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Museum of Travellers in Sicily

Noto Antica
March 13, 2021
From Scotland, with love
March 20, 2021
Noto Antica
March 13, 2021
From Scotland, with love
March 20, 2021
Ph. © Walter Silvestrini

The Museum of Travellers in Sicily

The “Museum of Travellers in Sicily”, created in 2008 in the 19th-century Palazzo Vaccaro in Via Maestranza 5, is a precious highlight of the cultural heritage of the little town of Palazzolo Acreide, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
One of a kind, the Museum illustrates the artistic, cartographic and literary testimonies of the phenomenon of the Grand Tour: the cultural, intellectual and formative journey that the young heirs of the European aristocracies embarked on, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, setting off from all corners of Europe with the desire to visit Magna Graecia, and travelling as far south as Sicily, which became the archetypal ‘Island of the Journey’.
Gabriele Iudica, Ph. credits - Walter SIlvestrini
Goethe, Italienische Reise, Ph. Credits - Walter Silvestrini

"the Museum illustrates the artistic, cartographic and literary testimonies of the phenomenon of the Grand Tour: the cultural, intellectual and formative journey that the young heirs of the European aristocracies embarked on..."

Through a series of beautiful original etchings and aquatints, the museum project relates two of the most important Voyages in Sicily of the entire European travel literature genre: the journey of Jean-Claude Richard de Saint-Non (1781-86), who retraced the tour made by Dominique-Vivant Denon in 1778; and that of Jean Hoüel (1782-87), painter, engraver and architect whose fame was such that he was known as Peintre du Roi, «the King’s Painter». You don’t have to go to the Louvre to admire his landscapes; the original engravings are also found here in the Museum of Travellers; in fact his works of landscapes and archeological sites of Siracusa, Ragusa and the Hyblean area can be admired next to photographs of the sites as they appear today, in a fascinating dialogue between past and present.
There are countless themes found in the permanent exhibition of the Museum; bird’s eye views, archeological remains, natural settings, plans and surveys of monuments, illustrated plates with details relating to single finds or to local flora, old trades and traditional costumes.
Museo dei Viaggiatori, Palazzolo Acreide, Ph. Credits - Walter Silvestrini

A visit to the museum provokes amazement at the precision of the representation of places and the refined details, eloquent examples of those trends called “vedutismo” and “rovinismo”, the love of ruins, that were so popular in the art of the day. Equally intriguing is the curious gaze of the traveller as he contemplates the ethno-anthropological traditions, local ways of living and working, and quaint customs connected to religion and local devotion. A single representative example is the collection of wonderful plates of Akrai that illustrate the unusual rock-cut sanctuary of the mysterious Magna Mater, the Great Mother, Phrygian goddess Cybele, adopted as the logo of the Museum.
There are also many maps of the 16th - 18th centuries on display, created by the most famous European cartographers, explicit testimony to the new geographical horizons and the discoveries that were made from the early modern age on. These are precious sources of information not just about the physical, hydrographic and orographic aspects of Sicily, but also about the road-systems, toponyms, nautical routes and the geo-political centrality of the island in the Mediterranean context.
Jean Houel, Ph. Credits - Walter Silvestrini
Cibele ai Santoni, Ph. Credits - Walter Silvestrini

The exhibition also includes examples of travel literature and books about ancient Sicily by antiquarians, scholars, historian and naturalists, who laid the foundations for the studies that followed in later centuries, and focused on archaeology, topography, numismatics, art-history and more. Among these, there is a precious first edition of De rebus Siculis decades duae by Tommaso Fazello (1558), father of Sicilian historiography; the Dichiarazioni della Pianta dell’antiche Siracuse about the plans of ancient Siracusa, by Vincenzo Mirabella and Alagona (1613), illustrated with a great map of the city of Siracusa in an ideal reconstruction; and also Le antichità di Acre - the antiquities of Akrai - by Gabriele Judica (1819), the genius loci: a homage not only to the discoverer of the ruins of Greek Akrai, but also to the Hyblean town of Palazzolo Acreide which hosts the collections.
The Museum also aspires to a role as a centre for studies and research on travel and on travellers; in fact it has a conference room and a small dedicated library. In the future it will have a new digital extension with the upgrading of the website to include a digital library on travel - and a film about the territory and its citizens, offering visitors a museum-experience which has a vision that is up to date, dynamic, educational and inclusive.
March 2021.


Direttrice del Museo dei Viaggiatori in Sicilia di Palazzolo Acreide e già dell'Accademia di Belle Arti Mario Minniti di Siracusa, poi di Noto, si occupa, con studi e ricerche, della ricostruzione tardobarocca delle città del Val di Noto e degli aspetti d'arte connessi alla letteratura odeporica di Sicilia. Sul tema del Viaggio ha curato eventi anche a Malta, Parigi e Melbourne. Autrice di numerose pubblicazioni tra le quali Jean Hoüel, Voyage a Siracusa per Sellerio, Sicily and Malta: The Island of the Grand Tour, L'Isola del Viaggio, Il Viaggio di Paolo Orsi negli Iblei. Il suo ultimo lavoro è Il Marchesato di Avola nel Cinquecento. I conventi. i feudatari. Santa Maria di Gesù dalla fondazione alla ricostruzione.

Laureato in Beni culturali e master in Turismo, si occupa di archeologia cristiana e medievale e di valorizzazione del patrimonio culturale del suo territorio. Ho partecipato a numerosi scavi archeologici e all'allestimento del settore paleocristiano del Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi di Siracusa. Studia le catacombe, le testimonianze del Cristianesimo le origini e la storia tardoantica di Siracusa e della Sicilia sud-orientale. È condirettore del Museo dei Viaggiatori in Sicilia di Palazzolo Acreide.