accredited is the one proposed by the writer Pietro Carrera: according to him, the town was built has a Roman settlement around 212 BC, during the siege of Syracuse, when the consul Claudius Marcus Marcellus’ troops looked for an isolated area to escape from the cholera epidemic. Thus, the colony of Militum Tellus was founded, meaning “land of soldiers”, from which the modern name probably derives.
During the Middle Ages, the feud obtained the title of marquisate under the domain of the family Barresi. At the beginning of the XVI century, when the feud passed into the hands of Francesco Branciforte and his wife Joanna of Austria, there was a period of expansion with the construction of several buildings and churches. After the necessary reconstruction following the earthquake of 1693, the town enriched its architecture with new baroque treasures.
The most important masterpieces are the Monastero di San Benedetto, built from 1616 in baroque and mannerist style, and the Church of Santa Maria della Stella, whose facade is rich in baroque carvings. Inside this last one there are two valuable artworks: a magnificent late fifteenth-century altarpiece by the Florentine sculptor Andrea della Robbia and a fifteenth-century altarpiece attributed to Antonello da Messina. In the Church of San Giovanni Battista the fancy of the baroque art combines perfectly with the beauty of the colourful majolica from Catlagirone, used to make the floor of the nave. The Castle Barresi-Branciforte, preserving just a tower and the entrance arch, is one of the main buildings of the town, next to which the beautiful Fontana della Ninfa Zizza is located.
Not far from Militello, there are some wonderful naturalistic areas. The Cascate dell’Ossena are waterfalls located south of the town, in a green valley with plants typical of the Mediterranean bush, such as carob trees, oaks and prickly pears. Another charming landscape can be found in the Cava del Calcarone, an interesting geological formation rich in caves that hosted human settlements in prehistoric times.