PANTALICA, THE LARGEST ROCKY NECROPOLIS IN EUROPE
Necropoli di Pantalica
Laghetti di Pantalica
Necropoli di Pantalica
Unique in the world for its archaeological and naturalistic resources, the scenic Pantalica, a World Heritage Site since 2005, includes a vast canyon (almost 4,000 hectares in size) crossed by the rivers Anapo (in the south) and Calcinara (in the north), and about 5,000 cave tombs which have been dug in the limestone rock between the 13th and 8th centuries B.C.
The plateau of Pantalica (whose name derives from the Arabic word buntarigah which means "caves") extends along an area between the towns of Ferla, Cassaro and Sortino, in the province of Syracuse, and is surrounded by the lush Mediterranean vegetation of the Valle dell’Anapo Nature Reserve.
This place was chosen by the Sicans to take refuge from Sicels, who arrived in Sicily in XIII century B.C. The plateau is like a natural stronghold, surrounded by two rivers that form deep gorges all around it. In the Sican settlement, which was identified with the ancient Hyblacitate by the historiographical sources, the mysterious Prince Palace (anàktoron) was built between the XII and XI century BC. This outstanding Megalithic structure (of which only the foundation blocks remain) shows constructive characteristics of Mycenaean type, which reveal the frequentations between these two peoples.
The Sican dug a complex of graves for the dead people on the steep mountain walls overlooking the underlying Anapo Valley that, from a distance, have the appearance of huge hives. These tombs, shaped like an oven with a single or multiple bedroom and built on more floors, were transformed into houses and places of worship by Byzantine monks, who there took refuge after the Arabs conquest Sicily. To not forget are the Byzantine rocky churches S. Micidiario, S. Nicolicchio, the Cave of the Crucifix and Cavetta, where there are also rare traces of frescoes.
Thus, the ancient Sican settlement destroyed by the Greeks of Syracuse in the fourth century B.C. came back to live again between the VIII and the IX century, thanks to the Byzantine communities, who settled on these heights because of the Arab incursions. Traces of this settlement are the red-glossy ceramics, bronze artifacts and precious gold rings which are now on display at the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum in Syracuse. After the Norman period, the site was depopulated forever: this is the reason why it has remained intact from a naturalistic and archaeological point of view. The first archaeological excavations have been conducted by Paolo Orsi, between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and then in the middle of the last century by Luigi Bernabò Brea.
There are several paths and itineraries that allow you to discover this place, by bike or trekking, whose beauty and uncontaminated nature was told by the Messina writer Vincenzo Consolo, in his poetic novel "Le pietre di Pantalica" of 1988.