Sicily S.S. 640: the Route of Writers

Camilleri, Sciascia, Pirandello. And then Tomasi di Lampedusa, Russello and Rosso di San Secondo. They are the writers who wrote about Sicily, its people, its cities, its landscapes. And some of their works have revived some places, attracting tourists from all over the world. Today, a road connects all those places that have become legendary thanks to their successful novels.

It is the S.S. 640 (Strada Statale) that goes from Caltanissetta to Porto Empedocle, passing through Racalmuto, Favara and Agrigento and flows next to the Valley of the Temples, along the locations lived by the great authors, realities rich in art, monuments, gastronomy and natural and archaeological wonders in a unique route made up of theatres, castles, palaces, museums.

On the road, you can discover the birthplace of Pirandello in Agrigento where its inhabitants inspired its novels and novellas, the Scala dei Turchi and the salt mine of Realmonte, up to the marina of Vigata (Porto Empedocle) described by Andrea Camilleri.

Along the way you can also admire the temples of the archaeological area of Agrigento with the wonderful Garden of the Kolymbetra, mentioned by Pirandello in some of his works. In short, a literary common thread that allows you to discover the wonderful territory of south-western Sicily.
 

The SS 640

The road has been recently refurbished. The old SS 640 had a single carriageway, with two lanes (one for each direction of travel) with many junctions at ground level, dangerous and not very usable, it has undergone important improvement works. Now, the road has been transformed into four lanes in the busiest section while in other sections, the road is composed of two separate carriageways. The works have not only allowed to improve the safety of the Agrigento-Caltanissetta section but to make the state road an essential communication route for Southern Sicily, both for the inhabitants and for the tourists.


MasterMike [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Photo credit Wiki Commons @ MasterMike
 

Between Vigata and Montelusa 

For those who want to "slowly" discover the territory, it is possible to drive in stages, starting, for example, from Porto Empedocle. After admiring the Scala dei Turchi, a magnificent white stepped cliff, visit the Carlo V Tower which inspired Andrea Camilleri in the writing of "The Forgotten Massacre", a historical novel of 1984.  

Go to Vigata to rediscover the flavours and landscapes told from the Sicilian writer in the stories of Inspector Montalbano. Discover its port, the Molo di Girgenti, where Luigi Pirandello spent his childhood. 

Continue your journey to Montelusa (Agrigento) and visit the Arab-Norman quarter of Rabato, again narrated by Camilleri in another historical novel: "The king of the Girgenti". Before leaving, discover the birthplace of Pirandello, in the Caos district, just outside the city. Here, there are often temporary installations dedicated to the writer of "One, No One, One Hundred Thousand".

Scala dei Turchi

 

The Valley of the Temples. 

Before continuing along the SS 640, stop in the suggestive Valley of the Temples, with its Doric buildings still in excellent condition, built in the ancient Akragas, a monumental original nucleus of the city of Agrigento. 

Reach, then, along the coast in the south-east direction, the town of Palma di Montechiaro, a place that inspired Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Discover the city center and the monastery where cakes are prepared according to ancient Benedictine recipes. In this place Tomasi wrote "The Leopard".

Valley of the Temples Agrigento

 

In Favara, among the artists 

Favara is the next stop, the village of the writer Antonio Russello, who was forced to move to Caltanissetta as a child. In Favara he returned during the holidays and spent his days at the garrubbazzi, an area between Via Kennedy and Via IV Novembre. In Favara, you will find, in the Bentivegna Courtyard, the site of the Farm Cultural Park, a contemporary art project designed by Andrea Bartoli and his wife Florinda. 

It is an art gallery but also a residence for artists. The idea is to build on the international appeal of the Valley of the Temples and attract artists from all over the world to exhibits and live there and give Favara a new breath of life.

Farm Cultural Park - Favara

 

In the land of Sciascia. 

The itinerary continues towards Racalmuto, the town where Leonardo Sciascia was born. Here you can visit the birthplace of the writer and the municipal theatre where he often saw performances and film screenings. In Racalmuto there is also a museum dedicated to the writer, created by the Leonardo Sciascia Foundation. 

The tour ends in Caltanissetta, the town of Sciascia and Piermaria Rosso di San Secondo. Here you can visit the library frequented by the author of "The Day of the Owl" and where he found inspiration in the texts to make his historical novels. Don't miss the Bar Romano, where Sciascia often stopped to taste cannoli and almond pastries. 

Rosso di San Secondo was also born in Caltanissetta, author of the play "Marionette, che passione!" (Puppets of Passion!). His birthplace is located in the Santa Lucia neighbourhood. Visit the historic Strata a'Foglia market nearby, with its screaming vendors. It is here that he was probably inspired by his often marginalized and picturesque characters. But also in the sulfur mines, of which the father was the owner and where the social contrasts were a source of inspiration.

 

Events along the way.

From the 1st to 15th of May - La Procesio'n - Five hundred years of history, with memorabilia and works exhibited during Holy Week in Sicily and Spain will be held in Caltanissetta . 

On May 26th, Palma di Montechiaro holds the popular feast of La Madonna del Castello, a pilgrimage that shows the Simulacrum of the Madonna in the small church of the Chiaramonte Castle. The simulacrum remained in Palma for four weeks between the Chiesa Madre and the Monastero delle Benedettine, it is carried on the shoulder from Palma to the Castle for 4 kilometres, followed by thousands of people on foot and many on horseback. Wine and bread are offered to pilgrims on the way.

On June 28th, Countless Cities, the first Biennial of Farm Cultural Park, a cultural event that will bring architects, photographers, artists and creatives from all over the world to Sicily, will be held in Favara. An original project that unlike all the Biennials of the world, moves the focus of research on cities rather than nations. The first edition of Countless Cities is inspired by Africa. The exhibitions will be spread throughout the towns of Favara and neighbouring Agrigento. 

Feast of San Calogero -  Between July 7th and 14th, the holy black patron of Agrigento is commemorated. Legend has it that between the 4th and 5th centuries Calogero escaped persecution in Africa and found refuge in Sicily. The procession of the statue of the saint is very characteristic and it's accompanied by a thunderous band of drums (Tammurinara) around the city's historic centre.

From 12 to 14 July Racalmuto commemorates the Madonna del Monte,  Queen and co-patron of the town. The festivities begin on Friday with the historical re-enactment of the miracle that took place in 1503. The simulacrum of the Madonna is paraded through the streets of the town on a cart pulled by two oxen. A procession of young people on horseback in 16th-century costume follows, to commemorate the arrival of Prince Gioieni in Racalmuto. On Saturday there is a parade of candles by the confraternities of the Burgisi, Mulinara, Ugliara and Cicirara. The most awaited moment of the day is the parade of the Bachelor Candle, which is placed in the centre of the square for a fun competition that sees the bachelors engaged in the conquest of a vane that covers the candle itself.  On Sunday morning, the faithful, followed by mules laden with sacks of wheat, walk to the Sanctuary of S. Maria del Monte and some horsemen ride up the staircase that leads to the Sanctuary. The feast ends with the procession of the Virgin on a chariot in the shape of a ship and with the inevitable fireworks. 

On the 21st July, Porto Empedocle celebrates the Feast of the Madonna del Carmine, patron saint of fishermen. The event finds its most characteristic moment during the nocturnal procession of the simulacrum on the sea adjacent to the port, in which several illuminated boats take part in the celebration.

S.S. 640 Sicily