It’s not exaggerated to say that the Sicilian Baroque, a wonderful example of Italian beauty, has a precise date of birth: January 9, 1693. What happened in this far-away date?
Unfortunately nothing nice: one of the most violent earthquakes in Italy. And what’s the matter with such a nasty event with the beautiful Sicilian Baroque? Soon I said. The earthquake, with pain and devastation, favoured a powerful reconstruction work of the entire affected area.
It’s the end of the seventeenth century and it’s normal that the reconstruction was affected by the style at the time prevailing, the Baroque. Even though Baroque buildings were current before the earthquake, the reconstruction work of this period certainly gave a great push to the spread of style in Sicily. And that is the reason why the most important buildings in the area (churches, historic buildings, etc.) still resemble the Baroque style that today all over the world recognizes and envies us.
Unlike the Greek temples present in the island, which are the testimony and the legacy of a “foreign” people, the Greek one, Sicilian Baroque is exclusively a work of art, of Italian and Sicilian architects and designers, which even more makes this architecture, UNESCO World Heritage, a true pride of Sicily. Let’s go anyway for order.
In the main square of Ibla, a splendid historic district of Ragusa, you can visit the Cathedral of St. George (photo 1), an authentic star of the Sicilian Baroque. The church is at the apex of a scenic staircase of 54 steps, slightly divergent from the front of the square in front of it, an architectural design that allows you to see the dome behind on the opposite side of the square.
The facade is adorned with columns and statues; at the sides you can admire a bell tower that stands out and stands across the square. Of the ancient Cathedral destroyed by the earthquake remains only the ancient portal (photo 2), a few hundred meters far from the Cathedral, dating from the second half of the 15th century.
In the lunette, just above the door, is clearly visible St. George killing the dragon. The tour of Ibla, which requires a long afternoon walk, can end in the Ibleo Garden (photo 3), along the beautiful palm tree-lined avenue – which for a moment makes you feel a bit in Miami – and with its beautiful rooftop terrace on the beautiful Irminio Valley.
Like at Ibla, Modica is also the Sicilian Baroque, represented by the Cathedral of St. George (photo 4, taken from a panoramic point), also here at the vertex of a grand staircase of 250 steps which gives the church a momentum and a majesty yet more.
It is interesting to know that the Cathedral staircase is often the location of the set of “The Commissioner Montalbano”, a very famous italian TV series. If the exterior strikes for the beauty and perfection of the Baroque style in its maximum expression, the interior of the Church leaves breathless (photo 5). It is sumptuous with its five aisles, the Church is enriched by remarkable pictorial works, a polyptych of the main altar with 10 tables, a paved sundial, but above all the monumental organ with 3,000 canes.
At Modica it is possible to cross on the Guerrieri Bridge (also known as Modica Bridge), one of the highest roads in Europe. The 538-meter-high, 134-meter bridge connects the two hilltop districts of the town, separated by a deep gorge from the Modica riverfront. Do not forget to forget that Modica is famous for its chocolate. A taste here and there in the country can be a more than interesting experience.
Vittoria is a very beautiful Baroque town, a bit less well known than the other town, but definitely deserves a visit. It’s a very important agricultural center and has a very fine pregnant Baroque church dedicated to St. John the Baptist (photo 6), with a richly decorated interior of marble, stucco and a beautiful polychrome marble altar.
You have to see, in the central Piazza del Popolo, the small and suggestive Municipal Theater (photo 7), a neoclassical jewel with a horseshoe shaped hall and a capacity of almost 400 seats.
These are just a few examples of Sicilian Baroque but you can admire it in countless centers of Ragusan and not only: Noto, Catania, Syracuse, Scicli, Ispica, …… It’s difficult to describe them all. But who will have the luck (which I have had) to visit this wonderful island, you will be able to deepen …..!
Where to eat
If at the end of this baroque tour you are hungry, I can suggest the “Enoteca La Gorda” in the central Piazza del Popolo in Vittoria. Rooms with slightly higher prices than the average but they are justified by the refinement of the restaurant, the great selection of wines, the quality of the dishes. For my full review on Tripadvisor, click here.