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ALCAMO SICILY ITALY
In front of the Mother Church, there is the ex-church of S. Nicolò di Bari, built up around 1558 by Pietro Mastrandrea, chancellor of the brotherhood of the "White men" whose rule imposed them to cure the poor sick men of the city and to assure them a worth burial. The facade shows a beautiful portal surmounted by an elegant window and a little column in carved marble, at the corner with Via XI Febbraio. Entering this street, after few steps, you can admire the beautiful facade of "Palazzo Fraccia" (XVIII century), interesting example of Rococo style. Going on through the "Corso stretto", in a small square planted with tree, there is the church of S.
Maria del Soccorso, realized in three naves in the original structure of the XVI century, and restructured in 1736 with an hexagonal plant. It keeps the entrance portal with a lunette (XVI century), attributed to Berrettaro, and in the inside, the typical 16th century stuccoes and the statue of the "Madonna del Soccorso", of the same author. Going on with the vist, at the corner of Via Rossotti, almost in front of the 16th century Communal Loggia, now used as commercial centre, we find the church of the "Angelo Custode" (Guardian Angel), founded in 1659, with the annexed "Conservatorio delle Reparate" (1684). Rebuilt in the 18th century by the architect Giovan Biagio Amico, it keeps some frescoes of unknown author and two paintings of Domenico la Bruna, L'Angelo Custode (the guardian angel) and S. Francesca Romana, painted in 1738. At the end of Via Rossotti, near the 17th century Palazzo Rossotti, of which we can admire the beautiful central balcony, one of the most ancient monuments of the city rises: the church of the SS. Salvatore or "Badia Grande" (Big Abbey), which has been recently changed into a "musical auditorium". It has been built during the 14th century and widened in the 16th century; its present structure is due to the 18th century reconstruction
The inside has got only one nave. At the walls there is a series of stucco statues of Bartolomeo Sanseverino (1758), apprentice of Serpotta, and, at the vault, frescoes of Carlo Brunetti (XVIII century), who is even the author of the painting "Trasfigurazione" situated on the main altar. It also keeps two paintings, which have been attributed to Pietro Novelli, "L'Estasi di S. Teresa" and "L'Assunzione", one statue representing St. Benedict from Norcia made by Antonino Gagini (1545) and a marble case always of Gagini and Baldassare Massa (XVI century). In the near Piazza Libertà, we find the rests of the church of the "Annunziata", lonly example of Gothic-Catalan style in Alcamo. Of the original structure (XIV century), which has been several times rehandled in the future centuries, remain some columns of the right nave, a part of the apse and some chapels with refined decorative elements. Continuing through "corso VI Aprile" towards "Porta Palermo", in Via De Ballis you can see the interesting Tower of House De Ballis (which belonged to a noble and rich family coming from Piacenza), one of the rarest examples in Alcamo of civil architecture of the 15th century. It keeps its original battlement and elegant windows.
he visit to the small jewel of the church of Ss. Cosma and Damiano is a must. It has been built around the XVI century and restructured in 1721 with an hexagonal plant, according to the plan of the architect Giuseppe Mariani, it recalls the baroque elegance of Borromini's module. There, you can admire two splendid paintings of Borremans (XVIII century), "L'Immacolata" (at the main altar) and "La Madonna col Bambino tra Santi" (at the second altar on the right), two paintings of Andrea Carrera "La Madonna del Rosario" (1658) and "La Madonna degli Angeli" (1669), and two wonderful stucco statues, skillful works of Giacomo Serpotta: the "Carità" and the "Justice" in which there is an expressive strength and a stylistic rigour which exalts the essence of the baroque art. In front of it, there is the church of St. Thomas (1450), one of the monuments of greatest historical and architectonic value in the city. In the facade, there is a splendid portal composed by cordons decorated with floral motifs, acanthus leaves and other refined ornaments, and surmounted by an elegant little window. All this shows a remarkable plastic-chiaroscuro effect, and offers a synthesis of the swabian-chiaramontan style. The inside has got a nave with two cross-vaults divided by one arch, supported by two big columns, having capitals with acanthus leaves and wickers' plaits.
Before going out of the corso, in Piazza Vespri, there is the church of St. Francis of Assisi, rebuilt in 1716 and going back, with the annexed convent, to 1348. In its inside there are two remarkable marble statues realized in 1520 by Antonello Gagini, "S. Marco" and "Maddalena", and a marble ancona attributed to Giacomo Gagini (1586). Among the paintings, of great interest are, at the main altar, a 16th century painting of Andrea Carrera, "S. Francesco d'Assisi che chiede l'indulgenza della Porziuncola", and, in the chapel of the Virgin Mary, a painting of Giuseppe Carrera (1610). In the neighbourhood, two interesting architectonic elements of the XV-XVI centuries are visible: in the near "piazzetta Leopardi", the elegant portal in carved stone of the so-called "house of Ciullo" (actually the house, perhaps of a notable, going back to the end of the 16th century); in a building in Via Solferino you can see an elegant window with a little spiral column, which is an unusual element in Alcamo recalling the 15th century architecture of Genoa. You leave "corso 6 Aprile" through the 19th century "Porta Palermo" (1961) decorated by two bronze bas-reliefs, realised by the sculptor Giuseppe Rubino (1901-1984).
