Laid down on a hill at
the feet of mountains covered with conifers and eucalyptus, Chiaramonte
Gulfi is the symbol of the landscape of the province of Ragusa which is
the smallest but also the most varied one in Sicily. The town, in a limited
portion of territory offers this variety too. From the naturalistic routes
through the mountains and particularly from the peak of the Arcibessi, an ancient
place of Christianized rites still felt during the nineteenth century,
you can see the Hyblaean plateau and into the distance the Ippari plain
and the expanse of the age old olive trees, the Saracen olive trees which
are the symbol of this land. Driving down the hairpin bends of the state
road, before reaching the town we meet, in a pine wood, the first architectural
work of art, the small XVI century church of the Madonna delle Grazie.
It is a church with one nave , which preserves, in a limestone and black stone chapel inside the church, a marble statue
of the Virgin by the sculptor Luca Maldotto. After the church the pine
wood starts again to end just by the edge of the hill.
The archaeological settlements
Prehistoric settlements dating back to the Bronze Age and to the Iron
Age have been brought to light, scattered everywhere in the areas referred
to as Aranci, Piano Conte, Piano Grillo, Casazze, Arcieri, Torre Mazzaronello,
Marani, Pipitana. Necropolis, prehistoric settlements and Greek archaic
built-up areas have been found.
The History: Acrillae
The history of this
town is marked by continuous rebuilding after destructive invasions of
The present town
The present urban organisation dates back to the fourteenth century, after the Angevins destroyed the town in 1299; an event mentioned by the historian Solarino who wrote: "The simple memory makes people cry for anguish and horror". Though Chiaramonte had surrendered asking to spare the life of children and women, a squad of soldiers slaughtered the inhabitants leaving an unforgettable mark in the collective memory. The town was named after the Chiaramonte family. The Earl Manfredi I (who received the County of Modica by the King Frederick in 1296) belonging to a Norman family coming from the town of Clermont de lOise in Picardy, after the expulsion of the French wanted to rebuild the town on the rise, fortifying it with a castle. The fortress had three doors, one of which in the North-Western side, the portal of Annunziata, is still extraordinarily undamaged. Noble families rebuilt their mansions around the castle, while the people went to live in the lower part, in the present quarter of San Vito, refitting some natural stone caves. The earthquake of the end of the Seventeenth century destroyed the whole castle and the nearby mansions. In the heat of the reconstruction, the town followed the baroque model of the Val di Noto, preserving the old medieval plan and the grid of narrow streets while all the works of art which miraculously survived the earthquake were incorporated in the new town. The royal decree of 1881 ordered to add the name Gulfi in memory of the old town.