The city still has traces of the different cultures which followed one another in Sicily: its current structure dates to the 10th century AD and is due to the Arabs, while many additions were made during Norman times and under the Aragonese rule of the Moncada family.
During the 19th century, the city grew in wealth thanks to the extraction of vast nearby sulphur deposits. With 88 mines in its territory, Caltanissetta was nicknamed the world's sulphur capital.
During the third decade of the 20th century, there was a period of intense cultural activity — so much that famed writer Leonardo Sciascia called it a "little Athens".
After the Second World War the city started a slow decline and is now one of the provincial capitals with the highest unemployment rates in the country.
It is particularly famous for its Easter rituals, which take place from Palm Sunday to Easter Monday. Because of the similarity in their Easter traditions, Caltanissetta is twinned with the Spanish city of Seville.
The bus station is in front of the train station and a ten-minute walk from the city centre.
Many companies operate routes to Caltanissetta, linking it with other cities in Sicily and the rest of Italy. The main Sicilian destinations served with the highest frequency are:
- Palermo circa 10 times per day, with a stop at Palermo's central railway station, in turn connected by train with the airport.
- Catania circa 15 times per day, including an intermediate stop at Catania's airport and a final stop at the central railway station.
- Agrigento circa 15 times per day. Due to the fact that the Catania-Caltanissetta line continues on to Agrigento, this route benefits from the same high frequency.
- Enna circa 6 times per day to "Enna bassa" (the modern part of the city) and circa 8 times per day to "Enna alta" (the ancient part).
- Gela circa 7 times per day.
- 1 Intercity Bus Terminal (Capolinea Autobus), Capolinea Autobus Via Rochester, ☏ .
The city is served by two train stations: the central station and the Xirbi station, which lies outside the city. The central station is a stop in the Caltanissetta-Gela-Syracuse, Caltanissetta-Agrigento, Catania-Agrigento, and Caltanissetta-Palermo lines. Xirbi station is also important, as it lies on the most trafficked Sicilan line: the Catania-Palermo line.
Trains from Catania to Palermo stop at Xirbi and passengers directed to Caltanissetta can then transfer to a shuttle train, whose departure times are synchronised with the Catania-Palermo timetable.
All train passenger traffic is handled by Trenitalia.
- 2 Caltanissetta Central Station (Stazione Caltanissetta Centrale), Piazza Roma, 19, ☏ .
- 3 Caltanissetta Xirbi Station (Stazione Caltanissetta Xirbi), S.S. 190 Contrada Xirbi.
The only form of collective public transport available in the city are buses, operated by the SCAT local company. All lines start and end at the central station, making it easy to transfer to trains or to intercity buses. There are six main lines, plus a special school line, a special line to the monumental cemetery, and one to the street market organised each Saturday.
A single ticket costs €1.20 and is valid for 75 minutes. Bought in bundles of twenty, they only cost €2 each. A day ticket costs €3, while weekly passes are available for €15.
There are only a few taxis in the city and the only permanent taxi stops are at the central station and at the intercity bus terminal.
- 1 Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nova, Piazza Garibaldi, 3, ☏ . Free. See of the bishopry of Caltanissetta, is in the central square Piazza Garibaldi. It was built from 1560 to 1622 and features frescoes by the Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans and a wooden statue of Saint Michael by Stefano Li Volsi. The interior, in Baroque style, is impressive and its blue dome is easily spotted from many parts of the city, providing an easy to follow landmark.
- 2 Saint Sebastian church (Chiesa di San Sebastiano), Piazza Garibaldi, 13, ☏ . Free. Just in front of the Cathedral, with its characteristic red-and-blue facade in an eclectic style.
- 3 Church of Saint Agata (Chiesa di Sant'Agata al Collegio), C.so Umberto I, ☏ . Free. At a short walk from the Cathedral, it is possibly the most impressive Baroque church in the city. Its interior is rich in marble and golden stuccoes. Attached to the church is the ancient 4 Jesuit college (Collegio dei Gesuiti). M–F 09:00–13:15 and M Th 15:30–18:15. It is nowadays used by the municipal library (biblioteca Scarabelli) and the conservatory.
