tag archives: sicily

eastern sicily is renowned for baroque architecture.  especially, baroque balconies.

many of the medieval cities in eastern sicily, including catania, siracusa and ortigia, noto, modica, and ragusa, were relocated or rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1693.

map of sicily

areas affected by the earthquake of 1693

photo credit wikipedia
palazzo biscari, considered the finest private building in catania, was built following the earthquake, between 1702 and 1763, by the paternò castello family, who still own the baroque palace.

entry courtyard

palazzo biscari | via museo biscari, 10 | catania, sicily

photo credit tripadvisor

palazzo biscari is renowned not only for the baroque balcony on the western wing that has seven sculpted windows…

 baroque balcony with seven windows | sculpted by antonino amato | early 18C | palazzo biscari | catania, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

…but also, for the rococo ballroom in the eastern wing that has painted and parcel gilt wall panels and a fresco ceiling depicting the banquet of the gods, the glory of the family biscari.

the palazzo biscari ballroom is often described as the finest rococo room in italy.

 rococo ballroom | fresco ceiling painted by matteo desiderato | 1780-82 | palazzo biscari | catania, sicily

photo credit media-cache

our private tour of palazzo biscari, guided by a member of the paternò castello family, was one of the highlights of our trip to sicily.  our guide was a most enthusiastic historian, who appreciated an interested audience.  in the portrait gallery, he even posed in front of a portrait of one of the princes of biscari so that we could see how much he looks like his ancestor.  especially, in profile!

the palazzo nicolaci di villadorata in noto was built during the same time period as the palazzo biscari, between 1701 and 1765.  the palazzo nicolaci is most famous for its six baroque balconies with anthropomorphic corbels.  the palazzo nicolaci balconies are considered iconic examples of sicilian baroque architecture.  and, symbols of the eight late baroque towns of the val di noto (noto valley), which are included on the UNESCO world heritage list.

via corrado nicolaci | noto, sicily

left:  palazzo nicolaci di villadorata

center:  chiesa di montevergine

right:  palazzo modica di san giovanni

 

 balcony of the adolescents | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

balcony of the lions | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

 view of noto from the balcony of the lions | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

 

balcony of the mermaids | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

 balcony of the turks | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

balcony of the winged horses | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

 balcony of the adolescents | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
typically, sicilian baroque balconies have carved corbels and ‘goose breast’ wrought iron railings, which were supposedly designed to accommodate the full skirts of 18th century women’s dresses.

diagram | sicilian baroque balcony

photo credit michelin green guide | sicily | p. 86

palazzo cosentini | corso giuseppe mazzini | ragusa ibla, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 palazzo la rocca | via capitano bocchieri, 31-33 | ragusa ibla, sicily

now ristorante duomo and one of the ragusa ibla tourist offices

photo credits cdn.c.photoshelter and hermes-sicily

 palazzo tommasi rosso-tedeschi | corso umberto I | modica bassa, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

some palazzos are in better condition than others.

 

villa mazza di villallegra | via vittorio emanuele II | catania, sicily

photo credits panoramio.com  and lisa walsh | innerspace

 

 corso san giorgio, 87 | modica alta, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

corso san giorgio, 73 | modica alta, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

corso san giorgio, 23 | modica alta, sicily

did you notice the corbel in the lower right corner?

 photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

corso san giorgio, 89 | modica alta, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

palazzo napolino-tommasi rosso | corso francesco crispi | modica alta, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

palazzo rubino-trombadore | corso umberto I | modica bassa, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

many sicilian baroque balconies have figural brackets.  but, many more have volute or scroll shaped corbels.

 palazzo nicastro | corso giuseppe mazzini | ragusa ibla, sicily

photo credits panoramio, lisa walsh | innerspace and panoramio

palazzo sortina trono | piazza degli archi | ragusa ibla, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace



palazzo impellizzeri-vianisi | via della maestranza, 17 | ortigia, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

via camillo benso conte di cavour, 48 | noto, sicily

flat for sale (vende)

