Scicli is a baroque town of Val di Noto and rises in the south east of Sicily, in a valley nestled among three hills, 25 km from Ragusa. Listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Cities in 2002, it is a must-see for those who visit the south east of Sicily and for all fans of the tv series “Inspector Montalbano”: here you will find the most famous filming locations. The city has very ancient origins, as showed by the late Bizantine settlements of the archaeological area of Chiafura, and was rebuilt in baroque style after the earthquake of 1693.
Visiting Scicli means going back into the past, among palaces, baroque churches and ancient streets, and be immerged in its lively atmosphere. That’s not all: staying in Scicli you can easily combine a cultural holiday with a relaxing swim in the crystal waters of its seaside hamlets, only 9 km away from the city centre.
What to see in Scicli
Scicly is maybe “the most beautiful of all cities in the world”, said the Italian writer Elio Vittorini in one of his novels. A maze of ancient tiny streets climbing the rocky hills stands above the city centre, rich in majestic baroque churches and noble palaces. A city with an elegant and harmonious architecture that is absolutely worth visiting, also to try its excellent typical cuisine.
Monuments and churches
The baroque and late baroque style reigns undisputed through the streets of the historic centre of Scicli and it is well recognizable from the facades of the churches appearing in every corner. Among the most beautiful ones, there is certainly the Church of San Bartolomeo: “a pearl inside the valves of a shell” said the Italian writer and director Pasolini, when he saw it. Its white limestone rock and the context in which it is used, that is between two rocky hills, justifies actually the writer’s sentence. The church rises in the so-called cava di San Bartolomeo, one of the oldest districts of the town. A hill separates the first cava from a second one called cava di Santa Maria La Nova, another ancient district of Scicli that takes its name from the Church of Santa Maria La Nova. Home to the main traditional festivals and folklore events, these two districts have been “struggling” between them for centuries, in order to be the best in celebrating the most important sacred feasts. For this reason, even today, there are some “double” celebrations of the same feast, each one belonging to one of the two rival districts. In the district of Santa Maria La Nova there is a church nowadays hosting a museum and temporary exhibitions, the Church of S. Maria della Consolazione, whose most ancient parts are prior to the earthquake of 1693 and date back around 1600. Scicli is located at the slopes of three hills where once rose the old town. There are testimonies of this ancient town, such as the Church of San Matteo, mother church of the city until 1874, and the ruins of a medieval fortification called Castellaccio. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, the church was after rebuilt but it was abandoned for many years, reason why nowadays there is almost nothing of the eighteenth-century church. Today it is one of the main symbols of Scicli. Among the monuments to visit, you cannot miss the Convento della Croce, a beautiful religious complex dating back to 1528 that rises on the top of a hill, Colle della Croce, from where you can enjoy a suggestive view over the historic centre. Inside the monastery, you can visit a church, an oratory, a cloister and the monks’ cells. Scicli is rich in historic buildings, two of which are open to visitors and are located in via Francesco Mormino Penna. Palazzo Bonelli is an elegant palace of the nineteenth century with very sumptuous interiors: you will be astonished by its plasters, ancient furniture and original paintings of the early twentieth century. Palazzo Spadaro, built from 1700, preserves rooms in different styles and a wonderful baroque facade with round balconies in wrought iron and rococo decorations.
Things to see nearby
From Scicli you can easily move to visit the nearby baroque towns of Val di Noto, such as Ragusa Ibla, Modica e Noto. Modica and Ragusa Ibla are just 10 km and 25 km from Scicli, while Noto is about 60 km. You can go on a one-day tour dedicated to each of these towns. If you have more time and want to know more about the baroque art, we recommend you to visit these pearls of Val di Noto, which will surprise you not only from the architectural point of view.
If you love to go trekking in naturalistic areas, you can explore the Reserve of the river Irminio, extending between Donnalucata and Marina di Ragusa, or have a walk on the hills surrounding Scicli, going through woods, ancient rock quarries and artificial caves. From this point of view, a very interesting site is Parco di Mangiagesso, a naturalistic area located between Scicli and Modica. Inside, there is a picnic area with barbecues, tables and benches, ideal to spend a beautiful day with your family immersed in the nature. The local association Esplorambiente often organizes naturalistic walks with expert local guides, who will let you discover unique places, a few steps from the town.
It is possible to go on a one-day trip to Syracuse e Marzamemi and visit the beautiful Reserve of Vendicari, with its wonderful blue waters and its naturalistic paths through the Mediterranean scrub.
