So far we have been talking about the wonders of Sicily regarding nature, food, festivals and much more. Of course, as everyone knows, this island has been the cradle of art and culture since thousands of years ago and Noto, with its Sicilian Baroque historical centre, is one of the brilliant examples of this.
This small town, not too far from Cava Grande, is a unique jewel that has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 for its many Sicilian Baroque buildings and churches, but the history of Noto dates back to 200-300 BCE, when it was built by Sicels as Notum. Originally a fortified town on the mountains, Noto was destroyed by a tragic earthquake in 1693. The new town was built on the nearby hills, planned and decorated by some of the best architects who turned it into the Stone Garden, a masterpiece of the Sicilian Baroque style.
The town is almost entirely built in tufa stone which gives it the peculiar warm honey color; some of the best examples are the great Cathedral of San Nicolò, the Church of Santissimo Crocifisso, but also Palazzo Ducezio – the town hall – Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata and many others.
For those who want to explore a bit more of the ancient history, Noto Antica can be visited as well: the ruins, located on the mountains only a few kilometers from the city centre, witness to the presence of Romans and Greeks, such as tombs, catacombs, and rests of the castle and fortified walls of the town. Also, not far from Noto is located the Roman Villa of Tellaro, with its unique mosaics.
Apart from admiring the Sicilian Baroque historical centre, another peculiar thing to see in Noto is the Infiorata: every year in May, one of the main streets of the town – Via Nicolaci – is completely carpeted by flowers and petals, creating pictures and drawings done by the best artists coming from all over the world. Last but not least, Noto is renowned also for its wines: the surrounding areas give birth to some of the best quality wines of Sicily, as well as DOP certified extra virgin olive oil and almonds.
Together with Noto, many other Sicilian towns have been included in the UNESCO world heritage list for their typical Sicilian Baroque monuments. Some of these are:
- Caltagirone with its Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a 142-step stairway completely built in ceramic. Each step has a different ceramic pattern;
- Catania showing the massive monumental complex of Sant’Agata and the Palazzo degli Elefanti in the same central square;
- the historical centre of Modica with the Dome of San Pietro
- Scicli with the churches of the central Via Mormino Penna and the noticeable influences of the Roman architect Bernini
- Ragusa with its famous and magnificent Dome
You just have to pick one or, perhaps, spend a whole holiday in visiting them all!