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The Spanish civilization in Sicily

The Spanish civilization in Sicily

The story of Spanish presence in Sicily is rich and complex, dating back to the 15th century and lasting until the beginning of the 18th century. Over the course of these centuries, Spanish influence has left an indelible imprint on the culture, architecture, and Sicilian society.

In 1412, Sicily was annexed to the Kingdom of Aragon, thus initiating the period of Spanish domination. The Aragonese crown, which also ruled Catalonia and other regions of the Iberian peninsula, merged its power with that of the Sicilian nobles, creating a shared administration that lasted for centuries. During this period, Sicily was ruled by a series of Spanish viceroys, who acted as representatives of the Spanish sovereign and were charged with maintaining order and administering justice.

The Spanish domination coincided with the age of European expansion and colonization. The Spanish were interested in Sicily for both its strategic position in the heart of the Mediterranean and for its natural resources, such as grain and wine. Additionally, Sicily was an important naval base for Spanish expeditions to the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

During the 16th century, Sicily experienced a period of prosperity and economic growth, thanks to the increase in trade with the Spanish colonies in America and the influx of gold and silver from overseas. However, the Spanish period was also characterized by heavy taxation and the exploitation of Sicilian resources for the benefit of the Spanish crown.

In the 17th century, the situation in Sicily worsened due to the wars that involved Spain and the plague epidemics that struck the island. The Sicilian population, exhausted by poverty and oppression, rebelled several times against Spanish rule. The most significant uprisings were those of 1647 in Palermo and 1674 in Messina. Both were suppressed by force, causing further political and social destabilization in Sicily.

Despite the difficulties and tensions, the Spanish period was a time of great cultural and artistic development for Sicily. Spanish architecture, in particular, blended with local styles, creating an original synthesis of artistic and architectural elements. Palaces, churches, and fortifications were built throughout the Sicilian territory, enriching the island's artistic heritage.

Spanish rule in Sicily ended in 1713 when the island passed to the Savoy through the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht. However, the Spanish legacy remains visible today in many aspects of Sicilian culture and architecture. Numerous monuments and historical sites bear witness to the long Spanish presence on the island and its impact on local society and art.

Here are the main landmarks that testify to the Spanish era in Sicily:

Royal Palace of Palermo (Palazzo dei Normanni) Description: The Royal Palace of Palermo is a significant example of Spanish architecture in Sicily, although it is also an important testament to the Norman and Swabian eras. During Spanish rule, the palace was used as the residence of the Spanish viceroys. Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 9:00-18:00, Sunday: 9:00-13:00

Price: Full €12.00, Reduced €6.00

Palermo Cathedral

Description: The Palermo Cathedral is a masterpiece of architecture in Sicily, combining various styles including the Spanish. During the Spanish period, several architectural elements were added, such as the dome and the south portico.

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 7:00-19:00, Sunday: 8:00-13:30 and 16:00-19:00

Price: Free entry, visit to the cathedral treasures €3.00

Castello Maniace, Syracuse

Description: The Maniace Castle in Syracuse is a fortress built during the Swabian period and later modified and enlarged during Spanish rule. The Spanish architecture is visible in the shape of the walls and towers.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00-19:00, Closed on Monday

Price: Full €6.00, Reduced €3.00

Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (La Martorana), Palermo

Description: La Martorana is an example of Spanish architecture in Sicily, although it was originally built in the Norman style. During Spanish rule, various Spanish architectural elements were added, such as the baroque bell tower and stuccos.

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 9:30-13:00 and 15:30-17:00, Sunday: 9:30-13:00

Price: Free entry

Palazzo Biscari, Catania

Description: Palazzo Biscari is an imposing baroque-style construction that reflects the Spanish influence on Sicily. The building was constructed between the 17th and 18th centuries and houses frescoes, stuccos, and decorations of great artistic value.

Opening Hours: Guided tours by reservation

Price: Starting from €10.00 for the guided tour

Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo

Description: Palazzo Abatellis is another example of Spanish architecture in Sicily. Built in the 15th century, it was later restored and modified during Spanish rule. It now houses the Sicilian Regional Gallery.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00-19:00, Closed on Monday

Price: Full €8.00, Reduced €4.00

Church of the Gesù (Casa Professa), Palermo

Description: The Church of the Gesù, also known as Casa Professa, is a masterpiece of Sicilian baroque influenced by the Spanish. Constructed in the 17th century, the church is famous for its sumptuous interiors and gilded stuccos.

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 9:00-12:30 and 15:30-18:00, Sunday: Closed

Price: Free entry

Fortress of Real Felipe, Messina

Description: The Fortress of Real Felipe, located in Messina, was built during Spanish rule to protect the city from naval attacks. The fortress has an imposing structure characterized by its thick walls and watchtowers.

Opening Hours: Visits by reservation

Price: Variable depending on the type of guided tour

Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini, Palermo

Description: The Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini is a work of art of Sicilian Baroque with strong Spanish influences. Built in the 17th century, the church has an imposing façade and an interior rich with stuccos and decorations.

Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00-12:00 and 16:00-18:00, Sunday: 9:00-12:00

Price: Free entry

Palazzo Zappalà, Catania

Description: Palazzo Zappalà is another example of Spanish architecture in Sicily, located in the heart of Catania. Built in the 18th century, the palace features a Baroque façade and an inner courtyard with arches and columns.

Opening Hours: Visits by reservation

Price: Variable, depending on the type of guided tour

Milazzo Castle, Milazzo

Description: Milazzo Castle is a fortified structure that dates back to the Spanish period in Sicily. The castle is situated on a promontory overlooking the city and offers panoramic views of the sea and the coast.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00-13:00 and 15:00-19:00, Closed on Monday

Price: Full €5.00, Reduced €3.00

Palazzo Ajutamicristo, Palermo

Description: Palazzo Ajutamicristo is a historic 16th-century palace located in Palermo. Originally built as a noble residence, the palace was later expanded and modified during the Spanish period, taking on the characteristics of Sicilian Baroque.

Opening Hours: Visits by reservation

Price: Variable, depending on the type of guided tour

Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, Noto

Description: The Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata is an imposing Baroque style construction located in the historic center of Noto. This palace was commissioned in the 18th century by the Nicolaci family, one of the most important noble Sicilian families of the time. The palace is famous for its elaborate balconies decorated with sculptures of mythological figures and baroque fantasies.

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00-13:00 and 15:00-18:00, Closed on Monday

Prices: Full: €4.00, Reduced (children 6-14 years, students, over 65): €2.00; Free for children under 6 years old

Please note that opening hours and prices may change over time. It is advisable to verify the information on the official web pages of the individual places of interest before planning a visit.

Sicily is an island rich in history and culture, with an architectural heritage that reflects the various civilizations that have succeeded each other over the centuries. From Arab, Norman, and Spanish influences, Sicily offers a unique variety of styles and traditions that can be admired by visiting places of historical and artistic interest.

Whether it is about exploring Byzantine churches, Arab palaces, or Spanish noble residences, Sicily offers an engaging and fascinating cultural experience. Visiting these places allows one to immerse in a millenary history and to understand the importance of the different cultures that have shaped the island's identity.

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