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Vittoria, Province of Ragusa, Sicily

This busy agricultural town rises at the foot of the Monti Iblei, not far from the sea in a dominating position on the picturesque Ippari valley, and takes its name from the Countess of Modica Vittoria Colonna Enriquez, who founded it on 24 april 1607.

Info

  • Altitude: 168 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 60,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 97019
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0932
  • Patron Saint: St. Giovanni
  • Frazioni & Localities: Scoglitti

History

Though Vittoria is a new town, the area was inhabited since prehistoric times. In its territory was Camarina, a Doric colony founded in 598 BC and destroyed by the Romans in the 3rd century BC. Near the northern necropolis of Camarina is the harbor and sea resort of Scoglitti, which rose according to historians on the ancient Plaga Mesopotanium, meaning "area between two rivers" - which could have been the Ippari and Birillo.

In Roman times it was renowned as the production site of the Mesopotanium wine, widely exported and whose containers were also found among the ruins of Pompei. In the 18th century the town grew and prospered, becoming one of the main wine-production areas in Sicily.

What to see

  • The ruins of the Greek colony Camarina, where excavations restored the layout of regular blocks of dwellings and the perimeter wall, 7 km (4 miles) long with three gates; the Temple of Athena of the 5th century BC; three large necropolis where many items of Attic and Sicelian (the Sicels were the ancient inhabitants of this area of Sicily) pottery were found.
  • The 17th-century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake that severely hit eastern Sicily, has valuable altars in polychrome marble. In the sacristy a huge, fine oak furniture of the mid-18th century by Carmelo D'Asta.
  • In the center of the town the Piazza del Popolo with the 19th-century Theater in the neo-classical style, built in 1863 on a project of architect Giuseppe Di Bartolo Morselli.
  • Examples of industrial archeology, like the old electric plant built in 1890, the distilleries of the Witthaker and Florio, all of which are being restored by the municipal authority.

Events

  • 11 January, feast of San Giovanni, believed to have saved Vittoria in the 1693 earthquake. After a first earthquake on 9 January which had cased destruction and hundreds of victims in eastern Sicily, on 11 January 1693 a second ruinous earthquake hit at 9pm, when large numbers of people were gathered in the churches. On that occasion 60,000 victims were counted in Sicily, but Vittoria was virtually spared: the statue of San Giovanni was found beheaded after the earthquake, and this was seen as a sign that the sacrifice was in substitution of the town. St John is also celebrated in early July, on a date that follows the harvests of wheat and fava beans.

Where to stay