UNESCO Heritage in Sicily - Sicilyincoming

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Sicily has 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Sicily's World Heritage sites include The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento (1997), The Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina (1997), The Aeolian Islands (2000), The Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (2002), Syracuse and the Pantalica Rock Necropolis (2005).

The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

The Valley of the Temples (italian: Valle dei Templi) is an archaeological site in Agrigento and it is one of the most outstanding examples of Greece art and architecture. The temples were built in the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

The Temple of Olympic Zeus, was the most imposing one, because the surface area is almost 7000 square metres. This temple was characterized by the presence of Telamons (huge statues about eight metres high), which symbolized the force of nature subjugated by Zeus. Near the temple there was a gigantic altar for sacrifices and there was room for two thousand believers to watch.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux remains including only four columns. It is a very picturesque complex and now The Temple of Castor and Pollux is the symbol of modern Agrigento.
The  Temple of Hercules is the most ancient. After earthquake it has only nine columns standing.
The Temple of Concordia, one of the most perfect from the stylistic point. It was converted into a church in the 6th century. The Temple of Concordia is now one of the best preserved in the Valley.
The Temple of Hera Lacinia or Juno, looks similar to the temple of Concordia: it was built more or less at the same time,but it is a little bit smaller. The temple was burnt by the Carthaginians in 406 BC, on the walls of the cell is still remarkable traces of the fire. The Temple of Concordia was usually used for the celebration of weddings.
There are also a lot of remains of the ancient city to be seen: from the  Temple of Aesculapius to the tomb of Theron and the Hellenistic-Roman district with the oratory of Phalari, The Temple of Vulcan, and finally the interesting Archaeological Museum.


The Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina

The Roman Villa of Casale at Piazza Armerina (italian: Villa Romana del Casale) , one of the most precious and famous Roman treasures in Sicily. The villa was built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD and it belonged to an unknown personage of the Roman aristocracy, who according to some historians might be even related to the imperial family. In the complex of villa was three big groups of rooms emerged and connected by galleries and courtyards.  The villa was with private thermal baths and  complete with all appurtenances. And, what is even more extraordinary, there were hundreds of square metres of mosaics. There was a mosaic cycle of excellent quality and graphic representation of the life and customs of a people - from hunting techniques, private life, mythological characters to geometric decorations. The decorations probably were done by African craftsmen, who infused great vitality and vigour into the mosaic.
Perhaps the most famous mosaic is The  Female Gymnasts (dubbed "the bikini girls") in which the young women perform sports including weight-lifting, discus throwing, running and ball-games. A woman in a toga is depicted with a crown in her hand and one of the maidens holds a palm frond. Another well-preserved mosaic "The Little Hunt" shows hunters with the dogs.


The Aeolian Islands

The Aeolian Islands (italian: Isole Eolie) appear in the motionless and clear air like certain drawing with the outlines of the islands floating between sea and turquoise sky. The Aeolians are almost magic and fabulous islands: they appear and disappear according to the whim of the clouds and the winds, changing their colour and, it would seem, even their position… The ancient Greeks, fascinated by their changing appearance, set more than one of their myths here.

The island Volcano with its dark look and the smell of sulphur floating around is a destination of tourists and volcanologists. The tourists come to search the emotion, to have a bath in the heated water of the volcano (which has therapeutic validity for the treatment of some skin diseases) and to climb on it. The volcanologists are attracted by the possibility to observe and study volcanic phenomena, its eruptive activity that provoked huge cataclysms in the past. It was really an eruption that detached Volcano from its neighbour Lipari.
The Lipari island is pulsating heart of the archipelago and its capital. The village is all around two landing places and in it there is the Aeolian Archaeological Museum. As well there is St. Bartholomew church, which has a beautiful ceiling; you can also see the excavations that have brought to light residences from different epochs, to enjoy the magnificent panorama of Marina Corta - the picturesque harbour on Lipari. A must is to sail around the island, which will allow sailors to admire caves, little bays and cliffs.
In the island Salina is dominating the massive shape of two mountains. This island is known as “the green one” because of the quantity of vegetation that covers it. In effect, its two main products are linked to nature: capers and Malaysia (a sweet liqueur known since antiquity). On Salina is the village of Pollara with a beach at the foot of a Cyclopic sheer part.
The Stromboli island is nothing but the peak of a huge submarine volcano, whose activity never ceases (eruptions are almost with regular intervals of 15-20 minutes). Today night-time excursions are organized to see how the eruptions reddening the black velvet of the sky.
The Panarea island is a picturesque mix of sea, archaeology and social life. Near Punta Milazzese there is one of the prehistoric villages that are most important for the history of the archipelago, also the splendid Cala Junco, one of the most beautiful in the Aeolian Islands.
The Alicudi island is not an island for everybody… There is not even one road, just only paths up, which you climb on foot or on a mule's back. The houses are few and tiny, concentrated in the western part, and it is only for a few years that they have had electric energy.
The Filicudi island is also very distant from mass tourism, although less wild than its neighbour Alicudi. A must is a bath in the gigantic Sea Ox cave, as well as excursions to the Perciato and the Canna spit (a basaltic rock-stack that rises over seventy metres from the surface of the sea).


