is a city of 11,700 inhabitants situated on the slopes of Mount
Etna, miraculously spared by the volcano’s numerous eruptions
throughout the centuries. It enjoyed a period of prosperity in the
Middle Ages, notably in the 12th century, which continued up to
the 1500’s, when the tax policies of the Spanish sovereigns,
coupled with a ravaging plague epidemic, brought the town to its
OLD TOWN CENTRE
Randazzo could be called the black
town, since lava has been largely used to pave its streets, highlight
arches above doorways and windows (at 100 Corso Umberto for example
is a building with fine mullioned windows divided by small spiral
columns), to build its main buildings and monuments like the Church
of Santa Maria.
Chiesa di Santa Maria – Built
in the 13th century, it has undergone many changes throughout the
centuries. It only retains the original tall Norman apses, ornamented
with blind arcading, and its south wall, decorated by two and three-light
mullioned windows. Its neo-gothic façade and bell-tower dates
back to the 19th century. The black lava building stone lovely contrasts
with the white window and door surrounds. The external sacristy
once accomodated an ecclesiastic tribunal.
San Nicolò – Corso
Umberto, the main thoroughfare, cuts through the historic centre.
A short distance along it, Via Roma leads off right; a street on
the left leads to Piazza San Nicolò, dominated by a church
of the same name. Built in 1594, it has a façade articulated
by dark lava stone. Its bell-tower is dated 1783.
Palazzo Clarentano – On the
same square overlook Palazzo Clarentano (1508), with a fine frontage
graced with mullioned windows separated by slender columns, and
Santa Maria della Volta (14th century).
degli Archi – Right of Palazzo Clarentano begins the delightful
Via degli Archi, crowned, as its very name suggests, by a series
of arches. The via Polizzi, to the right, leads from the piazza
to the fine lava portal of Casa Spitaleri.
Continue on via Duca degli Abruzzi,
intersected by via Agonia (agony), on the right, owing its name,
it is said, to that condemned prisoners were brought along here
from their castle-prison to face their executioners. Here is a fine
specimen of 1300’s house, with a single large open space on
the ground floor and two square rooms above (only visible from the
Via Duca degli Abruzzi leads back
to Corso Umberto. An arch on the right marks the old entrance to
the Palazzo Reale, retaining only part of its original façade.
Before it was destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, it accomodated famous
figures such as Joan of England, the wife of the Norman King William
II, Constance of Aragon (the town was chosen as the summer residence
of the Spanish court) and, in 1535, by Charles V.
The Chiesa di San Martino –
Rebuilt in the 17th century, it has a beautiful campanile dating
from the 13th-14th century. Battlemented at roof level, a tall octagonal
spire points skywards. Lower down it is ornamented with elegant
single openings, emphasized by deep polychrome strips and decorative
pointed three-light windows. Inside, it preserves two Gaginian Madonnas
and a polyptych attributed to Antonello de Saliba, a pupil of Antonello
da Messina. Across from the church lie the ruins of the castle-prison,
that began life in the 13th century as a fortified tower set into
the city walls. Just beyond is the Porta di San Martino (St. Martin’s