- 5 Abbey of the Holy Ghost (Abbazia di Santo Spirito), Via di Santo Spirito, 57, ☏ . Free. It is a Norman church built on a pre-existing Arabic farmstead in the outskirts of the city.
- 6 Santa Maria degli Angeli, Via Angeli, 158. A church deconsacrated since the late 19th century and renovated during the 2010s.
- 7 Church of Saint John (Chiesa di San Giovanni), Via S. Giovanni Bosco. Free.
- 8 Church of Saint Dominic (Chiesa di San Domenico), P.za San Domenico. Free. A baroque church with a crypt.
- 9 Monumental cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale degli Angeli), Via Angeli, 23. Daily 07:00–13:00. Free. It serves as the city's cemetery. It is adjacent to the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and conserves the remains of many illustrious citizens. Some of the tombs and chapels are richly decorated, including with statues of Francesco Biangardi and Michele Tripisciano.
Most of the palaces of note are located in the city centre, nearby Piazza Garibaldi. They include, among others:
- 10 Palazzo del Carmine, C.so Umberto I, 134, ☏ . Free. The current city hall.
- 11 Palazzo Moncada, Largo Paolo Barile, ☏ . Tu–F 09:30–13:00 and 17:00–20:00, Sa 10:00–13:00 and 17:00–20:00. Free. An incomplete palace, whose construction was interrupted because its owner Guillermo de Moncada was named Viceroy of Valencia and moved back to the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays it hosts a movie theatre and the municipal art gallery.
- 12 Ospedale Vittorio Emanuele, V.le Regina Margherita, 36. The former city hospital.
- 13 Castle of Pietrarossa (Castello di Pietrarossa), Via Castello di Pietrarossa. Probably built already during the 10th century, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1567. Its two remaining towers can be seen just behind the monumental cemetery.
- 14 Monument to Christ the Redeemer (Monumento a Cristo Redentore), Via S. Giuliano. It was built during the 1900 jubilee, on top of San Giuliano mountain. It is a popular evening destination, especially during the hot summer months, due to the temperature usually being around 5 degrees lower than in the rest of the city.
- 15 Triton fountain (Fontana del Tritone), Piazza Garibaldi. Located in the central Piazza Garibaldi, it is probably the most iconic monument of the city and is often used as its informal symbol. It was recently renovated and a new lighting system creates suggestive effects during the evenings.
- 16 The radio transmitter, Via Antenna. Surprisingly, one of the most known features of the city is its radio transmitter, due to it being the tallest structure in Italy.
- The most interesting public parks are located in the city centre and are the elegant Villa Amedeo and Villa Cordova.
- 19 Archaeological museum (Museo archeologico), Via di Santo Spirito, ☏ . Daily 09:00–13:00 and 15:30–19:00, closed the last Monday of each month. €4 full, €2 reduced. Opened in 2006, is in the outskirts of the city, just behind the Abbey of the Holy Ghost. It features numerous artefacts from prehistoric and historic times, from all-over the province. The museum host some copies of the artefacts exposed, which are free for the public to touch, so that blind or sight-impaired people can experience them.
- 20 Mineralogic, paleontologic, and sulphur mines Museum (Museo mineralogico, paleontologico e delle zolfare), V.le della Regione, 71, ☏ . M–Sa 09:00–13:00. Free. It contains a rich collection of fossils and more than 5000 minerals. Opened in 2012, it hosts a permanent exhibition on the technological, scientific and social aspects of the sulphur mines of central Sicily.
- 21 Municipal Art Gallery and Tripisciano Museum (Galleria Civica d'Arte e Museo Tripisciano), C.so Umberto I, 134, ☏ . Free. Contains works from local artists, including the famed sculptor Michele Tripisciano, and temporary exhibitions with loans from all-over the world.
- 22 Contemporary Art Museum (Museo d'Arte Contemporanea), Via Giacomo Matteotti, 2. Hosted in an old underground anti-aerial bunker in the very centre of the city, it was opened in 2017. It doesn't have a permanent collection, but it hosts temporary exhibition of contemporary national and international artists.