The Baroque Towns of Val di Noto

The earthquake of 11 January 1693 was one of the most catastrophic events in Italy in historic times. The earthquake destroyed an area of hundreds and hundreds of square kilometres (practically all south-eastern Sicily), but the reconstruction, undertaken with heroic fervour, gave a rise to what is now named as the “The Baroque Towns of Val di Noto ” (italian: Val di Noto Baroque). The towns and villages chosen to reconstruct are: Catania and, in its province, Caltagirone and
Militello Val di Catania; Ragusa with Modica and Scicli; Palazzolo Acreide and Noto, in Syracuse province.
Catania certainly has a splendour of its own, in addition to an environment of great vivacity, artists and cultural personalities. Here you can admire the line of churches and monastic buildings in Via dei Crociferi, the gigantic San Nicola church and the refined backdrops of Piazza Duomo, with the building of the town hall, the Elephant and Amenano fountains framing the Cathedral, dedicated to the beloved patron St. Agatha, and the sumptuous Benedictine monastery.
Militello Val di Catania, in spite of its limited size, can boast of a quantity of Baroque buildings of merit: from the monastery, with the attached San Benedetto church, to the buildings of the nobility (Palazzo Baldanza-Denaro, Palazzo Liggieri). There are  large number of sacred buildings like the cathedral church or the church of the Madonna della Catena.
Caltagirone, well known for its ceramics production since remote times. The 142-step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, which since 1608 has connected the lower and upper parts of the town, is one of the best-known attractions in Caltagirone. The rarity is that each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial traditions of pottery making. Below it, there is the Baroque San Giuseppe church, also worth seeing is the beautiful San Giacomo church with an original bell tower on top.
Ragusa, in addition to a profusion of churches -including the beautiful San Giorgio Cathedral, at the extremity of the oblong plaza in the heart of the Ibla district – also has quite a big quantity of noble mansions. With curious harmony, the new Baroque buildings done at the behest of the local aristocracy were grafted onto a street texture that was still markedly medieval, creating that authentic jewel that is Ibla. Walking around looking up, the visitor will discover decorations with overflowing pomp, for instance on Palazzo Cosentini and Palazzo La Rocca.

Modica is a town with ancient history and prestige. Here the most famous monument is certainly the big San Giorgio church, with a long flight of two hundred and fifty steps preceding a high façade, as if it wanted to challenge the sky. San Giorgio is one of the most beautiful Baroque works in southern Italy, but there are other splendid churches in the town, like the beautiful San Pietro, Santa Maria di Betlem (inside which there is a the magnificent sixteenth-century Sacrament Chapel), and San Nicolò inferior.
In Scicli there are the dry-stone walls typical of the Iblei countryside, big bends as far as the village. If you arrive in the evening, the houses, the church and the buildings appear to be illuminated by warm gilded light, a charming spectacle finishing with many decorations in stone on the buildings. There are flowers, carvings and geometries as well grotesque representations like the two Moors' heads supporting the coat of arms of the owners on a corner-stone of Palazzo Beneventano.
Noto has always been considered as the “capital” of the Baroque, starting from the Salvatore monastery till the Cathedral. Then there is the San Domenico church, one of the most important is its façade framed by the palm trees in a neat little garden, and San Carlo. Also there is Palazzo Ducezio, which is the town hall, and Palazzo Villadorata, an old and very beautiful abode with a long façade adorned with balconies supported by decorated stone brackets.
Palazzolo Acreide  is not less important. Here there are a lot of richly adorned palazzos like the abode of Baron Gabriele Judica, who made him-self poor in his efforts to bring to light the remains of ancient Akrai. As well the churches are very beautiful: San Sebastiano, in the piazza of the town hall, and that of the rival saint Paul, both enchanting Baroque buildings, and the Annunziata, with a stately portal of twisted columns around which turgid augural vine-branches wind.


Syracuse and the Pantalica Rock Necropolis

Syracuse (italian: Siracusa) for a long time was one of the capitals of the Mediterranean. It is also a recognition of its determination to once again play a major role in the Mediterranean today, also, indeed above all, through the recovery and valorisation of the signs of the past. It means not only Magna Graecia, but also Swabian and Baroque, art nouveau and modern architectures.  Roads, piazzas, houses, churches and buildings are being restructured, transformed and opened to the public, and hotels, pubs, eating and drinking places of every kind are multiplying. All this is for a night life that is a worthy conclusion of the day spent visiting monuments: the  Neapolis, with the imposing Greek theatre where every year classical performances are done, the altar of Hiero, the latomias with the famous “Dionysius' Ear.” Then there is the area of the  Epipolis with the little San Giovanni Evangelista church, Catacombs of San Giovanni and the modern sanctuary devoted to the miraculous Madonna of Tears. There are the  museums, including the archaeological one, the biggest in Sicily and one of the most important in Italy, and the Regional Gallery, in which there are authentic treasures like the Annunciation  by Antonello da Messina and the  Burial of Saint Lucy  by Caravaggio. And last but not least there is Ortygia  with irregular little medieval streets gathered around the elegant cathedral square, one of the most beautiful in Italy, all surrounded by splendid buildings and dominated by the cathedral, whose Baroque façade hides the structure of an ancient Greek temple. From Ortygia everyone can set out in a wooden fishing boat to go to visit the caves on the Maddalena peninsula, whose extremity for some time now has been protected through the Plemmirio marine reserve; here you can go scuba diving or snorkelling to discover splendid seabeds. Not far away there are the boats that go up the  river Ciane, a pleasant and relaxing trip, but also one of great botanical interest, allowing you to observe the only wild colony of papyruses in Europe, as these grow along the banks of this river.
The  Pantalica Rock Necropolis is a place of wild beauty, at the confluence of the  rivers Anapo and the  Calcinara , which in addition to the archaeological interest is also interesting in terms of nature and landscape thanks to the richness and variety of the plant and animal species that live on the banks of the watercourse. Here the rocky bastion of Pantalica rises high over the deep valley hewn out by the water. Here in the stone, the Siculi (the prehistoric people that lived in Sicily before the advent of Greek colonization) dug out almost five thousand graves. With the passing of the centuries, the graves became a refuge for persecuted Christians, a hermitage and then a residence for Arabs and Norman. Today the  Pantalica Rock Necropolis is all that is left of a city that must have existed, and who knows what it was like.

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