Sciacca (AG)

The Piazza Scandaliato in SciaccaSciacca is my favourite small town in Sicily. I arrived (in November 1993) with nowhere to stay - I found the tourist office and was directed in halting French to the Pensione Buenos Aires - up a few steps from the Corso Giuseppe Licata, in the Via Triolo, next door to the PCI headquarters. I was welcomed like a long-lost family member - the tourist office had already phoned - by two charming middle-aged men. They took me upstairs, sat me down, poured me a beer and invited me to join them for lunch. After an afternoon excursion - up to Caltabellotta in the hills behind: a hair-raising drive but worth it for incredible views - I returned for a hot shower and a chat with the patron. He told me that the Sciaccatini love festivals, carnivals and culture. I knew about the carnival - which sounds as if the town becomes a miniature Rio or Port of Spain for five days at the beginning of Lent; and there's a sea-festival at the end of June when the whole town smells of frying fish.[See] But culture? I checked a local bookshop - easy to find the complete works of Aeschylus (as well as Euripides and Shakespeare): try that in Biggleswade!

Fishing boats in the harbour at SciaccaAfter an excellent meal at a trattoria near the Duomo, I joined the crowds in the Piazza Scandaliato, a large shelf overlooking the sea. The Agora in Athens must have been like this! People were strolling quietly in small groups - men, women, families, couples, boys, girls, old and young, all classes - just talking softly and enjoying the southwest breeze from the African Sea. There had been a meeting of Rete (the anti-Mafia party) - perhaps this had something to do with it , but the atmosphere was sensational. There was no yob element as in Messina - just an intelligent well-behaved crowd. Perhaps Taormina could have been like Sciacca if it weren't for the tourists (none in Sciacca apart from me - it was November, though ). Like Taormina it has several levels, and a "balcony over the sea" (a phrase overused to describe Taormina) - there are excellent shops (as well as the bookshop!), but also many selling repellent ceramiche - not for tourists as there aren't any. Sciacca was once famous for its beautiful ceramics - but like those at S. Stefano di Camastra on the north coast, it's hard to detect any traditional art in the contemporary offerings.

My second evening (after a day in Selinunte) I spent strolling around the upper part of the town: there's no squalor - as can be found even in Ortigia in Siracusa - but it's a long way from touristified picturesque. I had a most memorable meal at the Trattoria del Moro - royal treatment as the only customer! Superb spaghetti con gamberetti, the best pesce spada (swordfish) I've yet tasted in Sicily, and a lovely ripe pear.


Use the table below to find your way around Sicily:
Santa Margarita del Belice

Printer friendly page: click to print

What's new? Search the site? Main Index? Bookshop? Top of Page?
The Classics Pages are written and designed by Andrew Wilson
Comments, questions and contributions welcome.