Naro is a small, striking mediaeval and baroque jewel in the province of Agrigento, not far from the Valle dei Templi. Sheltered and scenic, it enjoys a view that stretches from the surrounding hills to the sea.
The imposing city has a very ancient history, from the Sicani, the oldest inhabitants of the island, to the Normans, Swabians and Spaniards, as well as a strong Arab presence. Traces of their movements can be found everywhere, from the ancient city gate, the only one left from the cults, to the beautiful mosque transformed by Conte Ruggero into the old Chiesa Madre (Cathedral). Another testament to these ancient movements is the ancient Jewish quarter, together with the Castello Medievale Chiaramonte, a mediaeval castle that rises above top of the city and hosts an exhibition of magnificent nineteenth-century women's dresses, which belonged to the noblewomen of Naro.
Its monuments tell an important story, the city was called radiant and had its place in the Sicilian Parliament. Its churches are richly decorated with works of art and all of them are worth a visit. In particular, the Chiesa Madre, dedicated to Maria SS Annunziata, contains the sculpture of the Madonna della Catena by Antonello and Giacomo Gagini, an Annunciation on canvas by Domenico Provenzali, a Madonna and Child by the workshop of Gaginesca and a baptismal font in the mediaeval style. There’s also the Chiesa di Santa Caterina church that takes us back to an atmosphere of bygone times, with the crypt, statues and mediaeval frescoes, which are still partly visible, and the Benedictine Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore church with a rich Baroque façade done according to Spanish tastes. The culmination of the Naro Baroque is the Chiesa di San Francesco church, with frescoes by the artist, Domenico Provenzani, while the Biblioteca Comunale Feliciana , the municipal library, with its extensive book collection, can be visited on weekdays.
Naro is found in the pages of Sciascia and Simonetta Agnello Hornby. The latter relates an ancient tradition according to which the righteous, before going to heaven, “…make a tour of the island to say goodbye to seven special places in Sicily: Naro Castle, beaten by the winds day and night; Caltabellotta, curled around the Rock; Erice, the mountain that looks towards Africa; Ustica, the island with the emerald sea; Stromboli, the volcano that rumbles in the middle of the waves; Ortigia, the ancient Greek island”.
In addition to having been a film set for many films, including one about Giudice Livatino and La scomparsa di Patò, Naro seems to have been the venue of the first Sagra del Mandorlo almond festival in 1934.
The feast which the Naresi are most attached to is San Calogero’s feast, the black saint who is celebrated on two days: 18 and 25 June. Tasting the delicacies of Naro is important, almost like learning about its monuments; just stop at a local trattoria to taste the treasures of the food table, and you’re duty-bound to finish the meal with the ricotta-filled ravioli. During Carnival time, don’t miss out on the sfincia, the local dessert that’s fried and dusted with icing sugar: a real crowning glory!