They represent "working scenes in Alcamo" and Cielo d'Alcamo being crowned poet by a winged "Glory" at the presence of Frederic II the Swabian. Walking through via Florio (a street, which run along the edge of the ancient oriental walls until the past century) then turning on the right for Via Commendadore Navarra, we arrive at the church of S. Francis from Paola or "della Badia Nuova", which was founded, with the annexed monastery, between 1531 and 1540 and then rebuilt in 1699 according to a plan of Giovanni Amico. At the walls of the only nave, you can admire eight remarkable stucco statues of Giacomo Serpotta, which have been realized in 1724 (Mildness, Peace, S. Peter, S. Paul, Fortress, Purity, the Addolorata and the Maddalena), a remarkable painting of Peter Novelli (XVII century), St. Benedict, distributing the Rule, and St. Francis from Paola, painting of Andrea Carrera of 1652.
Back again in Piazza Ciullo we reach, near Via Amendola, the church of St. Domenico or "del Rosario", built up in 1660 and restructured in 1761. Of remarkable historical interest is "La Madonna della Stella" (the Virgin Mary of the Star), which is a fresco realised in 1464, perhaps by Tommaso De Vigilia for the church of S. Maria della Stella (which was elected in 1313 first Mother church of Alcamo. Its rests are in the same street), from which it has been removed, together with the wall on which it has been painted, in occasion of the transfer of the Dominican Fathers to their new seat. Among the other works, of great interest is a 17th century painting of Vito Carrera, "La Madonna del Rosario", a bas-relief of the Gagini school, "La morte della Vergine" (the death of the Virgin Mary), and a precious painted Cross hung at ceiling (XV century). Wg through the "Corso 6 Aprile", where you can see numerous noble palaces, among which "Palazzo Pastore" (XIX century), another must is the church of Ss. Paul and Bartho-lomew. It was built up in 1689 on a 16th century preexisting structure, which had an annexed hospital of the incurables, and it is considered the highest expression of the baroque style in Alcamo. The inside, with a latin cross plan and three naves, is richly decorated with 18th century putties and frescoes. Among the works, in addition to the painting of St. Peter and St. Paul, of Giuseppe Felice realised in 1761, of great interest is "La Madonna del Miele" (the Virgin Mary of the Honey), a painting of the end of the 14th century, which has been fixed to an oval table and which has been already attributed to Tommaso De Vigilia or Guglielmo De Pesaro, but the recent restorations have evidenced in it the influence of the school of Duccio di Boninsegna and Simone Martini. Still going through the "corso", we enter on the right, in Via Francesco Crispi at the end of which there is the church of the "Crocifisso" or of "St. Francis from Paola" founded in 1550 and then rebuilt during the 18th century. The most interesting part is the unique convex facade, which is a remarkable interpretation of the rococo architecture. In the sacristy rooms there is a beautiful crucifix of Giovanni Matinati (1549). Always from Piazza Ciullo, walking through Via Discesa Santuario, at the end of which, in the ancient quarter of St. Vito (one of the first settlements at Mount Bonifato's feet), we find the rests of an ancient "Arab Fountain", and we reach the "Santuario di Maria SS. dei Miracoli". The church, erected at the end of the 16th century, rises on the place where, on the 21st June 1547, the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary had been found. The present structure goes back to the beginning of the 18th century and shows, in the outside, several styles, from the Baroque to the Renaissance. Of remarkable interest are the portal, the two 17th century carved windows and the elegant baroque bell tower enriched by a majolica spire. In the inside, in addition to the typical 18th century decorations, we find, near the entrance door, the sarcophagus of the Captain Fernando Vega, which has been sculptured in 1556 by Rocco Rapi; a bas-relief of the Gagini school; a precious 17th century holy-water font, and some paintings: the Nativity of the Virgin, the Sacred Family and the Annunciation, of Giuseppe Patania (1828), and the Birth of the Virgin and the Immaculata, of Friar Felice from Sambuca
Few kilometers northwards, on an evocative rock, which dominates the surrounding landscape, there is the castle of Calatubo, a byzantine fortress, which had been rebuilt by the Arabs, and which is today in a complete state of abandonment. In the same locality, there have been discovered two necropolis, an Arabic one and a Greek one, with hundreds of graves containing many important finds. On Mount Bonifato, in the middle of the forest (110 hectares of pine-wood which compose one of the natural reserves of Sicily), in the place where the muslim settlement rose until the XIV century, there are the rests of some monumental medieval buildings: at the top, the tower of the castle of the Ventimiglia family (XIII century), called "saracen tower"; in the lower part the "Porta della Regina" (the Queen's gate), one of the gates of the town; at the southern edge of the pine-forest, there are the rests of the "Funtanazza" (the big fountain), a great water tank; finally, on the north-west side, you can see the traces of the ancient sycan-elym village. The forest, set up at the beginning of the century, instead of a cork-wood, which has been destroyed, is composed by species which are typical of this area and by others which have been introduced from the outside (Domestic Pines, Aleppo Pines, Cypresses, Holm oaks, Carobs, Plane-trees, and Palms). Typical of the underwood are the Pistacia Lentisca, the Chamaerops humilis, the "Ampelo-desma", the "Ferula", the "Terebinto" and many other plants. It is easy to meet there the the Bonelli Eagle and the Buzzard, the Fox, the Weasel, and some reptiles among which the Green Lizard, the Coluber and the Viper.