Palazzolo Acreide - Late Baroque Town - Sicilyincoming

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PALAZZOLO ACREIDE


The site was inhabited certainly from the twelfth century BC, but its recorded history starts as the Corinthians from Syracuse in 664 BC founded Akrai. The city grew in beauty and wealth so much so that it minted coin between 210 and 125 BC. When the Romans arrived, the city became civitas stipendiaria, in the mean that a town was enforced to pay a fixed tribute to Rome. Akrai was destroyed by the Arab army around 827 A.C., and every trace of the ancient town was lost for centuries. The population built a new town, which was first mentioned in 1145 by the geographer Edrisi who called it Balansùl or Palatiolum. It rose on a small rocky spur below the first site on behalf of the Normans who allowed a village to grow around the castle. The town became wealthy again when the religious orders arrived there in the sixteenth century. The current structure of the town is the result of the Baroque reconstruction after the earthquake occurred in 1693. Today Palazzolo Acreide is a town full of folklore, religious festivals and lively cultural life, especially in the summer.




Akrai: an Archaeological Park

There is much more than the simple memory of ancient Akrai: the city, with plateiai and stenopoi, still extends for about 35 acres west of modern Palazzolo.
The Greek Theatre
The greek Theatre stands on the top of the hill and is the most distinguished monument in the archaeological site of Akrai. Its construction
dates back to the time of  Hieron II. The theatre is relatively small but was enough for most of population (7.000 - 10.000 inhabitants). It differs from other Greek theatres because it has not a semicircle upper angular development and it was not out of rock. Another particularity, which makes the Akrai theatre unique, is the semicircular orchestra's shape, which makes the scenes seem incredibly advanced compared to other theatres found in some colonies.
The Bouleuterion
Next to the theatre there is the Bouleuterion, a small sized building. It was the town senate (Boulè). Another particular construction can be found near the boundary walls which enclosed the Bouleuterion. It is a circular building thought by most to be thermal baths from the Roman era and converted as baptistery in the Byzantine era.



Boundary Walls and The Roman Hellenistic Road

The Akrai walls date back to between the IV and the second half of the II century B.C., but it is impossible to establish an exact date. Excavations have uncovered a main road, fitted with a splendid and well preserved lava paving, that is 250 metres long and 4 metres wide between Syracuse gateway and Selinunte gateway. Excavations have also revealed walls of houses along the road and intersections of the road with side streets called "stenopoi". The city road system was built in two stages, one during the Hellenistic era and the other in advanced Roman era.

Aphrodite's Temple
Located above the Greek Theatre, it was made up of six Doric columns at the front and thirteen to the sides for a total of 18.30 metres by 39.50 metres. Uncovered thanks to the finding of an ancient inscription which allowed archaeologists to ascertain that there were three temples in Akrai: the Aphrodisiac, the Artemision and the Koreion.
The Latomias
They were used as stone caves to draw the material needed for building homes and monuments in ancient Akrai. Later they were used as necropoli (buried place).
The Intagliata
It is of elliptical shape and it was accessed through a door situated under the theatre. Inside this area numerous hypogeums, arcosolium burial grounds and baldacchino style tombs from Christian times can be found.



The Intagliatella

It is a L shape and it is characterised by a series of votive niches containing "pinakes" (tables or painted votives), tombs and Byzantines houses. There are extremely sophisticated tombs with rich baldacchinos. Besides there is a descriptive bas-relief (dated around the first half of the I century B.C.) that shows a banquet of heroes with a figure of a Roman warrior and a propitiatory or thanksgiving sacrifice. The bas-relief shows signs of complete uniqueness for the mixture of consolidated Greek and Roman models.

The “Santoni”

They are located in front of the feral temples. The site hosts 12 large reliefs, ten of which represent a seated woman, while the other two include more complicated scenes with many figures. It is the greatest sanctuary to date uncovered, dedicated to the cult of the oriental goddess of fertility Cibeles. This cult, coming from Phrygia, was initially introduced in Greece and then in Rome with the name Magna Mater or Ceres.





