Located at the very heart of Sicily,
Caltanissetta nestles atop a plateau at 568m asl. Founded by the
Greeks, it underwent numerous dominations over the centuries. It
achieved its greatest prosperity in the beginning of the 20th century
thanks to the exploitation of the sulphur mines, that remained a
leading industry until few decades ago when the fierce competition
from American companies caused the closure of all its mines. Till
then, the sulphur was exported worldwide, Caltanissetta’s
output accounting for 80% of the world consume.
Caltanissetta is particularly renowned for the celebrations of the
Holy Week: on Good Thursday groups of 19th century statues by Neapolitan
artists are arranged to represent scenes from the Mysteries of the
Passion, the Deposition being particularly impressing; on Friday’s,
the statue of a Black Christ is carried through the streets of the
city. Throughout the year the statues are kept inside the Church
of Pio X on Via Colajanni.
AROUND THE CITY STREETS
old town clusters around Piazza Garibaldi – the jonction point
of the two main streets and overlooked by the Town Hall (a former
Carmelite convent), the Cathedral and the Church of Saint Sebastian
with, like the churches of Sant’Agata (at the end of Corso
Umberto) and Santa Croce (at the far end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele),
a baroque dark-red colored front elevation contrasting with the
natural-stone color of the other architecture. At the centre of
the square rises the Fontana dei Tritone (1956), by Michele Tripisciano,
a local artist, based on a 1800’s model. The bronze sculpture
represents a sea-horse held by a triton while under threat from
two winged monsters. Beyond the Town Hall, in the Salita Matteotti,
stands the 1600’s Palazzo Moncada, remained incomplete; its
façade features carved corbels in the form of human and animal
figures (currently under restoration).
– Erected at the end of the 16th century, it contains frescoes
by the Flemish artist Guglielmo Borremans (1720). The alternation
of painted panels and stucco decoration combines to produce a dramatic
effect. The wooden statue of St. Michael, dated 1615, in the chapel
right of the choir, is by the Sicilian sculptor Stefano Li Volsi.
In the choir is a nice gilded wooden organ dated 1601.
S. Agata al Collegio – It is located along Corso
Umberto. The church has a composite façade made of red plasterwork,
tufa stone and marble (the portal). Inside, it contains precious
inlayed polychrome marble decoration and a beautiful marble altar-piece
by Ignazio Marabitti. A statue of king Umberto I rises before the
East of Piazza Garibaldi is the
Quartiere degli Angeli (Quarter of the Angels), featuring a medieval
look. At its centre stands the Church of S. Domenico with its fine
curvilinear façade. A painting of the Virgin of the Holy
Rosary by Paladini is preserved inside. Further along Via degli
Angeli, perched on a rock, lie the remnants of the Saracen Castle
of Pietrarossa. At the foot of the rock is the ruined church of
Santa Maria degli Angeli, dating from the 13th century, retaining
a fine doorway.
Municipal Museum – 1 Via Napoleone Colajanni (near
the railway station). It collects relics discovered in the territory
of Caltanissetta, from both the Indigenous and Hellenistic civilizations.
Material from the Greek necropolises of Gibil-Gabib and Vassallaggi
is displayed in the first two rooms. In the third room are relics
recovered from the Greek city of Sabucina. Among these are: a small
scale terracotta temple, a votive object from the 6th century BC,
two large basins (one of them is on a high pedestal) served to contain
drinks or oil (in a case on the left). A set of tea-pots used for
boiling opium (13th century) and an attic kylix showing Heracles
armed with a club – testifying to the hero’s popularity
in Sicily – were discovered in the site of Dessueri. The four,
and last, room gathers artefacts of the pre-Hellenistic civilization
that are of particular interest. Worth-mentioning are the relief
of a bull’s head and two bronze statuettes (7th-6th century)
in the centre of the room. A bronze shin-guard and helmet from the
Corinthian age (6th century BC) are displayed at the end of the
of S. Spirito – Founded by Roger I in the 11th century,
this Romanesque church was consecrated in 1153. It contains a beautiful
wooden crucifix of the 15th century and a baptismal font decorated
with stylised palmettes.
archaeological sites – The excavations – still
in progress – are open to the public, although they are not
very easily accessible and only rarely visited by tourists. They,
especially, remain the preserve of archaeology and history lovers.
– Signposted off tthe main Enna road, 12km east of Caltanissetta.
Here, traces of an early hut settlement (12C BC) have been brought
to light, together with sections of walls dating from the 5th-4th
– From Caltanissetta take the SS 640 and continue in direction
of S. Cataldo. Follow signs to a crossroad signposted for Serradifalco
to the left and San Cataldo to the right. The sign erroneously direct
to the right. Continue straight and follow the road. After a few
metres take, on your right, a small tarred road bordered by a gate
which is usually open, and follow it until it degenerates into a
dirt track (a farm is on the right). A green fence on the right
delineates the excavated site.
discoveries at the area include an ancient settlement and a temple
dedicated to the underworld gods surrounded by some fifty buildings.
– 6km South of Caltanissetta. The site preserves ruins of
an ancient Sican city with a necropolis.
The restaurant Vicolo del Duomo,
situated in a narrow street beside the Cathedral, serves delicious