Guide to Ispica
Ispica is situated on a hill 170m above sea level and only 6km away from the seaside. From one side of the hill you can admire a great view of the coast line while on the other side of the hill lies a deep canyon , Cava d'Ispica, which is 13km long and stretches through the territory of Ispica and Modica.
Although the town is not one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, it has excellent examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture, the most famous of which is the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is also worth visiting for the wonderful Liberty architecture and the characteristic narrow roads of the quartiere del Carmine, the first nucleus of houses built on the hill. Well-known films like Divorzio all'Italiana and Caos were filmed in the city centre.
Ispica is mostly renowned for the Easter traditions, especially for the Holy Thursday and Holy Friday processions. While special processions and ceremonies on those days are common in many other towns in Sicily, what makes Ispica special is the overall cheerful atmosphere, very different from the general mourning and subdued tone of other Easter processions.
For the Ispicesi this is "the most important week of the year" and they cannot miss it. Most migrants do their best to come back for the occasion and the elderly count the remaining years of their life referring to how many more Easter processions they will manage to see. The festivities start on the Wednesday night of the Holy Week with a via crucis from the cava to Santa Maria Maggiore in town. On Thursday is the procession of 'U Patri a Culonna", Christ tied at the column, which includes the parade of the Confrati of Santa Maria Maggiore wearing their red mantled vest, other members of the parish and the musical band. The Holy Friday is the day of the procession of "U Patri a Cruci", Christ carring the cross, whith a parade of the Confrati of the Annunziata church who wear their blue mantled vest, followed by the rest of the parish and the band. The two confraternite are rivals and the all town can be devised into "cavari", devoted to "U Patri a Culonna" e "nunziatari", devoted to "U Patri a Cruci". On the Sunday the all town is reunited for the procession of the "Risuscitatu", Christ Resurrected, with the meeting between the statue of Jesus and that of the Vergin Mary.
Ispica's most interesting dishes are linked to Christmas and Easter Holidays. For Christmas the Ispicesi prepare the 'mpanati, wish are a sort of pastry stuffed with home made pasta (miliddi) prepared with sugo di maiale (pork based tomato sauce), local sausage and ciurietti. Another speciality is the "gnucchitti", a special homemade pasta. First they prepare the pasta daw and make it really thin, turn it around a cane (fuso) and pass it on a special comb (pettini). This are prepared with sugo di maile. This recipe is traditionally prepared for lunch on the Holy Thursday or for Carnival. These are speciality that are still prepared in the family and are difficult to find in restaurants.
It is most certainly worth visiting the Parco Forza in the Cava d'Ispica. You can easily access two main parts of this 13km long canyon, one part is closer to Modica, the other is just outside Ispica. In the cava you can find remains of troglodyte dwellings and Medieval villages as well as necropolises. This was a lively city, before the earthquake in 1693, approximately 2000 people lived within the fortress and around 5500 people inhabited the surrounding are of the cava.
On the seafront, few kilometres outside of Ispica is Santa Maria del Focallo, an area where most people from Ispica have their second house near the beach where they spent their summer. This is a 12km long coastline that goes from the Canale di Santa Maria del Focallo marking the boarder with the Pozzallo area, to the Pantano Griffi in the Porto Ulisse bay, at the border with the province of Syracuse. The coast offers a mixture of long golden sandy beaches and rocky cliffs. A visit to the Faraglioni di Ciriga is a must.