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace


palazzo danieli-rizza | via della maestranza, 110 | ortigia, sicily

photo credits antoniorandazzo and lisa walsh | innerspace

palazzo rau della ferla | via silvio spaventa | noto, sicily

photo credits appartamentofragola.altervista and lisa walsh | innerspace

palazzo cilestri | via etnea, 116 | catania, sicily

now a coin department store

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

travel tips:

where to find baroque balconies in eastern sicily.

and, some other scenic places to visit.

catania

via crociferi


villa bellini botanical park | catania, sicily

photo credit turismo in sicilia

ortigia

via della maestranza

via vittorio veneto (aka via mastrarua)

bridge from siracusa to ortigia | ortigia, sicily

photo credit turismoambientalesicilia

noto

via corrado nicolaci

via camillo benso conte di cavour

corso vittorio emanuele

via silvio spaventa

view of noto from the balcony of accolades | villa nicolaci di villadorata | noto, sicily

left:  palacio ducenzio, now the noto town hall

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

ragusa ibla

corso giuseppe mazzini

via capitano bocchieri

piazza degli archi

view of ragusa ibla | ragusa, sicily

blue roof:  chiesa santa maria dell’itria

photo credit luisa iengo

modica

corso umberto I

corso francesco crispi

corso san giorgio

300 steps from modica bassa to modica alta

from corso umberto I to the duomo di san giorgio  | modica, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 you may be familiar with the famous mosaic tile floor of ten female athletes, nicknamed the ‘bikini girls’, from the villa romana del casale, a 4th century roman villa located near piazza armerina in central sicily.*

mosaic tile floor | room of girls in bikinis (sala ragazze in bikini) | room 30
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit wtfarthistory.com

the villa romana del casale is the most impressive archaeological site that my husband, bob, and i have ever visited.

unesco describes the mosaics from the villa romana del casale as:

‘the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the roman world.’

the mosaics are exceptional not only for their quality, but also for their quantity.  a spectacular mosaic tile floor, called the ambulatory of the great hunt, covers the 200 foot (60 meter) long passageway that connects the reception, private, and utility areas of the villa romana del casale.  the mosaics depict the capture and transport of ferocious and exotic animals to rome for the hunts that preceded gladiator events.

mosaic tile floor | hall of the great hunt (corridoio della grande caccia) | room 28
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credits unesco and lisa walsh | innerspace

the mosaics are so exceptional, and the villa romana del casale is so large, that some scholars speculate that it could have been an imperial commission.**  so far, 46 rooms, totaling 43000 square feet (4000 square meters), have been excavated.

the prevalent opinion among scholars and art historians is that the villa romana del casale was built during the 4th century, between 327 and 357.***  and, that both the building and the decoration, which also includes interior and exterior frescos, are from the late roman period.

yet, some art historians have noted stylistic differences between the mosaic tile floors.

mythological or allegorical scenes, like the poet arion surrounded by sea creatures in the chamber of arion (room 37), are more naturalistic than domestic or genre scenes, like the fishermen in the hall of cupids fishing (room 24).  could they have been designed by the same people?

 mosaic tile floor | chamber of arion (diaeta di arione) | room 37

villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

mosaic tile floor | atrium of cupids fishing (atrio delgi amorini pescatori) | room 24

villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

 photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

in addition, the mosaic tile floors in the triclinium (room 36) look different than the floors in the rest of the residence.  could they have been installed later?  maybe.

some scholars argue that the villa could have been constructed in phases:  1.  the rectangular peristyle (rooms 11-31, 35, 37-46)  2.  the bath complex (rooms 3-10)  3.  the entrance (rooms 1-2) and the oval peristyle (rooms 32-34, 36)****

floor plan | villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lasiciliainrete.it

could that explain why the ‘bikini girls’ were installed over a geometric patterned mosaic tile floor?  the room of girls in bikinis (room 30) is located adjacent to the oval peristyle.  could the ‘bikini girls’ have been part of the final expansion?

