Ferla, in the district of Siracusa, is located in a natural, historic setting of great value. An evocative walk among its baroque architecture and scenery into the Siculan-Hyblaean hinterland, will take you into the natural entrance of the largest rocky necropolis in Europe, Pantalica, a Unesco site along with the city of Siracusa.
A medieval fortified village, built on the remains of a Hellenistic necropolis, Ferla shared the fate of the cities of the Val di Noto, and thus underwent a restyling based on a new standardised urban plan, strongly influenced by the contemporaneous rebuilding of Noto.
The elegant street known as the Via Sacra winds past beautiful palaces and five of the city’s religious buildings. The first of these is the Chiesa del Carmine, a church with a harmonious combination of Doric and Ionic architecture, followed by the majestic, spectacular Chiesa di San Sebastiano. The sculptural group on its façade is considered the most typical work of Sicilian Baroque statuary and was created by the architect and sculptor Michelangelo di Giacomo. The orange wood statue of San Sebastiano the martyr is kept in a small chapel behind the altar, the patron of this Hyblaean village, and miraculously survived the 1693 earthquake.
The Quartiere delle Carceri Vecchie, dates to the medieval period. Within this old prison quarter the route winds between narrow streets, alleys and caves, and you breath in the village’s authentic atmosphere, with its typical, traditional buildings, each with its small round door, the iattaruala, to let cats come and go, or with a small window in its door, a giustieddu, for seeing without being seen. The old working-class districts such as Castelverde and Calanconi still retain these features of the old Sicily.
Go past the Chiesa Madre. This church has the oldest remaining example of the municipal coat of arms, created from the union of the coats of arms of the Marquises of Rau and La Ferla.
Continue along the Via Sacra: your next stop is the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio, Anthony the Great, . This has its original Baroque façade with some Rococco touches and is today the nerve centre of the city’s historic centre. The church’s interior is unique in the Sicilian south-east in that it has an unusual Greek cross floor plan.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria is now within the town, but was originally “500 steps from the village” according to convent rules. It was annexed to the Convent of the Frati Minori. It houses one of the 33 wooden crucifixes of Frate Humile of Petralia, dating back to 1633, in the apse of its central altar. According to one story, the face of Christ seems bear either the hint of tears or of a smile, depending on the angle from which you observe it.
You can try products typical of this area of Sicily such as olive oil, black and green olives, cheeses, mushrooms, sausages, salamis, hazelnuts and almonds. There are also dried tomatoes, vegetable and fruit preserves and legumes. The desserts include cassatedde, pastries filled with sweet ricotta flavoured with cinnamon, and cavagnedde, desserts shaped like a small horse or a doll, filled with crunchy pastry and a boiled egg, plus sfingi (thin, soft, crispy pancakes) and pagnuccata (balls of sweet pasta and honey).