Scicli: the most beautiful city in the world? - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

April 11, 2019

Scicli: the most beautiful city in the world?

The Scicli overview page on the Visit Sicily website begins with this quote about Scicli from Cities of the World, by Italian author Elio Vittorini: It is, perhaps, the most beautiful city in the world.  Based on our first impressions, I wouldn’t care to challenge the point.

Scicli is one of the eight Sicilian towns covered under UNESCO’s Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto designation as a world heritage site.  Others include Caltagirone; Noto (our next stop); Ragusa, the stunningly beautiful spot we visited in our first tour; and four others.  All were rebuilt in the late baroque style after their destruction in the 1693 earthquake.  They’re a famously beautiful collection, and every commercial tour of Sicily that I’m aware of features a visit to at least one of them - especially Noto, Ragusa and Caltagirone.  Scicli seems to be less well known, perhaps because it is smaller and appears to cater less to tourists, but it really is a stunning place.

We saw just a bit of it last night, on our brief stroll through the pedestrian zone looking for a meal (and finding several attractive options to choose from, surprisingly already open at 7).  Its first impressions are really wonderful: its marble streets gleam under the streetlights, ornate facades of churches and palaces line the streets, and every surface and corner seems worth your attention.  We’ll go out for a real look later today, but first let’s look at a few photos from last night as an introduction.

Scicli sits at the convergence of three large ravines, and the town is riven by deep channels.
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Restaurants are a very important factor for the hungry cycletourist when evaluating a town. Scicli rates well. This place looked fine, although we ended up in two others.
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The facade of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, one of an astonishing collection of baroque churches here.
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The Church is San Michele Archangelo stands at one end of this beautiful pedestrianized street lined with churches, palaces and the city hall.
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I’m not certain, but I think this is the church of Santa Maria de Nova. It’s framed by lights that are just now being erected to celebrate Holy Week.
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Nearly the entire core of Scicli is paved with white marble stones.
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Rachael popped out of bed this morning, full of excitement at being able to fix her own coffee and scramble some eggs.  Coffee was a big success - we’ve had enough experience with various espresso machines over the last year that she had no problem figuring out what to do. Generously, she brewed mine first, handed it to me, and pointed out the sugar jar.  Sadly though this was actually the salt jar, so the first coffee was ruined; but the next was excellent.

Eggs were a different matter.  We haven’t had as much practice with stoves, and this one completely stymied us.  We succeeded in finding a tech manual and a YouTube example for how to activate it, but still failed at being able to start the burner.  We finally gave up and called our host, who was over in five minutes.  She showed us how to activate the burner, following the exact steps we had just tried multiple times, and with the same lack of effect.  Puzzled, she flipped the pan over, studied the bottom, and retrieved a different one from the drawer.  Voila!  The burner will not activate until it senses a pan on it, but the sensor is magnetic so the pan has to contain iron.  She did not explain why she stocks her kitchen with frying pans that cannot be used on the stove.

Rachael was so happy to be able to brew coffee! She had a much different reaction when she tried scrambled eggs.
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After breakfast we went out to explore Scicli for a few hours before taking our afternoon bike ride.  Scicli is fantastic!!  One delight after another. We saw nothing to undermine Vittorini’s high praise of the place, and we both decided this is our favorite town in Sicily.  It is really a perfect two night stay, at least.  Like Caltagirone, there is so much here that it really merits its own photo album, so I’ll post photos from the morning’s explaration separately.

We enjoyed a lovely afternoon bike ride, taking a loop northeast of town through the countryside near Modica and Ragusa.  Conditions were excellent for cycling, and we spent a very leisurely couple of hours biking quiet lanes lined with limestone walls.  We went a bit further than planned because two roads in succession were barricaded - one for a road under construction, and the other for an unsafe bridge.  The added miles to bike along an alternate route cut into our time so we biked steadily for the final 20 miles, stopping only to admire the most charming foal I can remember seeing.

The last ten miles to Scicli are almost all downhill, dropping a thousand feet as we biked south with the sea shining in the distance ahead of us.   Most  of the elevation is lost is in the final two miles, when the road drops steeply through a thrilling series of about a half dozen hairpin turns.

Biking east from Scicli on SP41, up the valley of San Bartolomeo. This one is a nice, gradual climb that gains 800 feet in about seven miles.
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The gorge is riddled with grottoes that we’re inhabited since ancient times and as recently as the 1950’s.
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This part of Sicily is so different from others. Stone walls everywhere.
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I especially like this one. It looks like a work of art.
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For a while on this ride, Rachael was a bit dissatisfied. She’s finally got her camera working, so where are all the flowers?
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After scouting around, we finally managed to find a wall to sit on for our lunch break.
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A new mystery. We’re getting a different mix of flowers here, perhaps because it’s a bit later in the spring or because of habitat. This one grows prolifically along the base of the stone walls.
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Andrea BrownWell, look who we have here.

Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'. Does that sound familiar at all?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYou’d think I’d remember from one year to the next, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong. At least I’ve got rosemary down solid though!
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1 week ago
This is the first region we’ve biked through with cattle and horses.
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Another new one. This one likes walls also, but tends to grow on top of them.
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Andrea BrownCalendula! They originate in southern Europe and their name comes from the latin name for calendar.
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1 week ago
I’ve never seen a purple cow, but this will do until the real thing comes along.
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Jacquie GaudetI always thought that was an Ogden Nash poem, but it isn't. It was Gelett Burgess.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetHey, thanks for saving me some research!
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1 week ago
I don’t know what the story is here. Was the wall built to prop up this old survivor, or has the wall been here forever and the tree grew across it?
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A limestone-daisy torte, unique to Sicily I believe.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesWe certainly have not yet come across one here in northern Europe. Of course, the flowers are not yet in bloom up here.......
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonYup. We planned this day just for you. It has everything!
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1 week ago
Prettiest foal ever? I think maybe so. It was lying down when we biked up, and was quite wobbly standing up. I don’t think it’s seen the light of many days yet.
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If it’s the prettiest foal ever, it’s worth a second look.
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This is new today. Scicli is spiced up for Easter week, with a program of events starting tomorrow night. We watched lights going up this morning when we walked through town.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 2,700’; for the tour:  465 miles, 28,000’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 457 miles (735 km)

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Gregory GarceauEvery single day I could come on here and say things like: Awesome! Beautiful! Mesmerizing! Jaw-dropping! Well-written! Adventurous! Thank you!

But that would be excessive. Instead, I'll just do it once in a while.
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauThanks, Greg. Scicli is definitely awesome and jaw dropping, and it does feel like an adventure for sure. You might make it easier on yourself and let G-2 or Doris spell you on adulation duties, if they won’t be too snarky about it.
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6 days ago