geometric mosaic tile floor | under the room of girls in bikinis (sala ragazze in bikini) | room 30
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

as an interior designer, i am less interested in the ‘bikini girls’ and more interested in the geometric patterns.  the geometric patterns are a textile designer’s dream!

cubicle of fruit (cubicolo della frutta) | room 45


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duralee|highland court | lalique rayon/silk fabric | 800249H-720


field

martyn lawrence bullard | mamounia linen fabric | MLB2314

medallions

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photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace, duralee|highland court and martyn lawrence bullard
cubicle of cupid and psyche (cubicolo della scena erotica) | room 46

 

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did you notice the fresco remnants on the wall?

holland & sherry | ringlet linen/wool fabric | DE11843

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kelly wearstler|groundworks | ombre maze viscose/linen fabric | GWF-2806.416

medallions

 

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 photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace,holland & sherry and kelly wearstler|groundworks

the field patterns and borders in the utility rooms are as interesting as the mosaic tile floors in the master’s apartments.

utility room (sala mosaico a ottagoni) | room 26

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field


border

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

utility room (sala mosaico a quadrati) | room 27

repeat

field


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photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

what textiles (or trim) could you design from the mosaic patterns?

footnotes

*sicily became the first roman province in 227 BCE, and remained part of the roman empire until 395 CE.

**some scholars think that the villa romana del casale was commissioned by emperor maximanus (r. 286-305) or his son, maxentius (r. 306-312), between 290 and 312.  villaromanadelcasale.it

***the gymnasium mosaics (room 15), which feature the circus maximus in rome, could indicate that the villa romana del casale was built between 327 and 357.  emperor augustus (r. 31 BCE-14 CE) installed an obelisk in the center of the circus maximus in 10 CE.  in 327, the obelisk was moved to the perimeter of the circus maximus to make room for a larger obelisk, which was installed by emperor constantius II (r. 337-361) in 357.  the villa romana del casale gymnasium mosaics only have one obelisk, which is located on the perimeter of the circus maximus.  so, some scholars believe that the villa romana del casale was built between 327 and 357 CE.  villaromanadelcasale.it

****the floor plan of the villa romana del casale is unusual because the orientation of the the rectangular peristyle (rooms 11-31, 35, 37-46) and the oval peristyle (rooms 32-34, 36) are not axial.  a coin, dating to 355-361, was found in the west wall of the foundation of the oval peristyle.  so, some scholars believe that that the oval peristyle was built later than the rectangular peristyle or the bath complex.  villaromanadelcasale.it

click here or here for more information about the villa romana del casale.

when you go on vacation, do you ever book a room with a view?

how about a room with a site?

during our recent vacation, my husband, bob, and i stayed at an extraordinary hotel in southeastern sicily.  a hotel with an archaeological site.  the eremo della giubiliana, which has been an agricultural settlement since the greeks colonized sicily during the 8th-3rd centuries BCE, has an archaeological park.  the site of a greek necropolis (cemetery) from the 5th-2nd century BCE.

 the necropolis | 5th-2nd century BCE | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 we knew that we were staying somewhere special, when upon our arrival, we were greeted at reception by angelo, the general manager, and a waiter with a silver tray holding two glasses of cold latte di mandorla (almond milk), a traditional sicilian summer beverage.

the entrance, reception and lounge | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credits eremo della giubiliana, hotels.com and lisa walsh | innerspace
then marco, the concierge, showed us through the courtyards to our (upgraded) room, the suite della guardia.

 room 14 | the suite della guardia | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

the bedroom and the sitting area both have restored stone walls and floors, cathedral ceilings with chestnut beams, and antique sicilian furnishings

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
during the 12th century, the eremo della giubiliana was part of an ecclesiastical feudal estate.  the oldest existing part of the convent, the square stone watch tower, was built during the 15th century when the building was used as a fortified rural residence.  the knights of the order of saint john (san giovanni) from malta occupied the convent during the first half of the 16th century, when the suite della guardia was used as the guards room.  did you notice the date of 1536 inscribed into the stone plaque above the bed?

  stone plaque dated 1536 | the suite della guardia | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

 photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

during the 18th century, a landed aristocratic family purchased the estate.  the nifosi-mancini family has owned the eremo della giubiliana since then.  the present heiress, lady vincenza iolanda nifosi, decided to restore the convent for use as a five star luxury hotel, which opened in 1997.  her son, who is an architect, designed the restoration project.  she resides on the estate.  and, she and her family manage the estate holdings.

