Sampieri, the legendary seaside village

Sampieri is a seaside village of about 627 inhabitants in the municipality of Scicli, in the province of Ragusa.

Sampieri

Sampieri is a well-known seaside resort, an ancient and charming fishing village, with a tiny and romantic historical center of stone houses and cobbled streets, it is located along a limestone spur, between two fine golden sand beaches: the largest extends for about 1800 m to the east of the inhabited area and the smaller one of about 400 m, is located to the west. The economy of the village is nowadays mainly linked to agricultural activities and tourism, having a first-class hotel accommodation facility and a modern well-equipped and functional campsite.

In Sampieri and surroundings, the traces of human presence are lost in the mists of time. In the locality called “Costa ri carro”, adjacent to the minor beach, the remains of excavations are still visible in the limestone rock, for extraction purposes. Partially submerged today, these excavations are a plausible indication of a settlement from the Neolithic period and appear suddenly and mysteriously interrupted, perhaps due to a natural catastrophe.

Prehistoric evidence is also evident in the so-called “Cava rô Ràbbusu”, a shallow valley located in the hinterland of the Fornace Penna, originating from a tectonic fracture of the Miocene and which subsequently became the bed of a torrential stream that takes its name of Torrente Petraro.

According to some, in the area where Sampieri is currently located there was a Greek colony called Apolline, name deriving from Apollo, since in the 6th century BC. in the locality called “Ô Puzziddu” or “Ô Puzzu râ zâ Vanna”, it seems there was a temple, now lost, in honor of Apollo Archegete, which the founders of the Greek colonies used to build for propitiatory purposes, as the historian reports Thucydides.

Arab geographers mention Sampieri with the name of Marsa Siklah, a port where ships from North Africa and the Near East could dock until the thirteenth century before it was covered up.

The etymology of the name of Sampieri is shrouded in legend and seems to be related, according to some traditions, to St. Peter the Apostle who landed there in 40 AD. while on his way to Rome. Others recall that St. Paul was also present there on his third apostolic journey, coming from Malta.

Sampieri also includes the presence of famous exponents of twentieth-century Italian culture and art. It was in fact visited in 1959 by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Carlo Levi and Renato Guttuso.

Among the famous visitors of Sampieri, the painter Piero Guccione and the art critic, writer and politician Vittorio Sgarbi and the actor, comedian, director Roberto Benigni are also mentioned.

Let’s discover together this unforgettable Sicilian seaside village!

Fornace Penna

Fornace Penna is a monument of industrial archeology and is located in the Pisciotto district in Sampieri, a hamlet in the municipality of Scicli in the province of Ragusa.

The Fornace Penna was built between 1909 and 1912 on a project by the engineer Ignazio Emmolo, who graduated in mathematics in Catania and civil engineering in Naples in 1895.

The factory produced bricks that were exported to many Mediterranean countries: much of Tripoli (Libya) after the war of 1911 was built with “Pisciotto” bricks. We worked from six in the morning until dusk, from May to September; with the first rains the Fornace Penna was closed. A hundred workers aged between 16 and 18 found employment there. The plant ceased operations during the night of January 26, 1924, due to an arson attack which destroyed it in a few hours. An abandoned letter attributes the gesture to the socialists, while another hypothesis overshadows the suspicion of an internal revenge in the fascist ranks.

As evidence of that productive past, only ruins remain: “‘o Pisciuottu”, as the ancient factory is called by the inhabitants of the place; and in the inexorable passage of time, disintegrating silently and discreetly, La Fornace Penna awaits its destiny. This building has always been at the center of great controversies and debates: between the proposals to modify it in the hotel or to make it become a cultural place or, simply, to implement a maintenance restoration. In recent years, thanks also to the charm of its ruins, the Fornace Penna has been used as a film set: “La Mànnara”, as the location of the factory is named, in an episode of the television drama Il Commissario Montalbano.

On the occasion of his visit, the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi even called it “a secular basilica by the sea”.

