Comune di Licata

View of Licata.

Coat of arms

Location of Licata in Italy

Coordinates: 37°06′30″N 13°56′49″E / 37.10833°N 13.94694°E / 37.10833; 13.94694
Country Italy
Region Sicily
Province / Metropolitan city Agrigento (AG)
Frazioni Mollarella, Torre di Gaffe
  Mayor Angelo Cambiano
  Total 178 km2 (69 sq mi)
Elevation 8 m (26 ft)
Population (30 January 2013)
  Total 38,043
  Density 210/km2 (550/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Licatesi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 92027
Dialing code 0922
Patron saint Sant'Angelo
Saint day May 5
Website Official website

Licata (Greek: Φιντίας; Latin: Phintias or Plintis; formerly also Alicata) is a city and comune located on the south coast of Sicily, at the mouth of the Salso River (the ancient Himera), about midway between Agrigento and Gela. It is a major seaport developed at the turn of the twentieth century, shipping sulphur, the refining of which has made Licata the largest European exporting centre, and asphalt, and at times shipping cheese.

West of the port city there is a series of pocket beaches separated by wave-cut headlands as high as 40 metres (130 ft). (Amore 2002).



The site of archaic settlements,[1] 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 and resettling its population at his new settlement.[2] Phintias laid it out on a great scale, with its walls, temples, and agora. 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 metres (260 ft) 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 won a major battle in the First Punic War.

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 fleet, which was, however, attacked in the roadstead by that of the Carthaginians, and many of the ships sunk.[3] Cicero also alludes to it as a seaport, carrying on a considerable export trade in corn.[4] But in Strabo'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.[5] Pliny, 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 (who writes it Φθινθία); 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 also gives a place called Plintis, doubtless a corruption of Phintias, which it places on the road from Agrigentum along the coast towards Syracuse, at the distance of 23 miles (37 km) from the former city.[6] 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.[7]

Middle and Modern Ages

The historical centre of the town, near the coastal castle of Lympiados, dates from the period of Byzantine 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 rule as part of the uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers. Thereafter the town came under the control of the Aragonese, 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 large 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 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 rulers of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, led by patriot Matteo Vecchio Verderame. During the Expedition of the Thousand under Giuseppe Garibaldi, the town contributed with a whole corps, and housed for a night Garibaldi's son Menotti and his general Nino Bixio.

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.

Remains of the Italian Navy armored train "T.A. 76/2/T", destroyed by USS Bristol while opposing the landing at Licata.

Licata served as an Allied landing point during the 1943 Operation HUSKY Allied invasion of Sicily of World War II[8] 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, it served as a model for John Hersey's novel A Bell for Adano [9]

Italian memorial at Licata for the Allied invasion of Sicily during Operation Husky, July 10, 1943.

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

Sister cities


  1. Attested by chance finds of Corinthian, Ionic, and Geloan pottery and figurines, now in the museums of Palermo and Agrigento (Stillwell).
  2. Diod. xxii. 2, p. 495.
  3. Diod. xxiv. 1, p. 508.
  4. Cicero In Verrem iii. 8. 3.
  5. Strabo vi. p. 272.
  6. Itin. Ant. p. 95.
  7. Cluverius Sicil. pp. 200, 214.


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