Coastal Watchtowers in Sicily
It is possible to find local testimonies of the island’s turbulent history in every part of Sicily. A series of watchtowers dating back to different periods still stand along the coasts of Sicily. These constructions were the backbone of the Sicilian defense system against foreign invaders throughout the ages.
The first towers date back to the period between 1313 and 1345 as a bastion of the Aragonese dynasty against the frequent incursions of the Angevin fleet from Naples.
In 1360 the threat of invasions came from the South, from North African Maghreb pirates and Turkish corsairs.
Most of the watchtowers still existent were commissioned by the Sicilian Parliament in 1583 and built between the end of the 16th and the 17th centuries. The towers were built in strategic positions along the coasts, close enough from each other to communicate with each other. The communication system consisted of visual signals as smoke in the daytime and fires during the night. The signals would be used from tower to tower passing the message of danger quickly and effectively. Acoustic signals as bells and cannon shots were also used to alert the villagers of the imminent threat and to prepare to fight or flee.
The watchtowers had a four-sided solid layout. The entrance was located on the top floor and a wooden ladder was used for entry and exit from the tower.
The ground level was set above a large cistern used to guarantee water supply in case of enemy siege. Food and munitions were also stored, making the tower self sufficient.
Up to today 218 watchtowers still exist. Although many of the old watchtowers have been abandoned and fallen in ruin, others have been restored and still stand as they did hundrends of years ago.