What to do in Scicli
Scicli boasts a long tradition of religious and folkoric festivals, which liven up the city in different periods of the year. The feast of “U Gioia” or “Uomu Vivu” on Easter Sunday and the feast of Madonna delle Milizie, usually celebrated the last Sunday of May, are only two of the folkloric traditions to live. The summer is also rich in festivals and concerts, such as the Taranta Sicily Fest, which take place both in the historic centre of Scicli and in its seaside hamlets.
Events and shows
In summer, in spring or in winter: come to Scicli whenever you want, because you will not get bored. There are always very interesting events and festivals in town.
The Cavalcade of St. Joseph
A very heartfelt event in Scicli is the Cavalcade of St. Joseph. Even if it has become famous only from a few years, this feast has very ancient origins.
It usually takes plays on 19th March, on St Joseph’s day, or some days before. It is worth seeing it if you are in town in that period. It consists of a suggestive parade of horses that are completely dressed with harness showing sacred images and decorations realized with colourful wallflowers. Making this work requires time and many people. During the parade, the riders wear traditional peasant clothes and carry the so-called “ciaccari”, which are bundles once used as torches to light up the path. In different areas of the city centre, people celebrate in the streets having barbecues and drinking wine around the typical “pagghiara”, many big bonfires set up in the roads.
The atmosphere that you breath is really suggestive and makes this experience unique.
In spring, in summer and during Christmas time, the local cultural associations organize guided and thematic walks to see the most important monuments of Scicli, but also in natural and unknown corners to discover. You can enjoy artworks, culture and precious treasures of this enchanting town. For more information visit I Love Scicli.
Festivals and concerts
The folkloric tradition of Scicli is rich in lively and picturesque religious feasts: here you can really breathe the essence of the Sicilian joy.
The feast of “U Gioia”
Easter Sunday is certainly the most waited feast by the inhabitants of Scicli.
Every year they celebrate a feast called “U Gioia” or “Uomu Vivu”, as the Risen Christ is called, which begins on Saturday evening and lasts until late Sunday night. The anxious wait for the midnight Mass, when the statue of the Christ is shown to the people as a representation of the Resurrection, is the beginning of this joyful celebration. Then, the statue is put on a basis with wooden beams to be carried on the shoulder the following morning.
On Sunday morning, a joyful crowd gathers in front of the Church of Santa Maria La Nova waiting for the statue to be carried out around 1:00 pm. Those carrying the Christ love to make people waiting, while going back and forth on the Church portal. When they decide to begin their “run” carrying the statue on their shoulders, the music band starts playing a vivacious march and the crowd explodes in yells of joy.
After running round on the church parvis, the bearers go running down the road through the crowd, while the music band tries to follow them. The almost crazy and extravagant way of carrying the Risen Christ on the shoulder will make you realize how much local people share and love their tradition.
Take part in this picturesque Easter feast that has no equal in Sicily. The celebration lasts until 3:00 am of Monday morning when the bearers, exhausted by so many runs, decide finally to go back to the church.
On Easter Sunday the streets of the city centre are closed to traffic, so we recommend you to park in the parking areas in Contrada Zagarone (connected by a shuttle service to the city centre), in Corso Mazzini near the train station or in via Cristoforo Colombo.
Easter is also celebrated at the table with the typical cassate with ricotta and other traditional foods.
The feast of Madonna delle Milizie
This feast is a historical reenactment of a miraculous event happened in 1091. After the victory of Roger I of Sicily over the Saracens in 1061, the Catholic force began the reconquer of Sicily that led, in 1091, to the liberation of Scicli from the Arab domination. According to a legendary miracle, a Virgin riding a horse and carrying a sword, called “Madonna a Cavallo” or “Madonna delle Milizie”, helped the population to defeat the Saracens. In the same place where this battle should have happened, there is now a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin. The battle between Normans and Saracens is remembered every year with one of the most folkloristic events of Scicli. The feast usually takes place the last Saturday of May and is celebrated with a theatrical representation of the battle, with the final victory of the Christians thanks to the miraculous appearance of the Virgin. It is the only religious feast in the world having a fighting Virgin.
Taranta Sicily Fest
Vuoi scatenarti ai ritmi della musica del sud? Vieni a Scicli per assistere al Taranta Sicily Fest, un grande concerto di artisti della taranta e della pizzica provenienti da Sicilia, Puglia, Calabria e Campania. L’evento si svolge ad agosto nella bellissima location barocca di Via San Bartolomeo, in un teatro all’aperto formato dai colli che circondano Scicli con lo sfondo scenografico della Chiesa di San Bartolomeo. La mattina, prima del concerto, potrai prendere lezioni di taranta partecipando allo stage organizzato collateralmente all’evento, per poi dar sfogo a tutta la tua passione mediterranea.
Street markets and food festivals
In Scicli there are two street markets: the first one takes places on Tuesday morning in Contrada Zagarone and the second one is on Saturday morning in the city centre (Largo Gramsci). During the year, do not miss the several food festivals with typical products of the south east of Sicily. Are you greedy of cakes? Then we suggest the Sagra della “Testa di Turco”, a food festival taking place at the end of May together with the feast of “Madonna delle Milizie”. The testa di turco is a typical pastry with custard, chocolate or ricotta cream. The “Sagra della Seppia” is another food festival taking place between February and March in the nearby seaside hamlet of Donnalucata. This event is a very good opportunity to taste an excellent dish with cuttlefish, from a dish of pasta with sepia ink to the arancini with cuttlefish.
What to do in the evening
The heart of the nightlife in Scicli is via Francesco Mormino Penna, the main street of the historic centre. Here there are most of the pubs and restaurants. Especially on Friday and Saturday evening, this street is full of people of all ages attracted by the music and the possibility to drink something outdoor, surrounded by the baroque atmosphere of the palaces and the churches overlooking the road. Both in summer and spring, the centre is always crowded and each pub offers outdoor music. Even at Christmas time, despite the cold, the town is always lively until late at night. In summer, you can go to the nearby seaside hamlet of Sampieri to have fun and dance on the beach. There are two beach clubs, “Pata Pata” and “Pappafico”, offering different genres of music and concerts.
Where it is and how to get to Scicli
Scicli is located among three valleys, called cave (Modica, Santa Maria La Nova and San Bartolomeo), and rises in the south east of Sicily in the province of Ragusa. It is only 9 km from the sea. Here you have some suggestions and advises on how to get to Scicli with different means of transport.
Scicli is about 128 km from Catania, the main city of eastern Sicily. To reach Scicli from Catania take the state road Catania-Ragusa (SS 194), go on until Modica and then follow the direction to Scicli. Otherwise, take the highway E 45 (Catania-Syracuse), proceed towards Noto and take the exit to Rosolini. From here, proceed along the coastal road
Pozzallo-Marina di Modica-Sampieri and go to Scicli along the SP 40.
From Syracuse you have to take the highway E 45 to Rosolini, then proceed to Pozzallo, Marina di Modica, Sampieri and, from here, take the direction to Scicli.
From Ragusa take the SS 115 to Modica and turn right into the SP 40 to Scicli.
Parking areas and Limited traffic zones (ZTL)
Here are some free and paying parking areas nearby or in the historic centre:
- Free and paying (blue lines) parking spaces in via Santa Maria La Nova and via Dolomiti
- Free and paying (blue lines) parking spaces in via San Bartolomeo and via Ispica
- Paying parking spaces (blue lines) in via Tagliamento
- Free underground parking area in via Tagliamento
- Paying parking spaces (blue lines) in Piazza Italia
To make easier your access by car to the historic centre we want to report some limited traffic zones:
- 24h pedestrian area in via Francesco Mormino Penna
- Limited traffic zone in via Nazionale each Saturday from 18:00 to 24:00. On Sundays and holidays the ban is valid all day.
It is possible to reach Scicli by bus from Catania, taking the AST line from the bus stop of the train station or from the Arrivals Terminal at the airport. Tickets can be purchased at the train station or at the terminal of the airport.
To get here by bus from Modica check out the AST website for all information regarding timetables and routes.
From Ragusa, take the AST bus from Ragusa to Modica and then take the connection to Scicli.
If you arrive from Palermo, you have to take the AST bus to Modica and then take the connection to Scicli.
Tickets can be purchased directly on the bus or at any ticket office, stationery or authorized dealer.
Daily flights connect Catania Airport to different Italian and European cities. It is about 128 km from Scicli and well connected by the AST line. IThe bus ticket can be purchased at the Arrivals Terminal.
Comiso Airport is about 50 km from Scicli and is the nearest one. To get here from this airport, you just need to book the Comiso Airport Shuttle, stopping also in Donnalucata.
The train station is between Corso Mazzini and via Pola. You can buy tickets and check out timetables and routes on Trenitalia.