Sciacca is an enchanting tourist and spa town on the southern coast of Sicily overlooking the Channel of Sicily facing the island of Pantelleria and Tunisia.
The city has a considerable range that starts from an area on the hill of San Calogero, or Monte Kronio, where the thermal waters arise, to then arrive on the coast where numerous streams flow and where there are the white cliffs of Cammordino and the large port.
In the mountainous area of the Siclari Mountains, Lake Arancio was created, an artificial basin fed by the Carboj river, now part of a natural oasis.
The history of Sciacca has its roots in prehistory and 6 km from the inhabited centre, remains of what was perhaps an ancient city inhabited by the Sicans, an ancient people, have been found.
The discoveryies in the caves of Monte Cronio have fueled the legend according to which here was the city of Inico where Dedalo arrived to seek refuge after escaping from King Minos of Crete. This was a thousand years before Christ and the legend also tells that Minos came to Sicily to look for Daedalus and that he was killed in a bath.
The Phoenicians then passed through these territories and finally in the seventh century BC. the Greeks arrived who, probably in 620 BC, built a settlement which they called Terme Selinuntine.
The presence of the spa would be one of the factors that would determine the whole history of Sciacca.
Shortly after 400 BC the Carthaginians also came and clashed twice with the Greeks. Then after the Romans arrived Sciacca became an important centre of the Sicilian guard posts.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, an important figure is that of San Calogero who converted the population and helped to restore the area of the baths. At that moment Sciacca became the centre of a diocese, that is, the seat of a bishop.
In 840 the area was conquered by the Arabs, the city was called Sciacca and a prosperous period began economically but with disagreements and clashes between the rulers.
In 1087 Sciacca was conquered by the Normans, who came from Northern Europe, and it continued to be the administrative centre of a large area governed by Count Ruggero I and a state-owned port that brought tax benefits. The count modernized the city, defended it with walls, constructed Cocalo Castle and built Castello Vecchio.
A story goes that Giuditta, the count’s daughter, ran away with her beloved and took refuge in a cave in Monte Calogero. A hermit brought her back to her father who forgave her and made the two lovers marry and it is said that the old coat of arms of the city with a woman between two lions represented Judith between her father and brother. Giuditta is a much loved figure and considered the second founder of the city for the works she had done.
The arrival of the Swabians did not change the economic power and the prestige of sending representatives to the Sicilian Parliament, and the property of Giuditta passed on to Emperor Frederick II and then to his children.
In 1268, Charles of Anjou arrived from France, invited by the pope who was in disagreement with Frederick II, and the Angevin period began. The French ruled with such oppression as to give rise to popular protests throughout Sicily known as the Vespro Wars and Sciacca declared itself a free municipality.
Years of struggle followed between the Angevins and the Aragonese and from 1355 Sciacca was governed by the Peralta family so powerful as to receive land under concession from the king and to be authorized to issue money. They were responsible for the construction of the New Castle.
The dispute between Aragonesi and Angioini would end only in 1372 with the treaty of Avignon in which the separation between the Kingdom of Naples and that of Sicily was also established.
But this did not bring peace to Sciacca which was the scene of an unpleasant episode in the 1400s, when the marriage between Count Artale Luna of Aragonese origin was celebrated with the young Margherita Peralta who however loved the young Perollo of Norman origin.
This was the pretext to unleash a series of rebellions connected to the succession of the throne of Sicily but which had the effect of impoverishing the territory. A feud and a struggle that would last for centuries and would characterize the history of Sciacca.
In 1438 the fiefdom of Sciacca was sold to Giovanni Ventimiglia, but only for 5 years because it was redeemed by the Perollo family. But the feud between the Luna and the Perollo families continued for years even leading to an intervention by King John I who exiled both families and confiscated their assets.
Despite this, with the new king Ferdinand V, in 1494, the city returned to Giacomo Perollo who also became a member of Parliament. The feud continued further and led to an armed clash in the city in 1529 and to the death by suicide in the Tiber in Rome of Count Luna who had gone to ask the Pope for help.
A difficult period began in the sixteenth century, when Spanish interest had moved to America and Sicily lost its prestige.
Then, in 1647, tax duties on wine and flour were abolished after a popular protest. In 1713 the short period of government of Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy began. In fact, after the 1720 agreement on the succession to the throne of Spain, Emperor Charles VI of Habsburg acquired the Kingdom of Sicily and gave Sardinia to the Savoy.
Finally, in 1734 Charles of Bourbon defeated the Austrian army and became king of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. In this period Sciacca became an important port and seat of a consulate of the sea, thanks also to the construction of the road that connected it to Palermo.
In 1759 Charles III established the court and in 1820 the Constitution established citizens’ equal rights.
With the landing of Garibaldi in Marsala in 1860, Sicily actually entered the Kingdom of Italy. During the Second World War Sciacca was the seat of an Italian air base.
A real curiosity is the history of Ferdinandea Island, a rock that sometimes reappears off the coast of Sciacca at about 26 nautical miles. This island was formed in 1831 with the activity of an underwater volcano and the first to land was the English admiral James Graham who called it Julia.
Although the rock returned to sea level only five months later, Bourbons and Englishmen have long quarreled over possession of it and today this dispute is still active among English, French and Italians.