Vote article

Arriving in this place is like going back in time of 3,000 years, here nothing has changed everything has remained as it once was. You will be able to enter these artificial caves, observe them from the inside, imagine the ancient peoples here in prayer. All in a dream natural setting, intact, as there are few left in Sicily and in general on Earth.

Pantalica is a beautiful nature reserve, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco . But what makes this reserve so special? Well, think that here nature reigns supreme, among the beautiful ones canyons, lakes and small rivers, with lush Mediterranean vegetation . But Pantalica is not only this, this place hides something very ancient, sacred, dating back to the Bronze Age , that is to the XIV century BC (More than 3,000 years ago so to speak). More than 5,000 tombs entirely carved into the rock are hidden here , something truly impressive. Tombs that over the centuries have also been used by various peoples who have followed one another and sometimes even transformed into houses or rock churches.

Except Cannizzaro , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Georg Naggies , CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Andrew Malone , CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Verity Cridland , CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Mboesch , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The history of Pantalica

The tombs of Pantalica date back to the 14th century BC as previously mentioned. They were carved into the rock by an ancient sculptor population who had been stationed in Sicily for a long time, the Sicans.

In fact, the Sicans were very good at working stone and built these cave tombs in many places in Sicily, as in the case of the magnificent Byzantine village eg.

The Sicans actually lived once on the Sicilian coast, where the environment was certainly less hostile. They moved to Pantalica due to the arrival in Sicily of another people, that of the Sicilians. Here the terrified Sicans, in order to escape from the enemy, fled into the Sicilian hinterland and took refuge in places like Pantalica.

The Sicans of Pantalica seem to have come from Thapsos near Prioro Gargallo (Even today it is possible to visit the ruins of Thapsos, even if very badly kept, so the visit is not recommended) where they had strong commercial ties with Greece, exactly with Mycenae. Thapsos was then razed to the ground by the Sicilians and the Sicans took refuge in Pantalica, where they found a real natural fortress between canyons, rivers and impervious rocks.

Origin of the necropolis and evolution

Davide Mauro , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Over time the Sicans gave life to these caves, using them as sacred place , where to bury the dead. Sometimes these graves are found in inaccessible places, dug out of overhanging rocks . It is therefore thought that the Sicans climbed up these inaccessible places supported by ropes, even though a place of worthy burial was destined for their loved ones.

In any case, the Sicilians then also arrived in Pantalica, where they coexisted with the Sicans . They even began to build these caves in the rock, generally larger in size, but they were not as skilled as the Sicans, in fact the quality of the works was so to speak much poorer.

After the Sicilians, the Greeks arrived in Sicily . In the fourth century BC they also arrived in Pantalica and the destroyed completely . From that moment it was abandoned, the survivors took refuge in Palazzolo Acreide And Pantalica was inhabited only by peasants and shepherds . Everything remained so until the arrival of the Arabs in Sicily around the eighth century AD, therefore more than 1000 years later. The Byzantine monks to escape him they took refuge with their families in these places, transforming some caves into rock villages and churches.

Interactive map of Pantalica – The suggested tour

The places marked in yellow and purple are the suggested ones. To locate yourself once in the area, click on the enlarge symbol at the top right of the map.

This very scenic tour allows you to see the main attractions of Pantalica and is not very demanding . Alternatively, you can also take other paths, which are also very beautiful, but they are more tiring and it would be better to rely on a guide. The nature reserve is in fact very large and there is so much to see (a whole day would not be enough).

The tour is divided into two parts, the first marked in yellow and the second in purple.

First part of the tour – Yellow route

Leave the car at the point indicated with the “P”, go to visit the other points of interest marked in yellow and return by car to reach the point indicated for the second part of the tour (not far away). Total time round trip about 1 hour.

The first stop is the San Micidiario , a small Byzantine village with an adjoining church of San Micidiario, obviously all dug into the rock. Faint traces of Byzantine frescoes and Greek writings are still visible.

Proceeding to reach the small Byzantine village of San Nicolicchio , in the center of which is the oratory of San Nicolicchio, here too some traces of paintings are visible.

The last stop before going back and taking the car is the Anaktron . These are the remains of the residence of the Sican prince, who had his palace built here. Around there were probably the houses of the people, which being straw huts have now been lost. Curiosity: The stones used for the building are not from the area. Taking into account that the Sicans had commercial relations with the Mycenae, it is hypothesized that they received these stones from them, together with slaves and under the guidance of a Mycenaean technician (the Sicans did not yet have this type of skill) they built the palace.

Pantalica Church of San Micidiario
Church of San Micidiario – Mboesch , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Pantalica Church of San Micidiario
Inside San Micidiario church – Mboesch , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Pantalica Church of San Nicolicchio
Church of San Nicolicchio – Mboesch , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Panorama from the village of San Micidiario, Pantalica
Panorama from the village of San Micidiario – Davide Mauro , CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Panorama from the village of San Micidiario, Pantalica
Panorama from the village – Davide Mauro , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Anaktron, Pantalica
Anaktron – Jorre (Jochen Reinhard) , CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Second part of the tour – Purple route

Lake of Pantalica
Pantalica lake – Andrew Malone CC BY SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Lake of Pantalica
Patrik Tschudin , CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Church of the crucifix, Pantalica
Davide Mauro , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Once the first part of the tour is over, take the car back and set off for a few minutes, to the point marked with the “P” , where you park your car again. From here you can proceed on foot and visit the other points of interest marked in purple. Total time there and back about 45 minutes.

The first stop is the small Byzantine church of the Crucifix , carved into the rock and also with traces of frescoes.

Then proceed along the path that leads downstream, until you reach the river and the pond. A magical place, totally immersed in nature, with a view of the necropolis dug into the overhanging rocky ridge, which is opposite. Here the water, besides being beautifully fresh, is so clear that you can even see the seabed.

Advise: Bring some comfortable sneakers, lots of water and some sandwiches. Absolutely avoid the hottest hours.

Typical products of the Pantalica area

Pantalica is located in the province of Syracuse. If you want to discover the typical dishes of the area, here you can find an article on what to eat in Syracuse and surroundings .

Here instead you find the typical Sicilian dishes and products in general.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *