Gela - Sicily, Italy

Gela lies on the south coast of Sicily on the Gulf of Gela with a fertile plain (ancient Campi Geloi) to the north. It has some good dune backed beaches and Greek remains but the town also has a large petro-chemical plant. The town has some fine defensive walls and the excellent Museo Archeologico that houses a notable collection of Greek painted vases dating from 600 to 500 BC. Outside the museum there are remains including a column from a temple of Athena and a small acropolis dating from the 5th century BC. Along the coast at Capo Soprano there are 4th century Greek fortifications with well preserved walls standing 25ft high. Churches in the town include the Chiesa Madre, rebuilt in 1766, the 17th century church of S. Francesco d'Assisi, the 15th century church of S. Giuseppe and the church of the Madonna delle Grazie of the Cappuccini, 16th century. The 14th century Castelluccio is an imposing construction built on a rocky spur that dominates the area of Gela. Gela was founded by colonists from Crete and Rhodes around 688 BC who went on to found Acragas (now Agrigento) in 581 BC. Gela enjoyed its greatest prosperity under the tyrant Hippocrates of Gela (498-491 BC) but it was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 405 BC. The inhabitants returned and rebuilt the town but it was destroyed again by the Mamertini (Campanian mercenaries) in 281 BC. Refounded yet again in 1233 by Frederick II, the town was known as Terranova di Sicilia until 1928 and it was the first Sicilian town liberated by the Allies in 1943.