Last month when we were in Sicily for a wedding, we stayed at a lovely B & B in the Baroque town of Acireale, on the East coast just to the North of Catania. Much of the town had been rebuilt after an earthquake in 1693. The resulting extravagant Baroque architecture was fuelled by intense competition to out do one’s neighbours.
At breakfast on the roof terrace of our B & B, we had a splendid view of one of the old town’s palazzos, large houses of the wealthy. I loved the light and the drama created on the elaborate and rather fanciful architectural elements.
The door was equally lovely, framed by columns, scrolls, floral motifs and heads or masks of both the cherubic sort (putti) and the monstrous.
The upper balcony door sported similar stone surrounds, but the balcony also had elaborate metal attachments that might have been torches. They looked a bit like rusty star bursts.
Around the corner was another palazzo – Palazzo Musmeci. It seemed slightly more restrained than the one near our B & B. However, if you look close enough, you can see the scroll work around the upper windows and a series of masks along the top.
The main door has a fantastic open-mouth mask in the key-stone position of the arch.
Many more doors of the town’s palazzos were similar: all with fan shaped spaces above the door (most with filled with metalwork), with or without the masks, one with a verdigris studded door, one pink and gilt, another half blocked with concrete.
Other palazzos and their doors displayed a variety of Baroque features: scrolls turning into fantastic creatures, headed supports for balconies, a poor lion’s head marred by electrical wires, and a close-up from Palazzo Musmeci of Green Man mask covered with acanthus leaves.
Equally fanciful were many of the door knockers: heads (human and animal), scrolls and wreathes.