The furnace was of the Hoffmann type and consisted of sixteen chambers arranged in a ring, five meters long and three and a half wide each. The forced draft was exercised by a 41 meter high chimney and the factory was 86 meters long. In the eastern part (32 long and 25 meters wide) it was intended for machinery. The engine room housed two hammer pulverisers; a mixer with large propellers, supplied by bucket elevators, two laminators with dies for the production of crackers, forced bricks and curved or curved tiles, a revolver press for the production of Marseille tiles, a press for the production of tiles ridge. There was also a small compartment for the manufacture of molds, Marseille tiles and sliding rollers for the trolleys of the dies.

 

Villa Penna

In the middle of the Sicilian countryside, in the area of ​​Sampieri (fraction of Scicli), there is an abandoned villa that holds a precious secret. The construction dates back to 1878 but, over the years, some structures have been added. There is not much information about the current owners, but it would have been a home for the Penna family.

The surname Penna will surely sound familiar to you. It is, in fact, the same as the Fornace Penna, made famous by the adventures of Commissioner Montalbano (on TV, the Fornace has become “La Mannara”).

To explore this unique villa surrounded by countryside were the guys from Urbex Sicilia – Sicilia Abbandonata.

The structure is quite dilapidated, as can be clearly seen from the video they shot. On the lower floor there is a chapel and an area used as a farm. You can find all the rooms of a normal home, from the kitchens to the bedrooms.

The peculiarity of this house can only be seen by looking at the ceiling. To make this villa very unique, in fact, is the presence of some frescoes, despite all well preserved, with bright colors.

Thus, angels, landscapes and flowers are seen. In what can be called the “Music Room”, there is a woman playing the harp, surrounded by portraits of great composers of the past.

In the floor there are still remains of ancient majolica. Unfortunately, some of the frescoes have been torn off and stolen. Too bad you can’t know more about the history of the abandoned villa of Sampieri.

 

Costa di Carro Beach

Punta Corvo is part of the Costa di Carro extra-urban park, a nature reserve bordered by Cava d’Aliga and Sampieri. In the almost two kilometers of park you can admire the rocky coast and the gentle beach of Costa di Carro with its dunes and clear sea. The beach, private and intimate, is a place where you can spend peaceful days on the beach in contact with nature.

The Park of Costa di Carro is the perfect place also for those who love walking and cycling, this stretch of coast is crossed by a dirt road that connects Cava d’Aliga with Sampieri and reaches up to the Fornace Penna of Contrada Pisciotto ( about 4 kilometers).

The small beach is easily accessible by car but also on foot. At the end of the Sampieri promenade you will find yourself in a pretty little port with a row of houses overlooking the sea, passing this suggestive “village inside the village”, a large stretch of coast will open up in front of you with a steep cliff overlooking the sea. After this pleasant walk, the beautiful beach of Costa di Carro will open in front of you.

The beach with its beautiful dunes is closed on one side by Punta Sampieri, on the other by the extra-urban park of Costa di Carro which with its cliff covered by Mediterranean scrub extends to Cava d’Aliga, also including Punta Corvo. The park is a fantastic natural oasis where the typical dwarf palm and agaves thrive. Costa di Carro is perfect for relaxing by the sea or for walking or cycling. Two goodies: the Grotta dei Colombi, ‘in Spaccazza.

This environment sometimes dominated by strong colors, others by soft shades, inspired the famous painter Piero Guccione. The Sciclitano artist, who returned to his hometown in the 70s, will begin to paint his famous seas looking at the blue sea off Punta Corvo.

Looking at this panorama, you understand why the sea is the protagonist in your painting!

 

Santa Croce Camerina

Santa Croce Camerina is a town in the province of Ragusa, 30 minutes away from Sampieri, overlooking the Sicilian canal and with an exquisitely Mediterranean character.

The panoramas of Santa Croce are imbued with a typically Trinacria atmosphere and glimpses of warm and enveloping colors peculiar to an island in the heart of the Mediterranean. Walking through its alleys you can breathe an air full of traditions and saltiness from the nearby coasts, custodians of magnificent beaches in the most authentic Sicily. The most important monument of Santa Croce Camerina is the Mother Church, dating back to the thirteenth century and masterfully restored in the eighteenth century, has a three-nave structure that contrasts the rich baroque facade with minimalist and austere interiors. The cult building preserves, among other works, a copy of the Caravaggio Madonna of Loreto, attributed to the Nordic painter Martin Faber, and a statue of San Giuseppe, the patron saint of the city, from Salvatore Bagnasco’s workshop.

