Caltanissetta is an Italian municipality of about 60,000 inhabitants and the capital of the Libero Consorzio Comunale of the same name in Sicily.

Historical background

Located in the Sicilian hinterland, 568 m above sea level, it was first inhabited by the Sicans, who settled in several villages as early as the 19th century BC.
Today’s city was probably founded in the 10th century during the rule of the Arabs in Sicily, to whom we owe the origin of the place name ‘Caltanissetta’. In fact, according to some, it would derive from Nisa or Nissa, a name from which, with the addition of the Arabic Qal ‛at ‘castle’, the name by which it is now known would be derived.

Transformed into a feud by the Normans, after various vicissitudes it passed in 1405 under the rule of the Moncadas of Paternò, who were the holders of the County of Caltanissetta until 1812; of the noble family today remains the 17th-century Palazzo Moncada in Baroque style. Until the period of Bourbon domination, the regional territory was divided into three valleys: the Vallo di Mazara, the Val Demone and the Val di Noto, the three macro-areas, whose boundary was defined in a north-south direction by the line of two rivers, Imera Settentrionale and Imera Meridionale.

The subdivision into provinces

The province thus came into being around 1818, when the region was officially divided into provinces. Caltanissetta at the time comprised about 40 per cent of the province of Enna and 10 per cent of that of Ragusa. Founded as a sulphur deposit in the hands of aristocratic families who ceded the concession for exploitation to foreign companies, over time it suffered several tragedies, collapses and fires that caused serious human losses. As a function of these mines, the province was affected by railway construction by the ‘Vittorio Emanuele’ northern railway company between 1876 and 1879.

To this day, it remains one of the Sicilian provinces most dependent on agricultural activities. From a socio-economic point of view, the territory underwent a profound change when mining activity was interrupted. It is worth remembering that in the early 1950s, as many as 150 mines were active, employing as many as 11,000 people. Undoubtedly the reversal of the production system triggered migratory dynamics unfortunately directed outside the region, in addition to micro-migration of the population (between the 1980s and 1990s) in the direction of the petrochemical complex in Gela. Tourism appears predominantly linked to cultural excursions.

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