Top places to visit in regal Vittoria, where refined Liberty architecture intertwine with baroque and neoclassical monuments

Vittoria is an Italian town of 63.746 inhabitants of the free municipal consortium of Ragusa in Sicily. It is, after the capital, the most populated municipality in the whole of Ragusa, ranking ninth in Sicily and ninety-seventh in Italy.

Founded in 1607, Vittoria is the youngest city of the free municipal consortium, and therefore has a modern checkerboard structure with wide and straight roads. Vittoria is located a few kilometers from Comiso airport.

The city was officially founded on April 24, 1607 by Countess Vittoria Colonna Henriquez-Cabrera. Once her husband Louis III, Almirante of Castile, duke of Medina de Rioseco and count of Modica, died, the countess found herself having to face serious economic difficulties caused by the unconscious representation expenses to which Louis III had given in the circumstance of the marriage of Philip III, king of Spain, with Margaret of Austria in 1599.

Vittoria Colonna decided to request the king of Spain to grant a royal privilege for the foundation of a new settlement, which would allow her to revive the fortunes of the family heritage. The chosen area was that of Boscopiano (Bosco Plano), where, among other things, some families, such as the Baroni Carfì, already lived in 1583 in the Boscopiano and Serra Rovetto districts.

The request was accepted, and the royal privilege, granted by King Philip III on December 31, 1606 in Madrid, ordered the rebuilding of the ancient Kamarina with the name of Vittoria.

Given the modernity of the city, it has fewer artistic monuments than other cities in the province. However, the city stands out for the variety of styles that characterize some buildings. Indeed, Vittoria is rich in evidence of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco style, introduced by the great Palermo architect Ernesto Basile. The Liberty style palaces and houses here have sober and elegant structures with protruding balconies, balustrades with a rich and refined decoration, portals topped with friezes with floral motifs, embellished with plastic-decorative details of rare compositional balance.

Let’s start our journey through the treasures of this unique Sicilian pearl!

 

Basilica of San Giovanni Battista

The basilica of San Giovanni Battista is the mother church of Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa and is located in the historic center of the city, in Piazza Vescovo Ferdinando Ricca.

It is a Latin cross church, with three naves of Corinthian columns, rebuilt between 1695 and 1706, after the 1693 earthquake; it was consecrated in the following 1734. Of clear baroque style, it has a simple facade, surmounted by two small domes; set on three horizontal registers, the central part is framed by pilasters with Ionic and Corinthian capitals.

Some documents demonstrate the existence of a large religious structure on the plane of the Trinity. It was the church of S. Giovanni Battista, connected to the convent of the Graces by today’s Via Principe Umberto. Although it was ruled by chaplains until 1640, it performed the functions of a parish, baptizing and conjugating. In 1640 the first parish priest, Don Vincenzo Sesti, was electrified, which will last until 1647. In 1693, with the violent earthquake, 40 children died for the catechism inside the church, but according to some, they were the only ones who died in Vittoria. So to understand which saint to thank, it was decided to put in an urn the names of all the saints who were venerated here and the name of St. John the Baptist would come out three times.

On 10 August 1695, the parish priest Mario La Lisa laid the foundation stone for the construction of the church, which was completed in 1706. His successor, Don Desiderio Ricca (1715-1730), was the 1st archpriest of Vittoria, builder of the late Baroque facade and member of the Ricca family, one of Vittoria’s strongest families, coming from Naples, continued to decorate the church with new altars. All the precious golds of the old church of S. Rosalia, patron saint of the town from 1624 to 1693, are brought here.

For the mother church of Vittoria, this period was undoubtedly one of the best. The relative Enrico, also Ricca, began in 1730, when he was appointed successor of Don Desiderio Ricca. He was born in Vittoria on 1 June 1690 and, like all his predecessors, continued the work of embellishment of the church, until it was consecrated by Mons. Matteo Trigona, bishop of Syracuse on 16 May 1734, and elevated it to Basilica Minore , aggregating it to the Magistral Liberian Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome on April 5, 1750 and there he procured many relics of saints and martyrs who were inserted in the new altar of the Addolorata. Furthermore, with him the famous organ builder Donato Del Piano came to Vittoria, who gave the basilica the fine pipe organ.

Between 1847 and 1909, the Scrofani-La China period opens, another beautiful period for the basilica of San Giovanni di Vittoria. It began with the appointment of Fr Giuseppe Scrofani as head of the parish, and ended with the death of his successor Fr Federico La China. The first was remembered for the construction of the beautiful dome that adorns the mother church, designed by the famous Gelese architect Giuseppe Di Bartolo Morselli in 1850, ending in 1854. The parish of Scrofani lasted until 1880. La China took its place. He called Giuseppe Mazzone to fresco them with the figures of the four evangelists (1880), had the organ gilded (1882), and also devoted himself to secular activities such as writing. His book “Vittoria from 1607 to 1890” is still used today to reconstruct the history of Vittoria.