The Regional Museum of Kamarina is a particular museum located by the sea, and collects an interesting archaeological heritage found in the areas of the town, the necropolis and in the port area of ​​the ancient colony of the same name.

It is one of the most spectacular and most famous archaeological sites in Sicily, both for the richness of the finds preserved there and for the scenery that hosts it. Also in a coastal area, between Punta Secca and Casuzze, there is the equally interesting Archaeological Park of KauKana.

The site has just under thirty buildings grouped around a small church: wonderful original floors, houses, rooms and interesting courtyards have been wonderfully preserved over time thanks to the particular environmental conditions of the place: the structures have in fact remained covered for centuries by sandy dunes that have preserved the buildings well. Visiting these places today allows you to make an incredible dive into a past capable of reviving every detail and letting yourself be imagined in all its glorious splendor.

Castello di Donnafugata

The origins of the Donnafugata castle date back to the year 1000, that is, to the times of the Saracens or Arabs as they are called today. Which, completed the conquest of Sicily, fortified it with towers and fortresses, especially in the points considered strategically most important. Among these they included the locality which they called Aian as iafaiat, equivalent to Fonte della salute, since in those neighborhoods there was and still is a source of healthy water. It is not known how and why the people of Ragusa at the time translated Aia into Ronna (woman). The fact is that Ronna, adapted to the Arabic words as iafaiat, generated the dialectal name of Ronnafuata, corresponding to the Italian Donnafugata.

Regardless of the origins of the denomination, one thing is certain: that rather high point from the sea, from which you can observe the sea of ​​Punta Secca, Scoglitti, Gela, Licata and also the Agrigento hills, the Saracens fortified it by erecting a tower.

In 1093, when the Normans conquered the Saracens from Ragusa, they elevated this city to a county and divided its territory into fiefdoms. Thus, the locality was called Donnafugata fief, which the various counts of Ragusa, followed by Goffredo the Norman onwards, assigned to their most valiant followers, naming them barons of Donnafugata.

Around the year 1300, by the will of the Count of Ragusa Manfredi Chiaramonte, a modest castle was built in the Donnafugata fief.

In 1410, the king of Sicily died Martino I, his wife, Bianca di Navarra, was appointed regent and queen of Sicily. It is said that during his regency, 1410-12, the count of Ragusa Bernardo Cabrera, although close to old age, asked the young and beautiful queen to marry her; so with one stone he would have caught two pigeons: a young wife and the kingdom of Sicily. As the queen refused to marry him, Bernardo Cabrera, who had his own army, persecuted her, captured her and had her locked up in the modest castle of Donnafugata, from where, with the help of the usual faithful servants willing to die for their queen , managed to escape and reach the Maniace castle of Syracuse. Subsequently, he reached Catania and finally Palermo, from where he ordered the arrest of Count Cabrera, having him translated before the King of Spain to have him sentenced. But the king thanked him. Understanding and solidarity between old men or womanizer? Maybe both.

The populace derives the name Donnafugata from this fictional story and another which is told later, which should mean an escaped woman.

In 1648, the Donnafugata fiefdom, by Baron Guglielmo Bellio Cabrera passed to Baron Vincenzo Arezzo, who passed it on to his heirs.

Since in the eighteenth century the custom of spending the summer months in the small houses or country villas was widespread among the nobles of Ragusa, the Arezzo family transformed the modest castle erected in 1300 into a small house, leaving the fourteenth-century tower intact.

In the nineteenth century, the fief and the Donnafugata house were inherited by Baron Corrado Arezzo.

 

Comiso

The town of Comiso in an extensive valley between the Iblei Mountains, about 1 hour by car from Sampieri. The first traces of settlements in the area date back to the Neolithic era, the period in which the Sicilians lived there. Comiso is the heir of the ancient Greek colony Kasmenai, whose remains are located in Cozzo di Apollo, a hill close to today’s inhabited center. Subsequently, the population moved to what is now the definitive position of the city, near the Fonte Diana, around which Roman remains were found. During the Byzantine domination the city was fortified, the urban layout developed and the first churches were built.

