Licata is a city and comune
In Italy, the comune is the basic administrative division, and may be properly approximated in casual speech by the English word township or municipality.-Importance and function:...

located on the south coast of Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, at the mouth of the Salso River
Salso River
The River Salso , also known as the Imera Meridionale , is a river of Sicily. It rises in the Madonie Mountains and, traversing the provinces of Enna and Caltanissetta, flows into the Mediterranean at the western end of the Gulf of Gela at the seaport of Licata, in the Province of...

 (the ancient Himera), about midway between Agrigento
Agrigento , is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento. It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas , one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden...

 and Gela
Gela is a town and comune in the province of Caltanissetta in the south of Sicily, Italy. The city is at about 84 kilometers distance from the city of Caltanissetta, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city has a larger population than the provincial capital, and ranks second in land area.Gela is an...

. It is a major seaport developed at the turn of the twentieth century, shipping sulphur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

, the refining of which has made Licata the largest European exporting centre, and asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

, and at times shipping cheese
Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....


West of the port city there is a series of pocket beaches separated by wave-cut headlands as high as 40 m. (Amore 2002).


The site of archaic settlements, the city was founded on the right bank of the Salso in 282 BCE, by Phintias, a tyrant of Agrigentum, who named it for himself, razing the city of Gela
Gela is a town and comune in the province of Caltanissetta in the south of Sicily, Italy. The city is at about 84 kilometers distance from the city of Caltanissetta, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city has a larger population than the provincial capital, and ranks second in land area.Gela is an...

 and resettling its population at his new settlement. Phintias laid it out on a great scale, with its walls, temples, and agora
The Agora was an open "place of assembly" in ancient Greek city-states. Early in Greek history , free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the Agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Later, the Agora also served as a marketplace where...

. As late as the 1st century BCE, inscriptions and coins show that the inhabitants retained the name Geloi. The setting took advantage of a small natural harbour, about 80 m across, which corresponds to a natural depression along the coast that is now infilled with construction. The site was protected by the headland now named Monte San Michele. At nearby Cape Ecnomus, in 256 BCE the Romans
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 won a major battle
Battle of Cape Ecnomus
The Battle of Cape Ecnomus was a naval battle, fought off Cape Ecnomus , between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic, during the First Punic War...

 in the First Punic War
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...


Phintias, however, never rose to a degree of importance at all to be compared to that of Gela: it is mentioned in the First Punic War (249 BC) as affording shelter to a Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 fleet, which was, however, attacked in the roadstead by that of the Carthaginians
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, and many of the ships sunk. Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 also alludes to it as a seaport, carrying on a considerable export trade in corn. But in Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

's time it seems to have fallen into the same state of decay with the other cities on the south coast of Sicily, as he does not mention it among the few exceptions. Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, indeed, notices the Phintienses (or Phthinthienses as the name is written in some manuscripts) among the stipendiary towns of Sicily; and its name is found also in Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 (who writes it ); but it is strange that both these writers reckon it among the inland towns of Sicily, though its maritime position is clearly attested both by Diodorus and Cicero. The Antonine Itinerary
Antonine Itinerary
The Antonine Itinerary is a register of the stations and distances along the various roads of the Roman empire, containing directions how to get from one Roman settlement to another...

also gives a place called Plintis, doubtless a corruption of Phintias, which it places on the road from Agrigentum along the coast towards Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

, at the distance of 23 miles from the former city. This distance agrees tolerably well with that from Agrigento to Licata, though somewhat below the truth. There is indeed no doubt, from existing remains on the hill immediately above Licata, that the site was occupied in ancient times; and, though these have been regarded by local antiquarians as the ruins of ancient Gela, there is little doubt of the correctness of the opinion advanced by Cluverius, that that city is to be placed on the site of then called Terranova since renamed to its ancient form, Gela, and the vestiges which remain at Licata are those of Phintias.

Middle and Modern Ages

The historical centre of the town, near the coastal castle of Lympiados, dates from the period of Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 domination. In 827 the Arabs conquered Licata, and their rule lasted for more than two centuries, ending when the town was captured by the Normans on July 25, 1086. During the Norman-Hohenstaufen age the town flourished and was awarded the title of Cittè Demaniale ("Crown's City").

