Augusta is a municipality in the province of Syracuse with about 35,000 inhabitants. It was founded in 1232 by Frederick II of Swabia, who gave it the name Augusta Veneranda. Representing one of the Emperor’s favourite destinations, it was immediately rebuilt after the Noto Valley earthquake of 1693, but we will tell you more about this later.
The town overlooks the Ionian Sea and one of its main features is that the old town centre is an island. It was carved out of an isthmus back in the 16th century and connected to the mainland by two bridges. One of them is a recent construction from the 20th century and was named after Frederick II of Swabia, while the other, dating back to Spanish rule, is bordered by an arch known as the ‘Porta Spagnola’. There are also two harbours in Augusta: the Megarese and the Xifonio.
The city is beautiful in so many ways, apart from the sea, it offers many interesting places to visit. South Augsburg represents the modern part, while the north houses the older buildings with an almost medieval character. Among the most beautiful monuments are the defensive castle structures dating back to the 17th century, several Baroque churches and Art Nouveau buildings.
The Swabian Castle once had four square towers on the apexes of the fortification, while two other polygonal towers stood on the sides. Today, only one remains as evidence.
Other defensive constructions include Forte Avalos, built by the Viceroy of Avalos to defend the entrance to the port. Since 1500 there has been a lookout post and a tower with a lighthouse: Forte Garcia and Forte Vittoria.
The Spanish Gate dating back to 1681 still represents the three centuries of Spanish rule in Sicily (between the 15th and 18th centuries), at its top there are still two rampant griffins supporting a cornice, surmounted by the crown of Charles II of Spain.
In the 17th century, the Order of the Knights of Malta arrived in Augusta and built a large bakery here to produce biscuits.
In 1675 the port was the scene of the Battle of Agosta between the Spanish and the French, which saw the latter victorious. However, they abandoned the castle after a few years.
As mentioned above, between 9 and 11 January 1693, the city was razed to the ground by the terrible Val di Noto earthquake. As a favourite destination for Frederick II, it was promptly rebuilt and elevated to senatorial dignity, however, a period of decline began. It began with the passage to the Bourbons, extended until the unification of Italy, and in 1890 the castle was turned into a penitentiary.
In the 20th century, Augusta became strategic for the port to such an extent that in 1917 the construction of a concrete airship hangar was begun and completed in 1920.
The war was over and by 1925, airships had seen their era decline, which is why the entire airfield area was incorporated into the seaplane terminal by the Regia Aeronautica.
The seaplane terminal became particularly important during the Second World War, fulfilling important tactical functions. The city was bombed in 1943 until the Allied landing in Sicily (with Operation Husky) took place on 9 July 1943.