Parco Archaeologico Forza

Useful Information

Location: Via Savonarola, 511, 97014 Ispica RG.
A18 from North exit Rosolini, SP26 to Rosolini, SS115 to Ispica, turn right on SP47 into the city.
A18 from South exit Ispica Pozzalla, SP46 to Ispica, at roundabout towards Rosolini, first left on SP47 into the city.
(36.790162045759490, 14.912884341313290)
Open: .
Fee: .
Classification: SubterraneaCave House SubterraneaCave Tomb SubterraneaStepwell
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Parco Archaeologico Forza, Via Savonarola, 511, 97014 Ispica RG, Tel: +39-0932-952608.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Parco Archaeologico Forza (Archaeological Park Forza) or sometimes Parco della Forza is located at the southeastern end of the valley. It is located on the northern city limits of Ispica, follow SP47 into the city, which goes uphill in serpentines. In the last serpentine there is a turnoff on the right, which is signposted with a rather small sign. Forza is the Italian version of the Latin word Fortilitium and means fortress. In other words, the actual park is the ruined fortification on the hill at the rim or the gorge. However, there are numerous cave houses all over, along the car park and along the trail into the valley.

This is the area, which was first settled, with Neolithic remains, but also the origin of the modern city. It was fortified during the Middle Ages, a citadel with a so-called Palazzo Marchionale in the center, several churches, one is called L'Annunziata and has 26 burial pits on the floor. Before the earthquake of 1693, some 2000 people lived in the fortress and 5500 in the cave houses around the fortress. The most spectacular place is the Centoscale, a very long underground staircase with 240 steps carved into the rock which descends at 45° from the fortress to the valley floor 60 m below. It ends below the river bed and was intended as a water supply, especially in periods of drought. The water from the river flowed through cracks into the lower end of the tunnel. The name derives from the legend that 100 slaves were stationed along the staircase to pass buckets of water from one to the other up to the surface. The age of this spectacular stepwell and who actually built it is unknown.

One of the most interesting sites here, which is not part of the park, is the cave church Chiesa rupestre di Santa Maria della Cava (Cave church of Santa Maria of the Gorge). To reach it, follow the trail down into the valley then uphill on the northern side of the valley. The cave has a cruciform plan and a single nave. The facade was closed by a barrel vault which was then closed by a limestone wall. There is a wooden door which looks like any other church door in Italy. Unfortunately, the church is normally closed, it is open for guided tours, and there are rumours that there is an old man who is caretaker and opened the church in the morning. The best option is to ask at the ticket office of the park. This is a church, which is frequented by the locals on special occasions, not a museum.

The Grotte di Lintana is a series of cave houses, which were built into an 80 m high shelter cave in the rock face of the gorge. It is located about 500 m upstream on the left-hand side. Numerous cells were built in multiple levels, which are connected by steps cut into the rock walls. On the lowest level is a rectangular cave which is interpreted as an oratory, a small chapel, because there are wall paintings with Christian content. On one painting St. Hilarion is depicted, at least that's the official interpretation, actually they are in a bad shape, and it is hard to determine anything. It is normally interpreted as a set of hermits' cells or a monastery from the 9th century, however, it is actually not possible to determine the age, so all numbers given in various publications are just guesses.

Another 500 m upstream, a small cave named Eremo di Sant'Ilarione is thought to be the hermitage where St. Hilarion lived between 363 and 365. He landed at Capo Pachino by ship, then he retreated to more inland places 30 km from the sea. Vito Amico Statella wrote down the local legends in 1757, that "they point to a decorated cave, an ancient testimony of the residence of S. Ilarione, in which one climbs by steps". There is a marble plate above the entrance saying "Grotta di S. Illarione 363-365 D.C.". Nearby are two other caves, where his disciples Gazanus and Hesychius lived.

We recommend visiting the park first, ask for the cave church when you go in to give them time to call the warden. Then visit the church and walk up the valley for a kilometer and back. Bring sun protection and some water for the hike. You should plan about 2 to 3 hours for the full tour.