When Prince Carlo Maria Carafa Branciforti, a great polymath and humanitarian, decided to found Grammichele in April 1693 he never imagined his urban design would eventually become a favourite subject for aerial photography enthusiasts. The architect Michele da Ferla played a part in turning the Prince’s idea, revolutionary for its time, into reality: a new city with an entirely hexagonal plan. The project was so important to the Prince that he was not prepared to wait: just 3 months after the catastrophic earthquake devastated Occhiolà, the ancient Grammichele, he laid the foundation stone of the new city so that the small number of earthquake survivors would have a place where they could live in dignity. Sadly, the Prince was unable to return to Grammichele after the city’s construction was complete and he died just two years later. But his statue still dominates the main square of the city, encircled by the gratitude of its inhabitants. Grammichele is a unique example in Italy of a hexagonal urban plan, and has come to be known as “THE HEXAGONAL CITY”.
The elegance of Grammichele is evident not only in the town plan that has remained intact for centuries, but also in the beautiful monuments that adorn the main square, named after its founder. The sumptuous Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) was completed at the end of the 19th century by Carlo Sada, architect of Catania’s Bellini Theatre. Inside the Town Hall is the Museo Civico (Civic Museum) with a fine archaeological collection, evidence of the ancient origins of the territory and of the old city of Occhiolà. The museum also houses the original slate slab on which Michele da Ferla engraved his innovative design for Grammichele. The Palazzo Comunale stands next to the magnificent baroque facade of the Chiesa Madre, dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria and St Michael the Archangel. The two monuments seem to want to upstage one another and at the same time hold each other in an affectionate embrace, as if to pacify the eternal struggle between temporal and spiritual power. An imposing sundial at the centre of the square marks the date and time, prefiguring six further sundials in the six squares located on the principal roads that radiate out from the main square and define the hexagon. Around the main square are elegant buildings, cafés, restaurants, tourist shops and ‘circoli ricreativi’ (social clubs) all with the Sicilian flavour of a Montalbano story.
Grammichele’s citizens tell the story of the birth of their city with passion, but they never forget to point out the ancient origins of Occhiolà, the city destroyed by the 1693 earthquake which once dominated the whole valley stretching from Etna to Caltagirone due to its strategic position on Terravecchia hill. Today Occhiolà is an interesting archaeological site, and should be part of any itinerary that includes Grammichele. The site of Occhiolà contains important evidence of the human settlements that were established from the end of the Bronze Age until 1693. Among the objects found during excavations is a nativity scene with terracotta figurines, a masterpiece of craftsmanship now housed in Grammichele’s Civic Museum. The Archaeological Park of Occhiolà is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty and offers its visitors spectacular views of the valley below.
Archaeological Park of Occhiolà: 2km from the centre of Grammichele. Visits by appointment only. Admission: free.
Infoline: +39 0933.859222 Tourist Office | +39 320.8926878 Irene Novello (Archaeologist) | Loredana Fragapane +39 347.0021940
Civic Museum: Located in Piazza Carlo Maria Carafa inside the Palazzo Comunale. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 9: 00/13: 00 – Tuesday only 15: 30/17: 30 – Sunday 9: 00/13: 00. Admission: € 2,00.
Infoline: +39 0933.859222 Tourist Office
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