- 23 Diocesan Museum (Museo Diocesano), V.le Regina Margherita, 29, ☏ . M–F 09:00–13:00 and 16:00–19:00. Free. Its permanent exhibition of sacred art and miniated books testifies to the artistic ferment characterising the city during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Easter week
The central moment in the life of the city is the Easter week (La settimana santa). This is a period spanning from Palm Sunday to Easter Monday.
During this period the city fills with tourists and emigrants who come back to participate in the celebrations. It can be hard to find accommodation, unless it is reserved far in advance.
Theatre and cinema
- 1 Regina Margherita Theatre (Teatro Regina Margherita), C.so Vittorio Emanuele II, 1, ☏ . M–F 10:00–13:00 and 17:00–20:00 (box office). Built in 1873, during the second half of the 20th century the theatre was closed for a long time. It was renovated and finally reopened in 1997 and it has since been the main theatre of the city. Tickets can be purchased via LiveTicket.
- 2 Rosso di San Secondo Theatre (Teatro Rosso di San Secondo), Via Matteotti, 10. +39 0934 547001
- 3 Supercinema (movie theatre), Via Dante Alighieri, 10, ☏ .
- 4 Moncada Palace Multiplex (movie theatre), Via Matteotti, 10. +39 0934 547001
Visits to archaeological sites
- 5 Sabucina Excavations (Scavi di Sabucina), C.da Sabucina, ☏ . Free. An archeological park with excavations, roughly 8 km east of the city. The excavations unearthed remains from the bronze age, the greek period, and the roman one. Of particular value is its necropolis.
- 6 Gibil Gabib archaeological site (Sito archeologico Gibil Gabib), C.da Gibil Gabib, ☏ . Free. The site is marked by the passage of different civilizations: the Castelluccio culture, the Siceliotes during the bronze age, and the the Greeks.
- 7 Vassallaggi archaeological site (Sito archeologico Vassallaggi), C.da Roccella. Originally a bronze age village, it flourished during the 7th century BC as a fortress. Presumably built by the Sican culture, it was then inhabited by the Sicels, the Greeks and the Romans. The presence of early Christian tombs testifies its importance at least up to the 1st century AD.
Industrial archaeology and visits to inactive sulphur mines
Central Sicily and the Province of Caltanissetta in particular are scattered with many former sulphur mines (Zolfare). Some of these have been turned into industrial archaeological sites and are open to visits. In the following, we list the closest to the city proper. The Mines Touristic District website contains extensive information on most of the mines in the provinces of Caltanissetta, Agrigento and Enna.
- 8 Gessolungo Mine (Solfara Gessolungo). One of the oldest, deepest, and most profitable mines. Mining activity in the area was recorded already at the beginning of the 18th century. It was the theatre of many accidents in which hundreds of miners lost their lives. The most notable is probably the 1881 accident in which 65 miners died, including 19 children. Because of their agility and small size, children (known in Sicilian as Carusi) were used extensively in the mines. Those who died at work were buried in a nearby cemetery, the Cimitero dei Carusi, which is nowadays open for visits.
- 9 Trabonella Mine (Solfara Trabonella). It is one of the earliest mines to open and, again, one of the deadliest ones. It is particularly famous for the many strikes organised during the 20th century by the local Miner's League and the Caltanissetta section of the Communist and Socialist party, to claim humane working conditions for the miners and the suppression of minor labour.
- 10 Gabbara Mine.
- 11 Apaforte Stincone Mine.
Natural and geological parks
- 12 Natural Reserve Monte Capodarso e Valle dell'Imera Meridionale, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00–13:00 and 16:00–19:00. Free. A natural reserve managed by the association Italia Nostra. It is a birdwatcher's paradise, with more than 150 species passing through the reserve during the year, 60 of which nest there. In the reserve it is possible to spot birds of prey (kestrels, kites, Bonelli’s eagles) and birds that rest there during their long migrations (herons, cranes, marsh harriers). Guided tours are free of charge, but must be reserved in advance via email or phone call.
