Baroque basilicas and pastries in Palazzolo Acreide
A southern location
Palazzolo Acreide is located in the south of Sicily, in the picturesque Iblei Mountains. The towns of Buscemi and Giarratana are a short distance away, as is the Anapo River.
From our glamping base in Noto, Sicily, it took us around 35 minutes by car to reach Palazzolo Acreide.
The drive takes you through winding roads, past green, and sometimes arid, fields, and over historic bridges. It’s a pretty build-up to the wondrous sights that lie ahead.
A baroque town with Ancient Greek roots, cobbled streets and medieval buildings, these are the 5 best things to do in Palazzolo Acreide.
1. Visit the Basilica di San Sebastiano
In every city, regardless of its size, there’s usually one landmark that overshadows the rest. And, in Palazzolo Acreide, that landmark is the Basilica di San Sebastiano (St Sebastian Church).
It’s a jaw-dropping moment when you first set sights on this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s magnificent size and overwhelming beauty.
The baroque façade made of jujube stone gives the church its spotlight in the Piazza del Popolo. From columns to capitals and pillars to plinths, the Basilica di San Sebastiano is a baroque masterpiece.
The church is free to enter, but please be respectful of other parishioners if there’s a mass going on.
I’d also advise ladies to bring a shawl to cover their shoulders if wearing a sleeveless top. No one will tell you that you can’t enter (like in Palermo), but I’d do so out of respect.
Still standing — Palazzolo Acreide
A church, whose initial construction is said to date to the 15th century, has undergone significant changes over time.
Probably the most damaging historical event to hit the basilica was the 1693 earthquake. The notorious Val di Noto incident not only destroyed parts of the church, but also much of south-eastern Sicily.
Take a seat in the piazza and admire the church’s entire breadth and width. At the top of every hour, the church bells ring in accordance to the time of day.
It’s a sight, and sound, that’s worth sticking around for.
The star attraction of Palazzolo Acreide — Basilica di San Sebastiano
“From columns to capitals and pillars to plinths, the Basilica di San Sebastiano is a baroque masterpiece.”
2. Next stop: Basilica di San Paolo
A short walk from the Piazza del Popolo is another baroque church of historic importance.
The Basilica di San Paolo is named after the main patron and protector of Palazzolo Acreide, San Paolo (St Paul).
San Paolo has 11 steps from the ground level to the church doors, compared to 25 at San Sebastiano.
Sicilian architect, Netto Vincenzo Sinatra, designed the striking baroque façade, using cornices and moldings to complete his work of art.
There are 10 churches to see in total in Palazzolo Acreide, another notable one being the Chiesa di San Michele.
Though smaller in size than both basilicas, the church is another fine example of baroque architecture. It’s also located in a quiet part of the city, amidst local residences and small businesses.
Churches galore, like the Chiesa di San Michele, in Palazzolo Acreide
3. Pasticceria pit stop
So, imagine my delight, when I heard of a superb pasticceria in Palazzolo Acreide that came with raving reviews.
Antica Pasticceria Corsino has been delighting customers with its mouth-watering range of desserts since 1868.
A dessert lover’s dream — Palazzolo Acreide
No truer words could best describe the moment upon stepping inside than ‘like a kid in a candy store’.
Counters filled with rows of freshly made cream cakes and delicate pastries stared lovingly back at me.
On the other side was the counter of creamy gelato in a rainbow of colors and flavors. I was in sweetie heaven, and the pressure was on to choose something to try.
In the end, I settled upon a traditional Sicilian Cassata cake. Given the history behind Antica Pasticceria Corsino, I wanted to try something equally traditional.
As I sliced into the pillowy soft green marzipan, I knew I’d made the right choice. The filling of ricotta cheese, chocolate chips and candied fruit only added to its deliciousness.
The others chose a rum baba, a fruity yellow sponge tart and a chocolate gelato on a stick. In the name of research for the post, I tried a bit of each, and all were equally delicious.
A visit to Antica Pasticceria Corsino is worth every calorie. Plus, you get to walk it all off when exploring the sights of Palazzolo Acreide.
Antica Pasticceria Corsino, Via Nazionale 2, Palazzolo Acreide
Get your sweet fix at Antica Pasticceria Corsino in Palazzolo Acreide
4. Get Greek
As I mentioned in the introduction, Palazzolo Acreide is a city steeped in Ancient Greek roots.
And there’s no landmark more telling of its Greek past that of the Teatro di Akrai.
The historic site was discovered in 1824 after an excavation campaign by archaeologist Gabriele Ludica.
Its exact date of the Teatro di Akrai isn’t known. However, historic sources suggest it was built in the middle of the Second Century BC.
Changes over the centuries
During Roman rule, they added their own touches to the theater during their rule. The Romans extended the stage to 2.20m, greatly reducing the orchestra area.
During the Byzantine period, the Teatro di Akrai was completely scrapped as a theater. Instead, the building was used as a site to build a wheat processing structure.
It’s much smaller than the Teatro Greco in Siracusa, with just 12 rows of seats and 9 sections. However, this doesn’t make it any less interesting to visit, plus you’ll be experiencing centuries of history before your eyes.
Teatro di Akrai is usually open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 6.30pm, but check the hours before visiting.
Teatro di Akrai, Via Teatro Greco 8
Step back in time at Teatro di Akrai
5. Explore the streets
In a city as small as Palazzolo Acreide, the best thing you can do is just get lost.
From Piazza del Popolo, walk the main street of Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Warm summer days and nights equate to plenty of alfresco dining courtesy of the roadside restaurants and eateries.
Visitor signposts point you in the direction of the main landmarks to visit. Wander the cobbled paths of the medieval area, and admire the structures that date back several centuries.
Fellow photography buffs will find something captivating to photograph around every corner. The colors, detailing and the imperfect state of the buildings make for interesting captures.
Count the number of unique doorways, narrow paths and courtyards that you come across. One photography highlight I found was in the city’s town hall building (municipio) right by the Piazza del Popolo.
By the end of our visit, I surprised myself with how many photos and videos I’d managed to take.
Charming, historic, and with a new angle to photograph, the city impressed me in so many ways.
A hidden photography gem in the courtyard of the Town Hall
Tips on visiting Palazzolo Acreide
1. Arrive in the late afternoon
The Sicilian heat can be unbearable, especially if visiting Sicily during July, August, or even September.
We arrived in Palazzolo Acreide around 4.30pm and it was perfect. There was enough sunlight to photograph the city well, and most of the attractions were still open.
2. Wear comfortable shoes
Another one that may sound obvious, but comfortable and breathable footwear is a must.
The cobbled streets can be uneven in parts, and there’s also a slight slope in the medieval area.
In short, your visit to Palazzolo Acreide will be far more enjoyable with the right pair of shoes.
Walk, wander and explore the streets of the medieval area in Palazzolo Acreide
3. Park outside the center
Finding a parking spot in Palazzolo Acreide can be challenging, especially if you arrive during the peak period.
Narrow streets and plenty of cars all vie for the same parking spot in the center. Instead, just park outside the center, in one of the surrounding streets nearby Antica Pasticceria Corsino.
You’re more likely to find a parking spot, and it’s also much easier to leave when it’s time to go.
What do you think of Palazzolo Acreide? Does it look like somewhere you’d like to visit one day? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.
Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....