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Cammarata -San Giovanni Gemini

Your next destination in Sicily in the Sicani mountains

A mountain of excellence

The eighteenth century

The development of Cammarata during the eighteenth century was likely constrained. The S. Maria district, which started construction towards the end of the seventeenth century, was the only area to see significant growth. The other districts saw the addition of new houses, expanding into previously unbuilt areas and gardens. "Constructed in the latter half of the century, the Sanctuary of S. Maria stood atop a rock, isolated by a vast garden and the surrounding steep terrain. Given its remote location and the challenging journey, residents visited it on significant holidays or during times of family hardship and severe calamity, seeking penance. During summer, for the feast in honor of Madonna di Caccia, pilgrimages were made. Nevertheless, the most devout regularly attended Mass or prayed there."

Caruso, in the "Documents for the history of Cammarata," identifies seven districts: "Imbastia, la Citazza, Porta Guagliarda, Porta Soprana and Porticella, the Piazza, and Gianguarna."

Cesare Pasca, distinguishing between the upper and lower parts of the town, further notes, "The town also divides into several small districts: one atop the Rocca, stretching to its midsection, where the church of S. Vito stands, known as Imbastia. Other areas are named after now-nonexistent gates, such as Porta Soprana, Porta Guagliarda, and Porticella. Another district, Gianguarna, lies at the cliff's base to the north. The area known as 'the square' is narrow and dim... From this place, three main streets diverge: one leading out of town, another towards the convent of S. Domenico to the left, and the right-hand path heading towards the tower. The so-called Carrozza street, regarded as the town's main thoroughfare, barely accommodates three or four people abreast; it extends briefly before curving towards the Santa Domenica monastery." The topography and local customs resulted in distinct and often contrasting districts within Cammarata. Residents rarely ventured into other parts of town, especially during "the season," when streets turned into streams from constant rain. Visits to the San Giovanni plain were uncommon due to the treacherous tracks and muddy conditions. The newer residential area, on "all flat ground," appeared more modern and accessible, with its new buildings and broad, stone-paved streets, resembling a prodigal son now under watchful eye. "For a long time, until the eighteenth century's end, Cammarata boasted seven defensive towers: four belonging to the castle and three strategically placed: Torre Bruna or Rocca, Turazza, and Torre Bastia, with a Turretta also recorded. The town's gates were Guagliarda, S. Maria, Porticella, and Soprana." The growth in inhabited areas was modest for both Cammarata and S. Giovanni.

The largest expansion occurred downstream of the town, "with construction reaching nearly to the Capuchin convent." The vicinity of the Purgatory church and the Alessi Palace saw new buildings, while the district beneath the madríce was completed. Numerous large and small houses and "a few distinguished buildings" were erected. Corso Toledo was extended, and several "broad and straight" streets emerged. Via Antonello and Vico were established, along with the Alfieri courtyard. Upstream, the "Terra Russa" district expanded, including many "modest homes," and streets like Archimede, Buonarroti, and Galluppi were created, along with the "Strata vocata di Guarino" above the matrix. In the eighteenth century, "the palaces built by Baron-Pietro Bernardo on Via Antonello stand out (Palazzo Alessi on Via Antonello, now hosting the Cassa Rurale ed Artigiana and the Town Hall, was originally built in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Baron Francesco Maria (1777-1850) bequeathed it to his sons. Among its residents was arch. Dionisio Alessi. (Courtesy of Cav. Giuseppe Alessi).) and in Largo Nazzareno (The Alessi palace in Largo Nazzareno, constructed by Baron Pietro Bernardo towards the eighteenth century's end, features a main facade adorned with balconies and a stone portal bearing the family coat of arms. Inside, several rooms boast vault paintings and stucco decorations, alongside a small chapel. Baron Francesco renovated and restored the palace towards the nineteenth century's end. Courtesy of Cav. Giuseppe Alessi).) And the casino at the Capuchins' convent." Tirrito elaborates on the latter, mentioning "a prince of Paternò in 1790 established a lavish Casino, ceasing with the founder's death." It occupied a building known as "the palace," erected by abbot Antonino Castiglione in the early 1600s. While the inhabited areas of both municipalities saw limited growth during the eighteenth century, Cammarata experienced a notable population decline, whereas S. Giovanni saw a modest increase. From 7645 residents in 1713, Cammarata's population dwindled to 5123 by 1797, while S. Giovanni's grew from 3011 in 1728 to 3123 in 1831. Agricultural crises and prolonged droughts explain the "new municipality's" stability but not Cammarata's alarming population decrease. Throughout its history, Cammarata witnessed significant emigration, partly due to the increasing difficulty of constructing new homes on the uneven terrain where the town originally stood.

Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini: From the 1700s to Today

Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini 

From 700 to today


The nineteenth century

The eighteenth century saw a demographic decline in our two municipalities, a trend that intensified in the nineteenth century due to cholera outbreaks in 1837 and 1854-1855. The impact was less severe in S. Giovanni, where fatalities were fewer. Cammarata's population decreased from 5,123 in 1797 to 5,037 in 1852, and further to 4,210 by 1861; meanwhile, S. Giovanni's population remained relatively stable, moving from 3,123 in 1831 to 3,131 in 1852, and rising to 3,219 by 1861. It was only in the latter part of the century that both towns experienced a significant population increase, particularly notable in Cammarata. By 1881, Cammarata's population reached 6,210, and 6,541 by 1901, while S. Giovanni grew to 3,752 and 4,238 in the same census years, respectively.

In Cammarata, this demographic growth did not translate into a corresponding expansion of the inhabited area. Instead, abandoned houses were reoccupied, and various high-altitude areas, including the Santa Maria district, were repopulated as new homes were built. "The highest houses continued to ascend the steep, sometimes sheer rock, supporting each other as they climbed. Often, lacking a more suitable location, they were built on almost overhanging boulders or along crevices, which, during winter rains, transformed into streams," describes Pasca of Cammarata in the early nineteenth century. He further delineates the town into an upper part, predominantly inhabited by millers, and a lower part, where the more modern buildings and distinguished residents are located, also noting the division into several small neighborhoods.

"The square," Pasca writes, "is an enclosed space with a sloping and uneven surface, featuring a source, or rather a trough, where young girls fetch water and animals drink. The area is poorly maintained and excessively steep." De Gregorio adds that by the late nineteenth century, "Cammarata was divided into neighborhoods not just for naming convenience but out of necessity, as natural divisions or obstacles hindered communication, especially during the winter and rainy days, when 'lavinara' swelled into small, impassable streams. Cliffs, ramparts, and private gardens or religious estates, sometimes extensive like those of convents and monasteries, surrounded by walls, also posed barriers."

Barone and Giarratana corroborate this, noting that by the late nineteenth century, Cammarata had expanded, particularly through the S. Maria district, which now closely integrated with the Embastia district. Conversely, S. Giovanni's modest population increase spurred a significant expansion of the built environment, extending equally in lower and upper parts. New districts emerged, including "Puzzu Cumuni" (Common Well) and Bevaio Square, the former developing near the Capuchin convent garden with broad, parallel streets, and the latter around a pre-existing trough, on flat and slightly sloped ground.

Moreover, the "'Ncapu u Ponti" district was completed in the town's highest and most uneven part, leading to "the central street, also known as Corso Toledo, becoming steep and winding." This area featured many dwellings, "mostly poor houses and straw huts," constructed along the Tannery stream's course, "laden with stones and mud, marking a boundary between the town and the steep coast rising from it." By 1880, the town extended east to Via Nuova, south to Via Nazario Sauro, and west to Via Siberia. S. Giovanni's compact inhabited area was divided by two main streets, Largo Nazareno and Corso Toledo, into four districts or zones, with the largest extending north toward the Capuchin convent. The town's pleasantness and orderly development attracted attention from scholars visiting during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

"S. Giovanni," Pasca notes, "is entirely flat. A wide, stone-paved street bisects it, with smaller streets branching off to divide the town into numerous compartments." The nineteenth century was marked by significant works and the promotion of social and cultural initiatives.

In 1818, the Ecce Homo chapel was constructed along Via Socrate, initiated by the Liguorini fathers. Later, in 1882, under the leadership of Girolamo Alessi, a new cemetery was inaugurated to provide a dignified resting place for the deceased, away from residential areas. This initiative, conceived in 1862 by the municipal administrations of Cammarata and S. Giovanni, materialized after years of planning on land donated by Mr. Antonino Alessi, with the official opening conducted by mayors Girolamo Coffari and Girolamo Alessi.

By 1891, a significant transformation took place at the four corners (a li quattru cantuneri), where Mayor Francesco Carta replaced a humble structure with an artistic fountain. Positioned against the Carta family home (now Li Gregní family), this fountain featured a squared, artistically carved stone on a trapezoidal base, accessible via side steps. It displayed three arches, the central one secured by an iron gate and the sides housing niches with water taps and stone basins. Unfortunately, this fountain was demolished in 1938 during the reconstruction of water and sewage systems along Corso F. Crispi, a decision still remembered by older residents due to the persistent muddy conditions and standing water in the square.

The late 1930s also saw the popularization of the triumphal chariot tradition in honor of Jesus Nazarene, introduced by master Alessandro Petyx. In 1878, following the advocacy of lawyer Giuseppe Guarino, the town formally adopted the name San Giovanni Gemini, a change from its original appellation of S. Giovanni to avoid confusion with other similarly named towns. This renaming process began in December 1877, initially to S. Giovanni Monte Gemini, before settling on the current name.

In 1894, the orphanage was established through the generosity of Don Liborio and Donna Vincenza Alessi. They dedicated their resources to constructing a substantial edifice for the relief of orphans and the needy, as reported by Fr La Pilusa. Additionally, 1897 marked the foundation of the "S. Vito" Rural Fund in Cammarata and the Cassa Rurale ed Artigiana in San Giovanni Gemini, spearheaded by architect Giuseppe Forestieri, providing financial support to the rural and artisanal communities.