- 13 Maccalube di Terrapelata, Via dei Vulcanelli, Villaggio Santa Barbara. These mud volcanoes are located in the outskirts of the city and offer the view of a landscape almost from another planet. They are still active and are often off-limits to the general public, due to safety concerns. Their last large eruption in 2008 damaged various buildings in the nearby Santa Barbara village.
- 14 Natural Reserve Lago Sfondato, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A natural reserve managed by the association Legambiente. It is noteworthy for its geological formations, its flora, its typically Mediterranean fauna, the prehistoric necropolis, and the picturesque landscapes. Visits can be reserved via email or phone.
Caltanissetta hosts many sport events of regional, national, and international renowns.
It can be difficult to find accommodation during the periods when the events take place.
- 15 Coppa Nissena. Free. It is a racing hillclimbing competition, whose first edition took place in 1922. Because it is part of several national championships towards which it accrues points, it sees a massive participation of drivers from all over the country.
- 16 Rally Città di Caltanissetta. Free. This rally, which starts in Caltanissetta and goes through San Cataldo, Marianopoli, Villalba and Serradifalco, is part of the national championship Coppa Italia Rally and of the regional one.
- 17 Torneo Città di Caltanissetta, V.le Amedeo. A tennis tournament, part of the ATP Challenger Tour international competition, played on outdoor red clay courts.
Festivals and exhibitions
- 18 Musicalmuseo. Free. A yearly musical competition and series of concerts for students of the secondary education cycle, coming from allover Italy and from some European countries. The event usually takes place in May and the students perform in various museums and landmarks of the city, while the final gala evening is held in the Regina Margherita theatre. Due to the high number of participants (they were 2500 in the 2017 edition) it might be very hard to find accommodation in the city and in nearby towns during the event dates.
- 19 Festival Città di Caltanissetta. The main event for contemporary pop music in the city, the competition started in 1989 and has been held yearly ever since. It usually takes place in the early summer and, since 2019, the final evening takes place in the Rosso di San Secondo theatre.
- 20 Kalat Nissa Film Festival. An international short film festival. The movies are presented in locations throughout the city, but the final gala event is held in the Regina Margherita theatre.
- 21 Sicily Mineral Show (Borsa-scambio del minerale e del fossile). The only exchange of minerals organised in Italy south of Rome, it was started in 1978.
- 1 Strata 'a Foglia street market (Mercato Strata 'a Foglia), Via Consultore Benintendi. A typical street market with many shops selling fruit, vegetable, and other food products. Its name means "Leaf Street", as the market started in the 1500s with poorer peasants selling wild herbs they collected in the surrounding lands. During the nights it transforms into a food district, with many restaurants, pubs, and street food stands.
- 2 Torronificio Geraci, Via Canonico Pulci, 10, ☏ . Historical nougat artisan laboratory and shop founded in 1870.
- 3 Lupica Wine Shop (Enoteca Lupica), Via Napoleone Colajanni, 58, ☏ . Wine shop with a wide selection of local wines and liquors. It also sells beers from local micro-breweries.
- 4 Vancheri Roastery (Torrefazione Vancheri), Via Libertà, 148, ☏ . The main roastery of the city, selling speciality coffees roasted locally.
- See also: Caltanissetta (province)#Eat
- 1 Delizie d'autore, V.le Trieste, 242, ☏ . We–M, 08:00-21:00. When the historical Caffè Romano in the city centre closed down in 2014 after 91 years of activity, the former employees decided to start a new enterprise with shared ownership. The result is this pastry shop, which ideally continues in the tradition of the Caffé.
Street food can be purchased basically all-around the city. The following is a list of the most popular venues selling this type of food.
- 2 Forno Garzia, V.le della Regione, 8, ☏ . M–Sa 06:15–22:45; Su 09:00–18:00. A bakery selling bread, Sicilian style pizza, arancine, calzoni, and different other types of street food.
- 3 Frittoria, V.le Regina Margherita, 11. A place for everything fried. The specialities are panini stuffed with panelle, fried aubergines, or crocché.
- 4 Strata 'a Foglia, Via Consultore Benintendi. Part of the historical street market underwent a radical transformation during summer 2018 and now hosts many small street food shops, ranging from panini to arancine, panelle, polpette (meat balls), etc.
