late baroque towns of the val di noto have been on the unesco heritage list since 2002 and they include eight towns in south-eastern sicily: caltagirone, militello val di catania, catania, modica, noto, palazzolo, ragusa and scicli.
sicily’s southeast has always been among the island’s wealthiest regions, with its dramatic scenery. however, damaging earthquakes have repeatedly afflicted this area, among which the one from 1693 destroyed the entire region. this catastrophe did, however, have one lasting effect: where there were ruins, a confident new generation of architects raised planned towns, displaying a baroque style that endures today.
i have visited southeast sicily in july 2011, and among the cities i’ve seen, none have left such a strong impression as noto. lovely little town, it was planned by the baroque architects and therefore it may be considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture in italy.
the town center is occupied by duomo, cathedral of noto, first completed in 1776, it’s said to have been inspired by models of borromini’s churches in rome. in the recent years, the cathedral collapsed, as a result of structural wakening, caused by earthquakes in the 90ties. it has been rebuilt and was reopened in 2007. we arrived just in time.
right next to duomo, there is the steep via nicolaci, home of palazzo villadorata. palazzo villadorata is rather unusual building. one may notice six extravagant balconies – placed on the quite classical building. those balconies are supported by sculptures of griffins, galloping horses and bald and bearded figures with fat bellies.
noto has developed from the ancient town, noto antica, 16km northwest of baroque noto. even though noto antica has not been included in the unesco heritage list, it is still worth a visit. the ruins of old town may still be found along with wild nature. in time they have learned how to co-exist.
as i’ve previously said, noto is one of the most beautiful cities i’ve seen. baroque architecture & very carefully planned streets make you feel as though you’re in a theatre. the atmosphere is not worth mentioning (i preferred palermo or siracusa), but if you’re looking for elegance & beauty, then noto is a place to go to.
the only souvenir i got from noto were almonds. we’ve eaten them before i could take a picture!
ps. all the photos were taken by tarik&me in july 2011.