Giarratana, is one of the most small inhabited centers of Ragusa, it counts about 3000 inhabitants. Called “Perla degli Iblei”, it extends on a slope at 520 meters above sea level, in an orderly and harmonious way, almost nestled between mountains and plans. Its territory, mainly mountainous and elongated in direction north-west/south-east and very irregular, consisting of vulcanite and sedimentary rock, extends for about 44 km², from the slopes of Mount Lauro (an ancient volcano active from 1.8 million years ago) up to the surroundings of the dam of Santa Rosalia. The territory is crossed by the Irminio River, that comes from two springs on the slopes of Mount Lauro at 700 meters above sea level, and flows near Playa Grande. Giarratana boasts very ancient origins. Some believe that its ancestress is from Casmene, a Greek city founded in 644 B.C., from Syracuse on the Mount Casale and with Acrai and Kamarina, constituted one of the three strongholds for the defense of the eastern Sicily coast. The first historical tidings about Giarratana date back to Swabian domination in 1195, when the king Enric IV of Swabia allowed Giarratana to the marquis Rinald D’Acquaviva. Later in Giarratana succeeded differents families of barons, princes and marquises, the most important in temporal order a family of Pisa, I Settimo. Before to close the land, Giarratana stood on a steep mount at 771 meters above sea level, but the earthquake on the 11th of January 1693 razed to the ground all over the eastern coast of Sicily, included the ancient burgh of Giarratana, now called Terravecchia. After the earthquake the country was built ex novo on a further south hill, not very distant, called “Pojo de li disi”. The name of Giarratana results from Cerretanum, from the latin cerrus, namely oak, for the many oak woods in that territory, but in the following centuries for phonetic assonance the name turned into Giarratana.
The small town is nicely cut, with straight and wide streets that go up from the plan back to the highest part, “u cuozzu”, where there is the historic centre that holds the atavistic memory of the inhabitants and is presented like a precious incunabulum to visitors through the “Open-Air Museum”, a living diary of customs and traditions. No less precious are churches that overtop the urban centre of Giarratana: Church of St. Anthony, tipically baroque, Church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, in baroque style and finally Mother Church-Church of the Annunziata and St. Joseph, with a neoclassical facade. A very interesting historical and tourist survey are archaeological sites of Kasmenai, a walled fortification, Terravecchia, an ancient medieval town of Giarratana, the Roman Villa Rustica of contrada Margi, the Villa Romana of imperial times date back to the III Century AD, the Hypogeum of Calaforno, one of the most important structure of prehistoric Sicily of historical and anthropological interest.
Church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle
Already in the ancient Giarratana existed a church devoted to St. Bartholomew the apostle, whereof today remain only the outer walls. After the earthquake on the 11th of January 1693, the new church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle was built in the inferior part of the new site. It was consecrated on 29 September 1872 by the bishop of Noto Mons. Benedetto La Vecchia. The facade that we today admire is an example of late Baroque, typical of many cult buildings risen among the 18th and the 19th century. Entering, the basilical setting is wide and bright, split into three naves undersown by Dorian columns. The ceiling of the central nave is richly decorated with floral stucco, works by Gianforma, whereas the central part is occupied by three valuable paintings, works realized by the priest and painter Gaetano Distefano in 1836 and rappresent: Moses on the Sinai, the Transfiguration and the Cananea. At the bottom of the central nave the bigger chapel safeguards the St. Bartholomew’s statue, celebrated every 24th August. The Church of St. Bartholomew preserves the body of martyr Ilary given in 1665 by the pope Alexander VII.