- 5 Lumie di Sicilia, Via Lazio, 3, ☏ . Tu–Su 13:00–15:30; Tu–Sa 19:30–23:30. Gourmet food from the local tradition for a reasonable price.
- 6 Novecento, Via Medaglie d'Oro, 1, ☏ . Tu–Su 13:00–15:00 and 20:00–23:00. Fresh raw materials from the market and speciality products from the Caltanissetta province prepared following the tradition.
- 7 La luna nel pozzo, Via Monte S. Giuliano, ☏ . Tu–Su 19:30–00:00. Peculiar oval pizzas in a rustic environment on top of a hill overlooking the city.
- 1 Il covo del Pirata (Pirate's Cove), V.le Sicilia, 55, ☏ . Daily 19:00–00:00. Pub with a good selection of drinks and draughts, and simple food. From time to time there is live music.
- 2 All Grain Taproom, Via Terranova, 11, ☏ . M–Sa 18:00–00:00. Taproom with a selection of bottled and draught beer, including many Sicilian ones. They also have speciality soft drinks from the region.
- 1 Hotel San Michele, Via Fasci Siciliani, 6, ☏ . The only 4-star hotel in the city. It features a restaurant and a swimming pool. It is a 20-minute walk from the city centre.
- 2 Hotel Ventura, S.S. 640, ☏ . A 3-star hotel just outside the city, along a national road. A private car is necessary to reach the city from the hotel. It also has a small restaurant.
- 3 Hotel Plaza, Via Berengario Gaetani, 5, ☏ . A 2-star hotel 2 minutes from the main square.
Bed & Breakfast
- 4 B&B Piazza Garibaldi, P.za Garibaldi, 11, ☏ . A characteristic bed & breakfast with painted walls and a cozy feeling. Some of the rooms have a terrace overlooking the main square and the cathedral. €40,€60, €80 for a single, double, triple room respectively.
- 5 Qalat Apart, Via J. F. Kennedy, 16, ☏ . A modernly furnished apartment 5 minutes walking from the main square. €50, €70, €80 for a single/double, triple, quadruple room respectively.
- 6 Antichi Ricordi, Via Villaglori, 45, ☏ . An elegant bed and breakfast renting rooms and small apartments for short- and medium-term stays. It has an in-house spa.
Agritourism and farmstays
- 7 Agriturismo Gabilia, C.da Gabilia, ☏ . A rural farmhouse with a swimming pool. The hosts organise horse rides, lake fishing trips, sport events, and food & wine tastings. They also produce their own extra-virgin olive oil.
- 8 Feudo Musta Testasecca, C.da Musta, ☏ . An elegant farmstay with a restaurant and a horseback riding centre.
- Agrigento and its 5 Temples Valley (Valle dei templi). They are a 40-minute car drive from the city. The Greek temples are a Unesco World Heritage Site.
- Another Unesco World Heritage Site is the 6 Villa del Casale. It is a mosaic-laden Roman villa in Piazza Armerina. It takes roughly 50 minutes to drive to the villa.
- Palermo is just a hour drive and is well connected to Caltanissetta via both trains and buses.
- Catania is also a hour's drive and the connections via train and bus are equally frequent.
- Just one hour driving from Caltanissetta is the town of Caltagirone, famous worldwide for the quality of its ceramics and for the Infiorata event, during which many of its long steps are covered with flowers. Together with other late-baroque cities in the Noto Valley, Caltagirone is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
In the province of Caltanissetta many smaller towns are worth a visit:
- Mussomeli and its well-preserved 7 Manfredonic castle (Castello Manfredonico).
- The city of Gela, despite having undergone a chaotic and rapid demographic expansion starting from the 1960s and due to the discovery of massive oil fields in its sea, used to be one of the main excavation sites in the island, revealing Phoenician and Greek settlements. It is still possible to visit its archaeological park and the archaeological museum.
- A few km from Gela is the small medieval town of Butera. On its territory is located the Falconara castle, an impressive structure a few metres from the sea.