From 1900 to 1950

De Gregorio, in their thesis titled "Problems of the Territory of Cammarata Connected to the History of the County," discusses the historical significance of the Gianguarna district, believed to be one of the oldest areas within Cammarata. This district falls under the influence of the Annunziata church, which was originally dedicated to the Madonna of the Sick before being renamed prior to a 1540 visitation. Featuring a bell gable with two bells, the church saw the construction of a new bell tower between 1947 and 1949 through the efforts of rector Sac. Salvatore Pollina, who later added a clock. Presently, the church's entrance is marked by an atrium with a pointed arch and houses significant artifacts including a 17th-century Crucifix, a wooden group of the Annunziata from the same century, a Magdalene canvas possibly by Reni, and a painting by Fra Fedele da S. Biagio. The remnants of the walls of an adjoining convent are still visible today.

Further analysis in the thesis presents a table reconstructing Cammarata's urban development, identifying the second residential nucleus as the area downstream of the ancient "Strata della Carrozza" and situated between the square, the castle, and the matrix church. Amid various hypotheses regarding the town's historical development, De Gregorio's assertions are considered the most credible due to their plausibility and the author's reputation.

It is posited that Cammarata's earliest settlement likely centered around the square, despite evidence of an older, fortified farmhouse located further upstream. The Gianguarna district, while ancient, is thought to have been established during the Arab period, hinted at by the possible presence of a mosque where the S. Giacomo church now stands, as indicated by the area's Arabic-derived name, "rabbato" or "rabbatello."

The population increase in Cammarata during Lucia's time, and in the years immediately following, is attributed to various factors. These include conflicts with Muslims around 1250 leading to the depopulation of numerous Arab hamlets, the strategic advantage and security offered by the town's rocky elevation and the fortified castle of Lucia and his successor Adamo, the benefits of communal living, and the necessity of relocating to higher, healthier grounds away from malarial and landslide-prone areas exacerbated by deforestation. Supporting this hypothesis, Edrisi describes Cammarata in "The Book of King Roger" during Lucia's dominion as a large farmhouse with extensive territory, fertile fields, a strategically situated and defensible castle, and abundant orchards and gardens.

In this section  we have collected other details on the history of Cammarata  taken from the book Countries of Sicily of the Sicilian Bibliographic Institute, printed  May 15, 1965. We hope to have done something pleasant.
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From 1950 to today

In the last four decades, Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini have witnessed significant urban development, contrasting with the earlier part of the century. The push for improved living conditions and housing shortages spurred new, more comfortable residential projects. This growth spans three distinct phases for each municipality: 1951-1968, 1969-1982, and 1983-1990 for Cammarata; and 1951-1962, 1963-1980, and 1981-1990 for San Giovanni Gemini. Initially, growth was modest, featuring public and small single-family homes. The second phase saw rapid expansion into challenging terrains, adhering to seismic standards. The last period focused on upscale development, including multi-family and single-family homes and villas.

In Cammarata, the 1950s marked the awakening of the Gianguarna area and the emergence of new homes along the main road, transforming the Lupa plain with construction. A new district also developed above the old town, offering housing for various social classes, from state buildings to homes built by emigrants and local farmers.

By the late 1960s, municipal efforts led by Dr. Salvatore Mirabile integrated large building areas into the Construction Plan, aiming to accommodate the growing demand for housing in both suitable and challenging locations due to orographic factors. This expansion, while traditional in urban intensity, lacked the historic center's organizational rigor and failed to harmonize with the surroundings or existing structures, a trend that worsened over time due to occasional illegal constructions.

An interesting phenomenon occurred in the "Terra Rossa" area, where the two towns merged through similar, often unfinished constructions, creating a unique urban blend. The last decade also saw development along the Turibolo stream and in the higher eastern areas, which previously housed the S. Agostino convent.

In San Giovanni Gemini, post-WWII efforts led by Nicola Maria Alessi released vast building areas on challenging terrains and the fertile "Puzzu Cumuni" plain. This area, once rich in water and greenery, transformed into a densely built residential zone, initially featuring modest homes that gradually expanded in size. The Sacramento plan later saw the construction of buildings intended for public use, including schools and municipal facilities, amidst a neighborhood that extended towards the historically avoided "Piano dei morti."

Over the years, both towns have seen considerable urban and social development, marked by the construction of educational, recreational, and residential facilities, significantly altering their landscapes and addressing various community needs. Despite these advancements, challenges such as political struggles, unemployment, and the need for further economic recovery have persisted, highlighting the complex interplay between urban development, socio-economic conditions, and community well-being in Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini.

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San Giovanni Gemini

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Not just history,  find out what to do a
San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata

There are various activities that can be carried out in our municipalities, dozens of restaurants that deal with the products of the Sicani mountains, guaranteeing very high quality at an excellent price, moreover, many places where you can stay among hotels, farmhouses, B&B and holiday homes.
Huge choice of  Shops, night clubs  available in the heart of the city, as well as the beauty of the territory itself with its majestic Mount Cammarata which dominates sovereign.

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