High in the hills of south-central Sicily, Chiaramonte Gulfi is called a "balcony" for its sweeping views of the valleys, mountains and sea. Mt. Etna looms large in the distance. Ragusa is only fifteen kilometers away, and Modica is nearby, too. Siracusa is to the east on the coast, a must see for its incredible Greek remains.
The town was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC, originally called Akrillai. It was destroyed by the Carthaginians and was later was conquered by the Romans in 213 BC but retained a Hellenic presence, which was particularly known for the production of ceramics. The Arabs arrived in 827 and established a new settlement called Gulfi. It wasn't until Manfredi Chiaramonte, the Duke of Modica, took possession that is began to grow and prosper. It became a walled city, then burst out of the walls with growth. It was practically destroyed by the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt, mostly in Baroque style.
There are a dozen churches in Chiaramonte Gulfi, mostly in Baroque. San Giovanni Battisti is the protector of the town, and the church dedicated to him was built in the 14th century by the Knights of Malta. There are eclectic frescoes. There is a big festa in his honor on June 24. San Vito is the patron saint, the opulently decorated Baroque church was built in the 16th century. You won't want to miss the Basilica of Santa Maria la Nova, either.
There are many palazzi and pretty buildings around the historic center. There are also several museums, impressive for a town this size. The Pinacoteca De Vita is an art gallery dedicated to the local master, Giovanni De Vita, whose paintings are insightful and lovely. The History-Military museum puts the focus on WWI, while the Museo dell'Olio is dedicated to the area's fine olive oil production from 1600 to the post-war period. There is a Museum of Sacred Art, a Lace and Needlework Museum, and the Liberty House Museum, with interesting art and furnishings on display.
Chiaramonte Gulfi is in a beautiful position, and is close to the Baroque towns of the Val di Noto that collectively are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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