Scicli - Saint Joseph’s cavalcade

The great Sicilian writer Elio Vittorini wrote that Scicli was "possibly the most beautiful small town in the world." Other major Italian writers have celebrated it, including Piovene, Brandi, Bufalino and Consolo. At present, it is one of the major locations for a popular television series: Il Commissario Montalbano – Police Commissioner Montalbano. Located at the southern end of Sicily, about twenty kilometers south of Ragusa, Scicli is close to the Mediterranean sea and has beaches of fine golden sand.

The town name probably comes from Siculi, an ancient population who lived in these lands over 3000 years ago. Scicli is surrounded by hills covered with Mediterranean vegetation and is located in the middle of three canyons carved by three streams. In this splendid setting, decorated with Baroque churches and palaces, Saint Joseph’s traditional Cavalcade takes place every year on the Saturday preceding St. Joseph’s Day. At sunset, the Cavalcade starts out from the main square of the town and moves towards the church dedicated to the Saint. As the Cavalcade goes by, pagghiara are lit, making the night shine. They are bonfires made with bundles of stubble. Since Scicli was under Spanish rule for centuries, the sight of bonfires made me think of the Fallas de San Josè – St. Joseph’s bonfires - which burn, on that same night, at the crossroads of Valencia, in Spain. Feast of medieval origin, legacy of sacred dramas and certainly also linked to the pagan celebration of the awakening of nature at the beginning of spring and to the rites for a good harvest, St. Joseph’s Cavalcade requires a male inhabitant of the town to wear the cloak of Saint Joseph, while a woman has to play the role of Our Lady, in the act of fleeing to Egypt, to escape Herod’s edict. The horses taking part in the sacred pageantry are cloaked in mantles woven with wild violets and lilies, on a warping of palm branches. The decorations reproduce sacred images. Both riders and onlookers hold lit ciaccari in their hands - ampelodesmos sheaves - to illuminate the road to the Holy Family. Before leaving Scicli, do not forget to spend at least a couple of days in the Vallum of Noto, to see the masterpieces of Sicilian Baroque!