There are so many beautiful places in Sicily that it’s hard to know where to start when singing praises for them all, but I really do appreciate a quiet spot. Sciacca is one of those quiet spots. Then again, I wasn’t visiting during their Carnival.
My days of dancing the night away are behind me now, I like to wander, on my own, through small, twisting streets and sit silently gazing over the sea. And there’s a lot of sea around Sciacca, the Mediterranean, of which only a relatively narrow stretch divides the town from North Africa.
It was raining as the bus brought me down from Palermo, not enough to deter me from dropping my bag at the B&B and wandering up the steep streets to look out over the port. Cleverly, I went up, so that I could, after finding a coffee, more easily go back down.
It’s an excellent harbour. Boats were absolutely crammed along the quay, fishing is a vital industry here as it must have always been, Sciacca was a significant trading centre strategically placed to transport goods by sea. The Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Saracens, the French, the Spaniards and the Austrians certainly found it so.
This is a well-worn little city, a colourful jumble of bellied balconies and mullion windows cascading down the slopes to the sea, a sumptuous mix of overlapping architectural styles on a medieval layout.
Plus a superb castle.
There’s a wild and dreadful story about the family who lived in this castle.
From 1400 to 1529 a protracted and extremely bloody feud erupted between two competing baronial families, the Luna, of Aragonese origin, and the Perollo, of Norman stock,
I was told that it all began with a jilted bride, that the beautiful Margherita Peralta was left at the altar by a certain Giovanni Perollo. Whatever started this, the result was nothing short of horrific.
During the struggles – referred to at the time as “the Case of Sciacca” – over half the population met their deaths. Finally, in 1529, Sigismondo Luna killed Giacomo Perollo and dragged his savagely mutilated body, tied behind a horse, through the city. Such outrage was expressed at this atrocity that Luna fled to Rome where, haunted by the horror, he ultimately threw himself into the Tiber. So much for family feuds!
After hearing that nasty story I had to take myself to the Duomo, the church of Maria Santissima del Soccorso, with its magnificent interior. It was quiet and peaceful inside, a good spot to think about the statue of the Madonna which apparently was mysteriously washed ashore a few hundred years back and saved the people of Sciacca from a plague.
After the excitement of a tramp up and down hilly streets (just ridges of rock, really) an historical bloodbath, a sensational church and a first class harbour overlaid with the pervasive smell of fish, I was hanging out for some food.
I found it in Piazza di Scandaliato, a spacious and shaded seaside promenade, with an array of little restaurants and a spectacular view of the sea.
Sciacca is famous for its fish dishes such as zuppa di pesce Paranzaso and Cappuccettu frittu but I tried pasta con sarde. Sadly the pasta con sarde was too sardiney for me, I like sardines but the dish could have done with less oil. However, eating outside and watching the world go by made up for it.
As did the piquant lemon ricotta tart. I’d call this a flan. Va bene.