Pinita Necropolis

The most important monument in the prehistoric life of Palazzolo is located in a pinewood in front of the scenic road "Panoramica". It is made up of fifty-four small artificial grottoes and each tomb is oval shaped.

The San Paolo Church

The Church of San Paolo, patron of Palazzolo Acreide, is truly spectacular. Rebuilt in the eighteenth century thanks to charity, today it is a World Heritage Site. It has a splendid Baroque tower façade, made of three stories with tall columns and arches ending with the elegant belfry on top. The three aisles stretch between masterpieces of religious art, be it sculptures, paintings or architectural details, such as those that emphasize the originality of the fourth altar on the left that seems to defy every law of physics. The attention, however, is immediately conveyed to the altar, framed by two large spiral columns: in the centre, behind the large canvas of Crestadoro depicting the Conversion of St. Paul, there's statue of the saint brandishing a sword, carved on wood in 1567 by Vincenzo Lorefice.


The San Sebastiano Church

The Church of San Sebastiano stands on a monumental staircase that connects the entrance to the church with the square opening in front of it, which was lowered during the post-earthquake reconstruction. It was completed in 1768. Its façade has the characteristic shape of a tower, with the central part that rises up and ends with a belfry. The interior is divided into three aisles, and there are many valuable works of art, including a St. Margaret of Cortona attributed by some to Vito D'Anna, by others to Olivio Sozzi.

The Annunciation Church

The Annunziata Church has a beautiful façade which partly maintains the spirit of the time when it was built, that is between the thirteenth and fourteenth century. In 1474 Antonello da Messina painted The Annunciation for this church, which today is kept at the Bellomo Museum of Syracuse. The façade, which was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, is filled with beautiful spiral columns and a trabeation, decorated with carved festoons of fruit. Inside, a beautiful Lady of Carmel, sculpted in 1700, and the main altar with precious marble inlays composing pictures of flowers and beautiful birds.


SHORT FACTS

Palazzolo Acreide: Late Baroque Town of the Val di Noto, UNESCO World Heritage site.
Area: 86,34 km²  
Elevation: 670 m  
Population: 9 061
Population name: Palazzolesi
Dialling code: 0931
Zip Code: 96010
Geographic Location: South-Eastern Sicily
Saint Patron : San Paolo

FEAST AND EVENTS DAYS

- 20th January: Feast of San Sebastiano
The feast of St. Sebastian is celebrated on January 20, the day commemorating the martyrdom of the saint, and then again from the 9th to the 17th August. The latter is the “true” festival, reaching its climax on the 10th, when a big crowd waits in front of the church for the exit (sciuta) of the statue, welcomed in the square with a shower of 'nzareddi (strips of coloured paper) and fireworks.
- 25th January and 29th June: Feast of San Paolo
A'Sciuta of St. Paul: is held on June 29 and is one of those folk feasts one can't miss. At 1pm, the statue appears on the top of the staircase of its church and a deluge of coloured 'nzareddi (paper strips) submerge the entire square (and much of the surrounding streets), covering everything between the sky and the street.

- February / March: Carnival


Palazzolo Carnival is one of the oldest in Sicily, dating back to the Middle Ages, when the barons allowed to sing and have fun before Lent. Today it is one of the major events of Palazzolo, with funny parades of allegorical floats followed by crowds of grotesque masks and live music almost at every corner. All the people are wearing masks with richly colourful costumes and enjoying the great show.  
- May: International Youth Festival of Classical Theatre
During the second part of May, in the beautiful Greek theatre this festival takes place, organized by the municipal administration together with the Fondazione INDA, the Syracuse regional Province and Sicily INDA Ltd. This is one of the most interesting events for school, where the protagonists are students (from all over Italy and abroad) presenting the work done during the previous month.

