The town has been built strategically on the top of a rocky cliff. The monumental 17th century Palazzo Ducale, the Chiesa Madre poised at the top of a scenographic staircase and the Benedictine Monastery are clear landmarks recognizable from afar. The town was founded in 1637 by the twin brothers Carlo and Giulio Tomasi. Shortly after, Giulio inherited the title of Baron and Duke from his twin brother and became known as Duca Santo (the Holy Duke) because of his religious fervour. In fact, during the counterreformation the Tomasi Family was renowned for its moral and religious dignity. So much so that the town of Palma soon became the Jerusalem of Sicily. The scientist and astronomer Giovan Battista Odierna, later to become the first archpriest of Palma, projected the layout of the town according to an octagonal plan. The sarcophagus of Hodierna and several paintings by the famous local 17th artist can be found in the Chiesa Madre, easy to distinguish thanks to its ornate Baroque-style facade flanked by two elegant bell-towers.
The last and most famous descendant of the Tomasi family is Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, a novelist. His world-famous novel “il Gattopardo” is largely set in the town of Palma, called “Donnafugata” by the author. The Chiesa Madre of Palma (Duomo di Donnafugata) is easily recognised in the description of the “stubby red marble columns” and the Palazzo Ducale (Palazzo Salina) still has the elegant decorated wooden ceilings described in the novel. The Monastery where Don Fabrizio goes to visit Beata Corbera is the Benedictine monastery of Palma and the author’s ancestor Isabella Tomasi is the nun who entered into the convent as Suor Maria Crocifissa.
Suor Maria has gained historical notoriety because of her great religious devotion and her temptation by the Devil, who used her to write a letter which is now exhibited in the Cathedral of Agrigento. The 14th century Castle built by Federico III of Chiaramonte is well worth a visit due to its spectacular location on the coast. In the castle’s chapel there is a lovely little statue of a Madonna attributed to Gagini. The “Madonna del Castello” is venerated each first Sunday after Easter. The castle was of decisive strategic importance in the defence of the coast from pirate attacks, just as the 17th century Torre San Carlo which guards over Marina di Palma. Palma’s coastline has wonderful sandy beaches (Ciotta) and picturesque rocky inlets (Cala Vincenzina). An absolute must are the “Ricci del Gattopardo”: almond biscuits baked by the nuns according to the recipe handed down by the Tomasi family over the centuries.
Palma di Montechiaro: distance from Agrigento approx.25 Km
Contacts of organizations and associations which offer tourist information and other useful services:
Municipality of Palma di Montechiaro: telephone reception
+39 0922 799001
Pro Loco Palma di Montechiaro:
+39 0922 968020 / +39 329 2076675
Palma di Montechiaro: the coordinates indicate the Chiesa Madre.
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N 37° 11' 32.93''
E 13° 45' 35.97''
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