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Caltanissetta (Sicilian Cartanissetta or Nissa) is a city located on the western interior of Sicily, capital of the province of Caltanissetta. It lies in an area of rolling hills with small villages and towns, crossed by the river Salso. Caltanissetta is the hub of public transport in the area.
Caltanissetta’s origins can be traced back to 406 BC, when admiral Nicia of Hamilcar’s siege force from Carthage established a fort at the site, later called Castra Nicia (Fort Nicia). In 829 AD, the town was occupied by the Saracens. The similarity of the Carthaginian name to the Arabic word nissa (meaning “women”) resulted in the Saracen name of Qalat al Nissa (“Fort of the Women”), which has since been Italianized to Caltanissetta. The settlement was captured by the Normans in 1086. A charter was granted to the town in accordance with Count Roger Borsa’s vast plan for the urbanisation of Sicily, whose plan is still evident today.
After the Normans, the city was under the Hohenstaufen, the Anjou and the Aragonese. Here, Frederick II of Sicily was proclaimed king.
In 1406 Caltanissetta became a domain of the Moncada family of Paternò, and subsequently declined deeply. In 1539, the construction of the Cathedral was started and in1566 a notable bridge was built over the Salso River. During this period the city began to expand outside the walls, and new quarters (Santa Flavia, San Rocco degli Zingari and San Francesco) were created.
On July 8, 1718, the city was assaulted by Piemontese troops, causing a large losses of population. In 1787, Johann Wolfgang Goethe payed a visit.
In 1813, after 406 years, the Moncada signory ended as the feudal constitution was abolished and Caltanissetta turned into the 22th Comarca of Sicily. In 1819 it was declared capital of province, but one year later it was sacked as a punishment for its loyalty to the Bourbon House. In 1844, it was elevated to bishopric seat.
After many Nisseni had taken part to his Mille’s deeds, Giuseppe Garibaldi entered the city, together with Cesare Abba and Alexandre Dumas. On October 22 of the same year, a Plebiscite declared Caltanissetta part of new Kingdom of Italy.
In 1875, however, the people rose against the prefect, who was fired. On April 8, 1878, the city was connected to a railway, ending its historical access difficulties. Three years later, the King Umberto I visited Caltanisetta along with his wife and his son.
The city was heavily damaged during World War II.
How to get there
Regular buses run to and from Palermo, Agrigento and Catania. Although it’s very close to Enna, there are not many buses between the two. The bus station is about a 20 minute walk from the city center and train station.
Several trains a day run to and from Palermo, Gela and Agrigento. There are also several trains to and from Enna, but Enna’s station is a long way below the town itself.
Sights & Activities
The city’s monuments include:
- Palazzo Moncada is a large building, remained unfinished, since it was erected in 1635 by Guglielmo Moncada. It has finely decorated corbels in the balconies of the main floor.
- The Cathedral (Santa Maria la Nova, 1539-1622) with a façade that was finished in 1840, the church has a late-Renaissance appearance that is uncharacteristic of the Baroque style commonly found on the island of Sicily. Inside are frescoes by Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans, who worked here beginning in 1722. Other works include a wooden Blessed Virgin draped in silver lamina (1760), a polychrome wooden statue by Stefano Li Volsi, and two marble statues portraying the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael. The Treasury houses a fine silver monstrance from the 15th century.
- The Church of St. Agatha (1605), in late-Renaissance style, has a façade by Natale Masuccio, and is decorated by frameworks on a light coloured background. It has a Greek cross plant, with splendid Baroque decorations includings frescoes by Luigi Borremans (18th century).
- The Church of San Domenico (16th century, with a convex façade from the 18th century) houses noteworthy paintings by Guglielmo Borremans and Filippo Paladino (Madonna del Rosario). The painting depicting the Madonna del Carmelo, also by Paladino, is now used in the Cathedral.
- The Palazzo Vescovile (“Bishop’s Palace”) is the seat of the Museum of Sacred Art. It has a painting by Gian Battista Corradini of the Madonna del Rosario (1614).
- The Church of the Santa Croce (“Holy Cross”) is from the 17th century but has been substantially altered over the years.
- The Church of San Sebastiano (16th century) showcases a 17th century wooden statue of the saint.
- Caltanissetta is also home to the Museo Archeologico, which holds displays from mostly prehistoric times. This includes finds from digs conducted in the 1950s, including vases and tools from the Bronze Age and early Sicilian ceramics.
Nearby Caltanissetta two other notable monuments can be seen:
- The Castello di Pietrarossa (“Red Stone Castle”) was built in red bricks by the Arabs over a cliff west of the city and later enlarged by the Normans. Today only ruins are visible, as the castle crumbled when it was destroyed in 1567 by an earthquake.
- The Abbey of Saint Spirit, built by Roger Borsa and his wife in 1092-1098, has been heavily altered over the centuries. The original forms are still recognizable in its posterior: for example, its characteristic massive jutting apses. These are parted by flat pilasters strips and connected by a series of little arches. The left entrance has a portal from the 13th century. The lunette once contained a figure of Christ Blessing, which was eventually moved inside the church. The latter has a rectangular nave and a wooden-beamed ceiling. The walls and the apses have frescoes attributed to the 15th century, and the vault of the apse shows a 17th century figure of Christ Pantocrator.
Hosted inside the eponymous hotel, this restaurant serves traditional cuisine.
Address: via Fasci Siciliani – I – 93100 Caltanissetta
Tel.: (0934) 55 37 50
Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit Caltanissetta. July and August are the warmest months with temperature up to 104° F. For more information, visit the Weather page.
Santa Caterina Villarmosa
Note: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Metasyntactic variable” and Creative Commons by Commons Deed. This information was accurate when it was posted, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses/establishments in question before planning your trip.