‘when my son asked me to open the eremo to guests, he tried to convince me by saying that our family had always welcomed their guests there. i objected that all the people who had been welcomed within the privacy of our eremo were our friends, too. the answer was that, once in the eremo, our guests would become our friends.’

-vincenza iolanda nifosi

28 october 1997

architectural rendering | salvatore a. mancini architect | eremo della giubiliana restoration project | ragusa, sicily

did you notice the flag flying from the 15th century stone watch tower?

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
outside, there are secluded courtyards…

  stairs and courtyard outside the grand master’s suite | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

the grand master’s suite now occupies the top floor of the 15th century stone watch tower

photo credits eremo della giubiliana and lisa walsh | innerspace
a shaded swimming pool…

swimming pool | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace
and, herb and kitchen gardens.

herb and kitchen gardens | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

part of the kitchen garden was being replanted

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
the cuisine at the restaurant, don eusebio, which is located in the former 16th century refectory, features seasonal estate grown and local organic produce, fresh seafood, and wild game.  in addition, chef peppe cannistra offers sicilian cooking courses and oversees the don eusebio workshop, which makes tenute eremo della giubiliana estate grown products.

chef peppe cannistra | cooking class | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credit facebook.com/eremodellagiubiliana
the breakfast buffet featured house made marmalade, freshly baked brioche, fresh melon and figs, and freshly squeezed fruit juice.  one of the best buffet breakfasts that we’ve ever had at a european hotel!  we would have loved to bring home some of the tenute eremo della giubiliana marmellata di arance amare (bitter orange marmalade).

tenuta eremo della giubiliana estate grown products

fruit and vegetables, marmalade, olive oil and olive oil soap, capers, almonds, dried fava and cicerchia beans, lentils and chickpeas, plus organic wheat flour, couscous, and pasta

   photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

there are so many outstanding restaurants in southeastern sicily, that bob and i decided to dine out.

pietro leemann, the chef at joia, one of our favorite restaurants in milan, highly recommended some sicilian restaurants where some of his former sous chefs are now chefs.  david tamburini at ristorante la gazza ladra in modica.  and, accursio craparo at accursio ristorante in modica.  according to giorgio locatelli, the chef at locanda locatelli in london, pino cuttaia could be considered the best chef in sicily.  so, we also had lunch at ristorante la madia in licate on the way back from the valle di templi in agrigento.  lorenzo, the concierge who booked our restaurant reservations, and angelo (the general manager) were most interested in our restaurant reviews!

it’s a good thing that the eremo della giubiliana is conveniently located near the archaeological sites in agrigento and piazza armerina.  and, the baroque towns of ragusa, modica, and noto.

we cover a lot of territory when we travel.  while we were in sicily, we drove 2000 kilometers (1250 miles)!


photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

eremo della giubiliana

located off sp 25, between ragusa and marina di ragusa

97100 contrada giubiliana, ragusa, sicily

+39 (0)932 669119

eremodellagiubiliana.com 

did you know that some of the most well preserved examples of ancient greek architecture are located in sicily?  the greeks colonized sicily from around the 8th-3rd centuries BCE.  so, my husband, bob, and i were excited to visit some of the greek archaeological sites during our recent vacation to sicily.

 map of greek archaeological sites in sicily

photo credit best of sicily

in ancient greece, there were two kinds of sacred buildings, theaters and temples.

