This beautiful Baroque town sits in a gorge in southern Sicily just a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea. The creamy-colored buildings wrap around the rocky hillside; at night it looks like an elaborate nativity scene. At day, it basks in the sun and glows, with the piazzas and streets radiating the Sicilian's warmth.
The city has ancient roots, owing its founding and name to the ancient Sicel tribe, the original inhabitants of Sicily. It became a Greek colony, then saw the series of conquerors that swept onto the island, from the Romans to the Arabs to the Normans, and then various European rulers. Its current beauty is the result of a devastating earthquake in 1693, after which they decided to rebuild in style, with the results still being enjoyed today. There many magnificent churches, palaces, piazzas and streets to soak in the beauty of the chosen architectural style, decorated with carvings, gargoyles and fancy iron balconies. Abundant flowers give bright splashes of color.
Via Francesco Mormina Penna is a gem with beautiful buildings lined up and a vibrant cafe life at sidewalk tables. Among the sights, the church of San Bartolomeo is strikingly adorned, San Michele Arcangelo is a pretty pearl on a little piazza, and curvy San Giovanni would make Baroque master Bernini himself proud. A diversion from the Baroque comes at QUAM, the Quaderia Moderna, a modern art gallery. Food lovers will want to pay a visit to the Museo della Cucina Iblea, dedicated to the area's cuisine.
The town throws a lot of parties throughout the year, including food festivals dedicated to tomatoes and to fish, along with religious feasts that mark Holy Week. There is also a festa celebrating the town's victory over the Saracens called the Madonna a Cavallo, as legends says the Madonna rode in on a white horse to save the day.
Just a few miles away are the town's beaches in the "frazione marinara" - the fishing village and beach resorts that offer fabulous long stretches of sand and dazzlingly blue water. There are natural landscapes, dunes, free beaches and outfitted areas where you can rent an umbrella - in short, something for every sun-seeker. These beaches are praised as being some of the cleanest on the island.
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