FLAVOURS AND AROMAS

- Extra-virgin Olive Oil of the Hyblean Mountains D.O.P.
- Pasta ravioli with ricotta cheese in a pork sauce
- Wild boar sausage or pork sauce
- Pasta “Cavateddi”
- Ricotta cheese from Hybleans
- Canestrato

HOW TO REACH

By car: Palazzolo Acreide can be reached by A18 (ME-CT-SR) then take the exit Siracusa Sud - Floridia - Solarino and follow the road SP124   (Floridia – Solarino - Palazzolo)

By train: in Palazzolo Acreide there is not railway station. The nearest one is at Syracuse, from there to take a bus.
Until Syracuse train tickets - www.trenitalia.it

By bus: AST  - 0931 462711 www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it/

By plane: the nearest airport is “Fontanarossa” in Catania (87km)
www.aeroporto.catania.it

TOURIST INFORMATION

Location: Corso Vittorio Emanuele 61
Info: 0931 882668; 329 6198962  
Opening hours: from 9:00 to 13:00 & from 15:00 to 19:00

The Main Church (Madre Chiesa)

The Main Church dedicated to San Nicola, built on a pre-existing Norman church, has a square and simple façade. It holds many works of art, starting from the altars: almost all of them are made of polychrome marble and adorned with precious pillars and carvings. Paintings by Olivio Sozzi, like the one depicting the Souls in Purgatory, hang side by side with works of high value such as the Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus which many scholars attribute to Mario Minniti, or the beautiful monumental altar where you can admire the painting St. Nicholas of Myra by Paolo Tanasi. Noteworthy are also the statue of Christ at the Column, between the main altar and the chapel on the left, and the sixteenth century painted Cross.

The San Michele Church

The Church of San Michele was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693. It rises at the end of an imposing staircase. Inside, divided into three naves, there's a seventeenth century painting of St. Michael, hiding the niche housing a wooden statue of the saint.








The Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception, announced by the beautiful staircase that leads right up to the original convex façade, holds the statue of the Madonna and Child made in 1472 by Francesco Laurana.

Ruins of the Norman Castle

The medieval quarter is called Castelvecchio as it expands around the remains of the castle (the palatium which has given Palazzolo its present name) which was recently restored and reopened to the public. The fortified building was built in Norman years, and was first a royal residence then the abode of the baronial family. It changed as the centuries passed until the terrible 1693, when the earthquake flattened much of the central-eastern Sicily.

Public Garden

Located in the Marconi square you can find the public garden. It has four large, long paths with great variety of age-old trees, hedges and shrubs. On the central path there is a stone statue, the "Flora", by Giuseppe Giuliano.


 

House-Museum of Antonino Uccello

Antonino Uccello, creator of the “Casa museo”, was a poet and anthropologist. The goal of “Casa museo” was to make available a coherent display of objects, places and records belonging to a world depending on a rural economy under irreversible transformation.  Instead of creating a museum of memories and nostalgia, Uccello focused his attention on setting up environmentally-consistent scenes, in order to show the visitor the way the exhibited items were used. Furthermore, he took care of making some display areas versatile, rendering them fit for temporary exhibitions concerning the different aspects of folklore, sometimes enhancing its aesthetic and artistic value, some other time proposing interpretations of its most hidden symbolic and communicative meanings. The House-Museum was bought in 1983 by the Administration of the Region of Sicily. It is currently organised to strictly respect its founder’s will, displaying its original arrangement to visitors.

Location: Via Machiavelli 19

Info: 0931 881 499

Opening hours: Daily from 9:00 to 13:00 &  from 14:30 to 19:00
Ticket: Full price - € 2,00; Reduced price - €1,00


Museum of Travellers in Sicily

“Museo dei Viaggiatori in Sicilia” is a small museum in which exhibits ancient maps, original prints, photographs, old books from the time of eighteenth-century Grand Tour in Sicily. Annexed to exposure there is the library that, through texts and computer consultations, documents the history of the “trip to Sicily”.

Location: Palazzo Vaccaro - Via Maestranza 5
Info: 0931 472181
Opening hours: Monday Closed; Tuesday - Sunday from 9:00 to 13:00 & from 16:00 to 20:00
Web:  www.museoviaggiatori.it/index.html




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