in the theaters, the ancient greeks held celebrations in honor of dionysus, the god of wine.  greek tragedy developed from these celebrations.  stone theatres were built in a semicircular shape, with tiered ledges for seating (cavea or theatron) surrounding the stage (orchestra), where the altar of dionysus (thymele) was located.  the chorus entered from either side of the stage and surrounded the altar.  the backdrop for scenery (proscenium) and the backstage (skene) were located behind the orchestra.  the natural surroundings also acted as scenery.

teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

the cavea or theatron | teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

the orchestra | teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

photo credits rilievoarcheologico.it and lisa walsh | innerspace
even though we stayed at the san domenico palace in taormina, we decided not to visit the theatro antico di taormina.  one day the theater was partially closed.  and, the streets of taormina were filled with so many tourists that we decided not to
return.

the proscenium | teatro antico di taormina | 3rd century CE | taormina, sicily

the theater could be either greek or roman

part of the proscenium is still standing

the theater is now used as a concert venue

photo credit strettoweb.com

in the temples, the ancient greeks held rites and sacrifices in honor of a god or goddess.  at the heart of the temple, an oblong chamber called the cella housed a statue of the god or goddess.  the pronao (antechamber) was located in front of the cella.  while, the opisthodomo (treasury) was located behind it.  a peristyle (colonnade) surrounded the building, which was constructed on a stepped foundation.  the columns, which supported the architrave (main beam) were erected on the stylobate, the highest step of the foundation.

some of the most extraordinary existing doric temples are located in sicily.

 diagram of the doric order

photo credit jtrullin

the entablature | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the columns | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the stylobate | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the temple is well preserved because it was converted into a christian basilica during the 6th century CE

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 plan | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the roof was accessed via stairs, located on both sides of the entrance to the cella

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di giunone (hera lacinia or juno) | 450-440 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the columns were re-erected in the 18th century

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

plan | tempio di giunone (hera lacinia or juno) | 450-440 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di giove olimpico (zeus) | 488-472 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

described in ancient texts as the largest doric temple in the western greek world

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

plan | tempio di giove olimpico (zeus) | 488-472 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di ercole (eracle or hercules) | 6th century BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the eight columns on the south side were re-erected in 1921

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

tempio di ercole (eracle or hercules) | 6th century BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

the valle dei templi contains more monuments, including some temples that remain in ruins, and one temple that was reconstructed during the 19th century from architectural elements of different periods.  and, a garden, originally planted around 500 BCE, that has been restored by the fondo ambiente italiano (fai), the italian national trust.

if you need a break from the tourist filled archaeological park, you can stroll through the five hectare (12 acre) giardino della kolymbetra, which is located on the south side of the valle dei templi.  in the garden, the terraces are planted with mediterranean botanical specimens.  and, a cane lined stream runs through the valley, which is cultivated with fruit and nut orchards, as well as citrus and olive groves.

 view of the tempio dei dioscuri (480-460 BCE) from the giardino della kolymbetra | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the temple was reconstructed in 1836, using archaeological elements from different periods

photo credit fai
even the duomo in ortigia, an island connected to siracusa by bridge, is built around a doric temple from the 6th century BCE.
the duomo was rebuilt in the baroque style following the earthquake in 1693, which destroyed much of eastern sicily.  palermo architect, andrea palma, incorporated the doric columns from the greek temple into the baroque building.  so, the columns now frame the some of the duomo’s lateral chapels.

 doric columns from a 6th century BCE greek temple incorporated into the duomo | ortigia, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
we only visited eastern and southern sicily.  so, we didn’t go to selinunte or segesta, which are located in western sicily.

 tempio E | 5th century BCE | parco archeologico di selinunte | castelvetrano, sicily

reconstructed in 1957

photo credit parco archeologico di selinunte

tempio di segesta | 430 BCE | parco archeologico di segesta | calatafimi segesta, sicily

the temple is possibly incomplete

it doesn’t have a cella, the shafts of the columns are un-fluted, and there aren’t any holes for the roof beams in the architrave

photo credit regione.sicilia.it
that gives us one more reason to plan another sicilian holiday!