In 1270 Licata (then having some 7,000 inhabitants) rebelled against Angevine
Capetian House of Anjou
The Capetian House of Anjou, also known as the House of Anjou-Sicily and House of Anjou-Naples, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct House of Capet. Founded by Charles I of Sicily, a son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century...

 rule as part of the uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers
Sicilian Vespers
The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to the successful rebellion on the island of Sicily that broke out on the Easter of 1282 against the rule of the French/Angevin king Charles I, who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks three thousand French men and women were slain by...

. Thereafter the town came under the control of the Aragonese
House of Aragon
The House of Aragon is the name given several royal houses that ruled the County, the Kingdom or the Crown of Aragon.Some historiansGuillermo Fatás y Guillermo Redondo, Alberto Montaner Frutos, Faustino Menéndez Pidal de Navascués...

, who in 1447 granted it the title of fidelissima ("Most Faithful"). In 1553, after the city was sacked by Dragut's corsairs, it was decided to rebuild the walls, together with a massive tower which was erected on the summit of Sant'Angelo hill.

Licata began to flourish once more in the 16th century, thanks in part to the presence of a community of Maltese
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 immigrants, and this period of prosperity continued well into the 17th century, when the first settlements appeared outside the wall, housing the growing Maltese community, and numerous buildings were constructed or rebuilt in the Baroque style. The port also enjoyed a period of prosperity, largely resulting from the export of grain.

Contemporary era

In 1820 Licata rose against the Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 rulers of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, commonly known as the Two Sicilies even before formally coming into being, was the largest and wealthiest of the Italian states before Italian unification...

, led by patriot Matteo Vecchio Verderame. During the Expedition of the Thousand
Expedition of the Thousand
The Expedition of the Thousand was a military campaign led by the revolutionary general Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1860. A force of volunteers defeated the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, leading to its dissolution and annexation by the Kingdom of Sardinia, an important step in the creation of a newly...

 under Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian military and political figure. In his twenties, he joined the Carbonari Italian patriot revolutionaries, and fled Italy after a failed insurrection. Garibaldi took part in the War of the Farrapos and the Uruguayan Civil War leading the Italian Legion, and...

, the town contributed with a whole corps, and housed for a night Garibaldi's son Menotti and his general Nino Bixio
Nino Bixio
Nino Bixio was an Italian soldier and politician, who fought for the Italian unification.Born in Genoa, while still a boy, Bixio was compelled by his parents to embrace a career in the navy of the Kingdom of Sardinia...


The 1870s saw the construction of two bridges connecting to the sulphur mines inland, and five refineries (including the then largest in Europe) were built. This brought a considerable economic expansion, leading to the creation of several elegant residences in Licata.

Licata served as an Allied landing point during the 1943 World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 invasion of Sicily. War damage and the decline in competitiveness in the sulphur industry caused economic decline, forcing many people to emigrate to northern Italy or abroad. As a town occupied by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, it served as a model for John Hersey
John Hersey
John Richard Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist considered one of the earliest practitioners of the so-called New Journalism, in which storytelling devices of the novel are fused with non-fiction reportage...

's novel A Bell for Adano
A Bell for Adano (novel)
A Bell for Adano is a 1944 novel by John Hersey, the winner of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. It tells the story of an Italian-American officer in Sicily during World War II who wins the respect and admiration of the people of the town of Adano by helping them find a replacement for the...


Licata has however maintained its artistic importance, and tourism has begun to flourish again in recent times. Nevertheless the economy is heavily reliant on the fishing industry.
The Museo Civico displays many archaeological finds, notably material from burial grounds dating from prehistoric times to the 3rd Century BC.

Main sights

  • Archaeological remains of the ancient Greek city, at Monte Sant'Angelo. Here is also a Spanish watch fort dating from the 16th century.
  • The necropolis of Monte Petrulla
  • The Grangela, and hydraulic work of Pre-Hellenistic times
  • Frourion of Falaride, a Greek fortress
  • The lighthouse, which is the third tallest in Italy
  • Church of Santa Maria La Nova, built in the 15th century but largely renovated in following times. It houses the Black Christ's Chapel.
  • the Carmine (13th century), including a church and a convent, rebuilt in the 18th century under design by Giovanni Biagio Amico.
  • Palazzo di Città, a noteworthy example of Sicilian liberty style, designed by Ernesto Basile
    Ernesto Basile
    Ernesto Basile was an Italian architect and an exponent of modernism and Art Nouveau. He became well-known because of his stylistic fusion of ancient, medieval and modern elements. He was one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau in Italy.- Life :He was born on January 31, 1857 in Palermo...

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