The interiors are very rich, with decorations, stuccos, statues, marbles and numerous canvases. It contains a fine wooden altar, pictorial works by Giuseppe Mazzone (including the famous “Taledda”) and other Sicilian artists. Also noteworthy are the tomb of the Countess of Modica Vittoria Colonna (founder of the city) and the baptismal font, surmounted by a painting, dating back to around 1700, of the Caravaggesque school, which represents the baptism of Christ.

The polychrome marble floor, rich in decorations, dates back to 1801. In the central nave you can admire a valuable organ by Donato Del Piano from 1748 and the wooden pulpit by the master Carmelo D’Asta of the nineteenth century.

 

Pino d’Aleppo Nature Reserve

Pino d’Aleppo nature reserve is a protected natural area located in the municipalities of Vittoria, Ragusa and Comiso, in the province of Ragusa and was established in 1990. It was created in order to” safeguard the indigenous residual formations of Pinus halepensis and to replenish the pine forest in areas with a garrigue degraded by human action “.

Aleppo pine is a specific pine variety from Sicily, in the process of being extinct, the residue of an old wood. The irregular tree can reach ten meters in height. To protect its peculiarity, and in consideration that this tree was born here spontaneously, the Sicily region intended to proclaim, in 1990, this area between Vittoria, Ragusa and Comiso protected area. The reserve occupies the lower part of the course of the Ippari river and falls in the area between the inhabited area of ​​Vittoria and the mouth.

The area of ​​the reserve, along the course of the Ippari, counts not only the poplars, the willow and the willow, but also the Olivastro, the Carrubo, the Lentisco, the common Ilatro, the Alaterno. Moving towards the sea, here is the thorny oak. red juniper, white broom, Artemisia, dwarf palm, fragile Ephedra, thyme, heather, orchids.

For the fauna, we mention the Weasel, the Hedgehog, the Porcupine, the Rabbit, the Hare, the Fox, the Quercino Mouse, the Vole.

For birdlife, here are the Goldfinch, the Verzellino, the Blackbird, the Hoopoe, the Dove, the Magpie, the Moorhen, the Yellow Ballerina, the White Ballerina, the Buzzard, the Kestrel, the Falcon swamp; among the nocturnal birds of prey there are the Owl and the Barn Owl, the Knight of Italy, the Gray Heron, the Little Egret, the Mallard, the Marzaiola, the Shelduck, the Piro piro piccolo, the Kingfisher, the Bee-eater.

Reptiles present in the reserve are: Leopard snake, Lizards, Ramarri, Gongoli, Turtles. Amphibians present, green frogs and toads

Among the fish, when the waters of the river were certainly in conditions of greater ecological balance, there were tenches, eels, and noni.

The reserve is entrusted in management to the Regional Province of Ragusa Assesorato Territory, Environment and Civil Protection.

 

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, is one of the main places to visit in Vittoria, overlooking the central Piazza del Popolo.

The ecclesial structure, in operation in 1619 and completed in 1754, is located next to the Municipal Theater, has a facade which, added posthumously to the completion of the primitive factory, after the 1693 earthquake, was built in the late Baroque Hyblean style. The façade was given dynamism, elegance and wall flexibility, with the central part protruding and the two concave sides.

The architectural score, moved by the protruding and retracting masonry, is delimited by a sinuous frame that, like a decorative ribbon with curls inside curled, wraps and, together with the horizontal frames, slows the verticalism of the whole.

The last part with the bell cell and its tympanum, concludes the architectural construction in the skilful play of vertical, horizontal and curvilinear lines, which shake the wall matter. It can thus be said that the whole ends with a simplified but harmonious and balanced Baroque façade, sought after in the light-space relationship and softly resolved by the becoming of the compositional elements that underline the flexibility and architectural lightness.

The facade, from an engraving from “trends and municipalities of the Modica district”, showed the statues of the Madonna and San Giuseppe on the volutes of the first order, which were subsequently removed. The interior of the church, with a single nave, has five chapels symmetrically on each side. The Church is enriched by extraordinary and expressive sculptural groups from the Gianforma workshop, representing putti holding claw-holders, bearing biblical and devotional phrases, related to the theme of the altar and the Franciscan spirit.

 

Municipal Theater

The Vittoria Colonna Municipal Theater is the opera house in the city of Vittoria. It is called a jewel of neoclassicism.

After the construction of the dome of the basilica of San Giovanni Battista, the municipality of Vittoria called Giuseppe Di Bartolo to design a new theater in Piazza Camarina (now del Popolo), in the empty space between the church of the Grazie and via Dascone. The municipality also called the fellow painter Giuseppe Mazzone (1838-1880) and Corrado Leone, sculptor who in 1863 built the fercolo di San Giovanni Battista at the behest of the victories. Di Bartolo was unable to attend the start of construction because he died in 1865.

