The museum sites of Via Mormino Penna
It is here, in the heart of the small late Baroque town, that you will find the timeless atmosphere that inspired the fiction of “Il commissario Montalbano.”
Francesco Mormina Penna Street, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002, is located in the historic center in Scicli. Here we find Scicli’s town hall, museums, noble palaces and churches.
Different styles and eras breathe through the street, from the late Baroque revival that occurred in the 18th century to the Art Nouveau salons of the 20th century. Everything is amalgamated to perfection, for a walk on the typical basalt tiles, wrapped in the typical atmosphere or exploring inside the different museum sites, which managed by different entities, offer interesting guided tours.
The Vigata police station
We begin our excursus on what to see in Scicli, starting at the beginning of Mormina Penna, where it intersects with Via Nazionale. Hidden in the ground floor of Scicli’s town hall, you will encounter the Vigata police station. The actual film set of the drama to visit.
In fact, some of the town hall’s rooms have been transformed, into Montalbano’s famous police station and are imbued with the charm of a timeless Sicily. The perfect setting for Andrea Camilleri ‘s stories.
Look up and enjoy the beautiful Art Nouveau frescoes that adorn the central hall, a real unexpected gem, seldom framed in fiction scenes.
Also not to be missed is the photo, customary, at the desk of Salvo Montalbano, Italy’s most beloved commissioner.
Accessing this experience will be easy; at the entrance to the town hall you will be welcomed by the Cooperativa Agire, which manages these places, and you can also choose to purchase a cumulative ticket, to visit other museum sites in Scicli:
- The Mayor’s Room
- The Spadaro palace
- The Costume Museum
- The museum-church of St. Theresa at the end of the street
The Mayor’s Room
Also famous for being the permanent home of Quaestor Bonetti-Alderighi in the fiction, it is actually the representative room of the Mayor of Scicli.
The furniture dated 1908, a fine example of old-world craftsmanship, is surrounded by curious memorabilia and details that tell the story of the city.
Not to be missed is the view from the balcony, overlooking Via Mormina Penna and San Matteo Hill, with the Cathedral of San Matteo, after which the hill is named, dominating the city from above since the pre-earthquake era of 1693. Another absolutely unmissable stop, where as you get lost in its alleys, which have long been contended the subject of redevelopment, by wealthy Italian families and others, you will find yourself reliving the atmosphere of a Sicily of yesteryear.
The Mayor’s Room, Scicli City Hall
We continue our tour of what to see in Scicli by exploring another site of special interest.
The late Baroque residence of one of Scicli’s wealthiest families, the palace was acquired by the municipality in the 1980s. It now houses works by the renowned “Scicli Group,” with leading exponents of contemporary art such as Piero Guccione, Franco Sarnari, Franco Polizzi and others. In the 1920s Baron Spadaro commissioned restoration work for the marble entrances, involving local craftsmen and the painter Raffaele Scalia, an important representative of the Art Nouveau movement in the Val di Noto.
At right is a detail of the palace ballroom.
Museum-Church of St. Teresa
A small eighteenth-century treasure chest: then a convent of cloistered nuns, now a deconsecrated church that has become an exhibition space owned by the municipality.
The interior reveals white stone sculptures and several religious peculiarities, such as a Crucifix with roses instead of nails and canvases on the life of St. Teresa of Avila. It currently houses important frescoes that local art historians place in the artistic context of the 15th and 16th centuries from the Convent of the Cross; these works tell the story of popular Sciclian devotion, which is strongly oriented toward the figure of the Madonna.
You can book your visit through the Museale Scicli system website-Traveling to Discover, Stopping to Know-and for those with special needs you will find, braille tours and LIS guides.
Moving to the center of the street, we will find Bonelli Palace and the Old Cartia Pharmacy, unmissable and both can be visited through a separate cumulative ticket.
Built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the palace at the center of Via Mormina Penna is the historic residence of the Bonelli family.
It was Cavalier Francesco Bonelli who was in charge of interior design, shortly before his marriage in December 1931.
For the occasion, Avolese artist Raffaele Scalia was summoned, who devoted himself not only to the pictorial decorations and canvases, but also to the design of each room, with a focus on the furniture and overall harmony. This made the palace a unique and valuable work, striking a perfect balance between classical nobility and functionality typical of the modern era.
For the past few years, the palace has been open to the public thanks to a restoration project commissioned by its new owner, who has thus returned it to the city and its patrons, the Patané family.
Pictured left is the entrance to the building with a pincer staircase.
The ancient Cartia Pharmacy
Among the smallest museums in Italy, the Antica Farmacia Cartia certainly stands out. But be careful not to be fooled by the size; this is a small box filled with history and curiosities.
The now-forgotten work of the apothecary becomes apparent among the Art Nouveau decorations, medicine bottles, stills, and galenic instruments.
Be overwhelmed by the visual and olfactory sensations. Stepping through the front door will take you into a bubble where time has stood still, accompanied by tours led by guides from Tanit Scicli. The cultural association, which since 2014, in agreement with the Cartia family (pharmacists for generations), has been enhancing the secrets of the medical arts of yesteryear, and is also an active participant in the Sciclian cultural scene and in the reopening of important museum sites that have remained closed for centuries.
At right, an image of the sign, on Via Mormina Penna of the old Cartia Pharmacy – from the Tanit Scicli archive.
The Costume Museum
Not only fabrics and clothes: costume here is to be understood as a complex system of customs, peculiar to a people or town at a particular historical moment.
The Costume Museum, was carefully set up by the managers since the 1990s. It boasts pieces of brilliant historical value and holds stories of people who belonged to the Scicli of yesteryear. From the twentieth-century Sciclian composer Federico Borrometi, to the clothes of Sicilian nobility, to old-fashioned tools used for embroidery or cooking.
Here, too, you will have the opportunity to purchase a cumulative ticket, including a guided tour of the cultural sites of the town of Scicli(Palazzo Spadaro, Museum-Church of Santa Teresa and Town Hall).
The churches of St. Michael and St. John
We conclude our article on what to see in Scicli on Mormina Penna Street with two late Baroque gems. Besides the church of St. Teresa of Avila, now a museum, you will also find: the church of St. Michael the Archangel and the church of St. John the Evangelist .
At one time the entire street was in fact called Corso San Michele, and San Michele is one of the oldest churches in the city, which during the 1693 earthquake was a refuge for many disaster-stricken Sciclians.
After the earthquake, the church of St. John was built in the 1700s, also a must-see for its architectural beauty and the presence of a painting depicting the Christ of Burgos, of Spanish origin. Commonly called “Christ in a skirt” because of the shape of the robe he wears.
At left is the Church of St. Michael.