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Caltanissetta: General Itinerary en it

 Caltanissetta is a city with a rich cultural heritage demonstrated by its numerous museums, archaeological sites, churches and monuments.

Its most remarkable archaeological sites, such as: Sabucina, Gibil Gabib, and Palmintelli, are testimony to the intermingling of indigenous and Greek cultures.

The city’s Medieval history is visible in the ruins of Pietrarossa Castle presumably built by the Arabs (Qal’at an-nisāh, from which the name Caltanisetta derives, actually  means Women’s Castle), and by the nearby Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli which dates back to the Swabian era. The church has been recently restored along with the Franciscan (Greyfriars) Convent. The Norman Abbey of Santo Spirito is yet another excellent example of medieval architecture, with its splendid geometrical lines and simplicity of stonework.

During the modern era the city was ruled by the Spanish house of Moncada, which built numerous churches. Amongst these are especially beautiful the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nova and the Church of Sant’Agata al Collegio, which features a Greek-cross plan, exquisite marble inlay on the altars and faux marble painting on the vaults. Other noteworthy examples are the Church of San Domenico characterised by a baroque façade, the Churches of Santa Flavia and Santa Croce, the church of the Madonna Assunta (attached to the Capuchin convent ), and the church of the Madonna della Grazia.

The House of Moncada was also responsible for the construction of the incomplete Palazzo Moncada, which is characterised by typically baroque zoomorphic and anthropomorphic balcony corbels.
There is also an entire Eco-Museum to discover in the numerous crypts found underneath the naves of the city’s churches such as: Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Sebastiano, San Domenico and Madonna della Grazia.

Between the eighteenth and the nineteenth century the city grew through sulphur mining, which allowed local middle class landowners to prosper and become the city’s elite, building their fine townhouses along Corso (Avenue) Umberto I and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

In the sulphur mines surrounding the city, such as Trabonella, Gessolungo, Giumentaro and Iuncio-Testasecca, miners and young boys, called carusi, worked under miserable and inhuman conditions, often becoming victims of terrible accidents. Their stories will follow in this guide.

About the same time, sculptor Michele Tripisciano established himself in the city’s artistic scene. He later donated his works to the city, amongst which are two important bronze sculptures: the Triton fountain in Piazza Garibaldi (assembled by architect Averna by re-elaborating Tripisciano’s original cast) and the monument dedicated to King Umberto I.

At the beginning the twentieth century a monument to the Redeemer was erected on top of Mount San Giuliano, designed by the Sicilian Art Nouveau artist Ernesto Basile. It is still a place of devotion and leisure for the locals, providing a breath-taking view of central Sicily. 

Caltanissetta’s historic quarters boast not only an atmospheric maze of narrow alleys, characterized by devotional niches and beautiful churches overlooking small piazzas, but also one of Sicily’s oldest markets: the Strat’â foglia.

Today, while the city’s rich heritage is still evident, it also displays interesting contemporary architecture, both civic and religious. There are also many cultural sites: the Scarabelli City Library  and the Regina Margherita City Theatre, along with many other museums such as: The Regional Archaeology Museum (Museo Archeologico Regionale), the Diocesan Museum (Museo Diocesano), the Mineralogical, Palaeontological and Sulphur Mining Museum (Museo Mineralogico, Paleontologico e delle Zolfare) and the Tripisciano Civic Museum (Museo Civico Tripisciano).

Caltanissetta and its rich cultural heritage await your discovery!

Translated from the original Italian by Agnese Tomasella, MLitt in Museum Studies and Museum consultant for Rete Museale Culturale e Ambientale  del Centro Sicilia (The Central Sicily Museums, Culture and Nature Network)

This audio guide is part of the project Sicilia Beni Culturali for izi.TRAVEL coordinated by Elisa Bonacini, University of Catania


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