The works began in 1868, following Di Bartolo’s plans. The funds allocated were 250000 lire. Corrado Leone sculpted the external medallions with important figures from music, art and literature, the statues of Dance and Faun and the famous image of Apollo and the Muse while Giuseppe Mazzone painted the roof of the vestibule and the vault of the theater room. On the evening of June 10, 1877, the doors of the theater were opened to the people on the occasion of the performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino.

In 1884 the theater was dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II, but in modern times it has taken up the name of “Vittoria Colonna Municipal Theater”, in honor of the founding countess of the city.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries he was the protagonist of some large opera and theatrical productions, for example the “Rigoletto” by Giuseppe Verdi and other works.

It was closed for a long time in the second half of the twentieth century and reopened in the early 2000s. From that moment it was home to some shows, music and dance essays.

In November 2018, it was declared unfit for use following some water infiltrations on the roof and some cracks in some cross vaults. Work is expected to begin in 2020.

The theater is located in the final part of piazza del Popolo; the facade is divided into two rows of columns: in the first order there are three doors, the central one reserved for the public. There are four Doric columns, and four pilasters in the homonymous style, two for each side door. No type of vault was used in the portico: an architrave system was used; in the second order there are, above the side doors, two niches containing the statues of Fauno and Danza, by Corrado Leone; above the lower portico there is the upper one with four Ionic columns and four Doric pilasters, two per statue. Instead of the door there are four rectangular French doors and above the medallions, also by Corrado Leone. At the highest point of the theater there are the statues of Apollo and the Muse, both immersed in musical instruments. Below it is written, large, “MUNICIPAL THEATER”, even if in old photos there was written “TEATRO VITTORIO EMANUELE”.

When you enter the main door, you can admire the decorations on the coffered roof by Giuseppe Mazzone, which depict (centrally) Apollo with two Muses. The roof is supported by some Doric columns on each side. Immediately after you enter the theater room, completely stuccoed with gold, with the vault frescoed by Giuseppe Mazzone. On the sides there are portraits of great composers, theater characters and writers. In the center, there is a rose window, and cherubs and trines revolve around it. Each stage has a golden medallion. The Vittoria Colonna Municipal Theater has been declared a monument bearing a culture of peace by UNESCO.

 

Arianna Occhipinti Farm

The farm was born in 2004 by the will of Arianna Occhipinti, a young producer, one of the most authentic and famous women of wine in Italy.

The farm is based in Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa, on the now famous Provincial Road 68. Her history as a winemaker began very early, that is, after a diploma in Agriculture and Oenology obtained in Milan, she decided to return to her beloved Sicily, determined to produce high quality wines with respect for ancient traditions. In 2004 he bought a hectare of land, at the foot of the Iblei mountains, near Vittoria, and planted his first vineyard. Today the farm has expanded to 22 hectares of vineyards and orchards and includes, in the Fossa di Lupo and Piraino district, suggestive plots divided by traditional dry stone walls, where the typical vines of the area are grown: Frappato, Nero d’Avola , the Cerasuolo di Vittoria and the Zibibbo.

The production philosophy of Arianna Occhipinti is fiercely traditionalist and very respectful of the territory and nature: use of green manure in alternate rows, treatments with only copper and sulfur, fermentations carried out in cement tanks with indigenous yeasts, no filtration and refinement in large woods low or no toasting.

Arianna personally takes care of the entire production cycle, making the most of her Milanese studies, from the vineyard, as an expert in agriculture, to the cellar, as an expert winemaker, and she also had to train as a wise administrator and marketing expert.

Her wines, known and appreciated all over the world, reflect the characters, aromas and peculiarities of the terroir in which the vineyards are immersed.

Authentic, wild, but above all true wines: expression of one of the most charismatic producers of our peninsula.

 

Hypogeum of Donnafugata

The catacomb of Donnafugata is a Christian catacomb and late imperial village (4th century BC) located a few hundred meters from the Donnafugata Castle, a sumptuous noble residence of the late 1800s. The house overlooked the possessions of the wealthy Arezzo De Spuches family.

Since the arrival the castle reveals its sumptuousness: the building covers an area of about 2500 square meters and a large neo-Gothic facade, crowned by two side towers, welcomes visitors

The catacomb consists of two rooms connected by a small corridor. It is not well known as the importance of the castle makes this hypogeum, little advertised, go into the background.

The signs are near the car park, you need to go to the right and take a dirt road for about 20 minutes.

The hypogeum is divided into two areas: the entrance which is uncovered and the actual hypogean part. A narrow corridor, almost 17 meters long, connects the two sides.

The interior of the structure has three rows of four arcosoli each, two symmetrically opposite and one orthogonal to the central corridor.

The hypogeum presumably dates back to the 4th-5th century. A.D.

The axial and symmetrical arrangement of the entire system of burials organized by groups of shapes arranged in a scenic front within arcosoli suggests a unitary conception of the structure.

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