Tower of Santa Maria
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Tower of Santa Maria

La Tower of Santa Maria it is a coastal defense tower that was part of the Sicilian coastal tower system, and stands on the hill just above the port of Cala Santa Maria, falling into the municipal territory of Ustica.

It was built starting in 1759 on the orders of King Charles III of Bourbon to the design of the twenty-five year old military engineer, the Syracusan lieutenant colonel Andrea Pigonati, who found it necessary to also build the Torre dello Spalmatore near the cove of the same name.

The military engineer brigadier Giuseppe Valenzuola during his reconnaissance to prepare the first topographical map of the island, and to evaluate which were the places subject to the risk of landings, agreed with this assessment by recommending a correspondence with the old Forte della Falconiera. In 1762 the works had not even begun, when the population that had recently settled was kidnapped by the Barbary pirates from Algiers, and there taken into captivity.

In 1763 by a certain, not better identified, engineer Sgarbi, the tower was built with shapeless stones, but with the cantons in hard lava stone, the plant was square about 16 meters on each side, and almost 15 meters high in shape truncated pyramidal. However, Valenzuola was able to control the works as in 1765 he urbanistically planned the new town of Ustica. In 1771 a document signed by the royal architect of the Senate of Palermo, Nicolò Palma, certifies that the towers of Ustica were all equipped with bells as a means of warning, and that one of them was located at the residence of the governor of the island , one at the marina, and another at Forte della Falconara, for a total of five.

The entrance door is located at the height of the first floor and was reached by a masonry arch, which no longer exists. On the north-west side there were four windows, while on the south-east only three. The internal spaces were, and are, articulated by a central corridor on the ground floor, about 12 meters long, from which four rooms of various sizes with barrel vault branch off. The first floor can be reached via an internal double flight staircase, and repeats the same floor plan as the ground floor. On the second floor there is a superfetation of modest workmanship, perhaps destined for prison use.

In 1885 it was still active as a prison, in 1965 the prison was abandoned, and the tower became the property of the Municipality of Ustica, and in 1994 substantial restorations were carried out.


Source: Wikipedia

Card insertion: Ignazio Caloggero

Information contributions: Web, Region of Sicily 

Photo: Di Miceli vincenzo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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