The arrival of the Arabs brought with it a new period of development. During their dominion, the dry stone walls that characterize the hilly landscapes of the whole Hyblean territory were born. After the expulsion of the invaders, the city followed the same fate as the other released Hyblean centers and in 1393 the fiefdom was assigned to the County of Modica, initially under the rule of the Cabrera and then of the Naselli. In this period the city enjoyed a great economic and urban development, with the construction of numerous convents and monasteries.

Following the construction of the nearby city of Vittoria, part of the population left Comiso. The subsequent plague of 1624 and the earthquake of 1693 gave it the final coup de grace. However, after the tragic earthquake that devastated the whole of eastern Sicily, a period of great architectural renaissance also began for Comiso with the construction of churches, public and private palaces in Baroque guise.

During the fascist period, the military airport was inaugurated which today has been converted into a civilian airport and represents an important link for Sicily, especially for tourism in the province of Ragusa. In recent years, a little-known historical event took place in Comiso: at the end of 1944, insurrectionary movements were widespread throughout Sicily to avoid the recruitment of soldiers in the royal army engaged in the liberation of mainland Italy. The so-called “Non si parte” motions found fertile ground especially in Comiso, where the rebels proclaimed the “Independent Republic of Comiso”, but surrendered after a week under the threat of bombing.

The city, home of the writer Gesualdo Bufalino, is rich in history and culture: of particular interest are the remains of the Roman Baths of Diana, the prehistoric tombs and the caves of Cava Porcaro and the Aragonese Castle, home of the various lords who succeeded the city ​​government. Among the churches, the Church of S. Francesco all’Immacolata stands out, dating back to 1300 and to which the convent and the Arab cloister were added, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria delle Stelle with its large external square, which was restored to its splendor after the earthquake of 1693. On one of the hills surrounding the valley of Comiso there is the “Pagoda of Peace”, one of the few pagodas present in Europe, which was built by a Buddhist monk made entirely of white stone, so as to be visible from all over the city.

Donnalucata

Donnalucata is the most populous fraction of Scicli. The pretty village overlooking the Mediterranean is only 7 kilometers from the center and is characterized by two large beaches, that of Micenci and the Ponente beach.

Micenci beach is located at the end of the promenade of via Marina, where a large beach over six kilometers long opens up to Cava d’Aliga, another fraction of Scicli. This beach is much loved by locals who spend their days here at the beach between relaxation and sport, it is very common to find people who play football, tennis, beach volleyball and tam beach.

The first stretch of beach is more crowded, the further you go the larger stretches of beach are almost deserted. The breakwaters that protect the coast and create protected stretches of sea are ideal for children. Micenci beach is suitable for families and those who love large spaces and tranquility.

Ponente beach, delimited by the pier of the port of Donnalucata and by the cliff leading to Playa Grande, is smaller but more welcoming. The beach is separated from Viale della Repubblica, one of the main arteries of the hamlet, by the Lentini promenade which overlooks the golden sandy beach. The pier is much loved by fishermen and by those who want to take a dip!

In Donnalucata, human settlements date back to the Greek age. At the end of the 11th century it became a land coveted by Saracens and defended by the Normans, according to an ancient legend the two peoples fought an epic battle on the beach of Donnalucata in 1091. The Normans led by Ruggero D’Altavilla had the better of the troops of Emir Bell Khan only thanks to the intervention of the Madonna delle Milizie, the warrior Madonna to whom a sanctuary is dedicated upstream of the seaside village.

The name of the township would derive from the Arabic Ain-lu Kat which literally means source of the hours, it seems that a source of fresh water that seems to have flowed only in the hours of prayer. Still today fresh water sources emerge on the Donnalucata coast, the most evident of which is on the beach of Micenci

The current urban aspect began to take shape in the nineteenth century when there is still a clear distinction between the fishermen’s huts and the villas of the nobles. Among these, there is Palazzo Mormino Penna, a building with a characteristic red facade and in neo-Gothic style whose decorations recall the symbols of Sicily.

At the end of the same century, in 1883, the church of Santa Caterina da Siena was also completed.

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