advertisement

23km (14 miles) W of Enna, 91km (56 miles) W of Catania, 44km (27 miles) NE of Agrigento, 93km (60 miles) SE of Palermo.

Caltanissetta's best feature is its views of the surrounding rolling hills with their tiny stone houses, lone olive trees, ploughed fields, and rocky crags. Once an important royal city thanks to its strategic location 588m (1,929 ft.) above sea level and between three mountains -- Sant'Anna, Monte San Giuliano, and Poggio Sant'Elia -- Caltanissetta afforded its knights an extensive view of the surrounding countryside of the Salso Valley.

Perhaps the least-visited provincial capital of Sicily, Caltanissetta suffered from the heavy damage incurred during fighting in World War II, the demise of its sulfur industry in the 1960s, and its reputation as one of the island's poorest cities. Yet what remains of Caltanissetta's heyday, when its wealthy inhabitants constructed numerous churches and mansions, is interesting to see, particularly the Palazzo Moncada and the Palazzo Vescovile. The best time to visit the city is at Easter during Settimana Santa because the nisseni, as the inhabitants are called, re-enact the Passione di Cristo (Passion of Christ).

If you decide to finish a meal with a native liqueur, this is the place to do so -- Caltanissetta is famous throughout Italy for being where the Amaro Averna liqueur originated. Drunk as a digestive, the bitter-tasting drink was invented by Capuchin monks belonging to the local order, who passed their recipe on to benefactor Salvatore Averna in the 1800s. Initially, Averna made the drink for family and friends, but such was the demand he decided to set up a business. Today the herbs, roots, and citrus rinds, which form the base of the brown-colored drink, are still mixed in Caltanissetta, although the rest of the manufacturing process takes place elsewhere.