which derives from the ancient town of Akrai (founded in 664 BC),
occupies a plateau dominating the gorges of the upper valley of
the River Anapo, at the heart of the Iblean mountains.
TOWN OF AKRAI – Area lying southwest of the town
the top of the hill, where the acropolis used to lie, all that is
visible of the small Greek theatre built of white stone is the floor
of the orchestra and this actually dates from Roman times. To the
right lay the bouleuterion, a stepped meeting-area, connected to
the theatre by a narrow passage leading straight into the cavea.
Near the gate that seals off the excavation area on this side, may
be seen a section of the old plateia (main road running from east
to west) paved with large slabs of lava stone.
former Greek quarries next to the theatre were converted by the
Christians for use as catacombs and troglodyte dwellings. Near the
entrance to the Intagliatella, the narrower of the two quarries,
on the right, there is a low relief of a heroic figure participating
in a banquet (right) and offering up a sacrifice (left).
of the area along the fence has uncovered vestiges of a residential
quarter and a circular building, probably a temple built in Roman
times. The track that skirts around the edge of the archeological
site provides a lovely view over the surrounding valley, reinforcing
the strategic positioning of the ancient city, founded as a defensive
outpost of Syracuse.
Santoni – 1km from the archeological site. Tucked away in
a small valley nearby, twelve rock-hewn figures dating from the
3C BC testify to the existence in Sicily of a cult of oriental origin.
The main sculpture represents goddess Cybele (Demeter), seated between
two lions or standing, surrounded by smaller figures. No. II, one
of the best-preserved, personifies the Dioscuri – Castor and
Pollux on horseback on either side. No. VIII shows the goddess seated.
CITY OF PALAZZOLO ACREIDE
was largely rebuilt in the 18th century and so has many Baroque
buildings lining its main thoroughfares: Corso Vittorio Emanuele
and Via Carlo Alberto which intersect at Piazza del Popolo. The
square is dominated by the majestic façade of San Sebastiano
raised up a flight of steps. At the western end of the corso stands
the Chiesa dell'immacolata with its convex frontage, in which is
preserved a most delicate Madonna and Child by Francesco Laurana.
Carlo Alberto passes between a series of palazzi with wonderful
Baroque details. One of the streets off to the right (Via Machiavelli)
leads to the Casa-Museo dell'etologo Antonio Uccello – a palazzo
once owned by Baron Ferla and later turned into a house-museum by
another owner, the ethnologist
Antonio Uccello. On the ground floor is displayed an oil-press (third
room) and the Casa del Massaro: the house of the baron's most trusted
man, furnished with everyday objects.
the end of the street, turn right into Piazza Umberto I where the
Chiesa di San Paolo is situated. The striking frontage, possibly
designed by Vincenzo Sinatra (an architect who worked mainly at
Noto) rises through three tiers of rounded arches and columns capped
with Corinthian capitals. The top storey comprises the bell-tower.
Via dell'Annunziata out of the piazza to the church of the same
name; its façade, which remains incomplete, has an interesting
doorway flanked with spiral columns. Return back along Via dell'Annunziata
and turn left down Via Garibaldi to take a look at Palazzo Iudica
(at no. 123-131) and its amazingly long balcony supported by brackets
carved with monsters, fantastical figures, masks and other such
elements so typical of the Baroque period.