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What to See in Beautiful Noto, Sicily

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Beautiful Noto

Beautiful Noto

The Beautiful Noto Valley of Southeastern Sicily

Often overlooked by visitors to Sicily is the Noto Valley, a wonderful collection of ancient Baroque towns in the southeastern corner of the island. While visitors will flock to Siracusa on the eastern shores of Sicily, many skip the opportunity to see a very unique slice of Sicilian history. One such town is the community of Noto, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noto was inscribed in 2002 along with seven other late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto.

The ancient community of Noto was originally known as Netum and actually lies about eight kilometers to the north of the current town of Noto on Mount Alveria. Dating back to at least 263 BC, the community changed hands numerous times over the millennium and was at one time the capital city of this district of Sicily. Tragedy would strike this region of Sicily in1693 and the entire town of Netum and many surrounding communities were completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake. Today, portions of the ancient amphitheater and a few buildings are all that remains of the old town of Noto.

The current town of Noto was rebuilt after the earthquake in the early 18th century and was located closer to the Ionian Sea to the south of the original town. The community was reconstructed using the popular Baroque architecture of this period. This reconstruction has given Noto and some of the other communities in this region of Sicily a very distinctive look. The Baroque style was very popular in Sicily during the 17th and 18th centuries and when the communities in this region of Sicily were destroyed by the earthquake in 1693 they were all rebuilt using this sophisticated architectural style.

Noto

Noto

Noto is a wonderful town to spend a day in and the simple grid pattern of the community makes it very walkable and hard to get lost. One of the more impressive structures in Noto is the Cathedral of San Nicolo di Mira, otherwise known as the Noto Cathedral.

This particular church has a long and storied history, which dates back to its construction following the 1693 earthquake. Commencing in the early 1700s, the church was not completed until 1776. This long interval of construction allowed for some inconsistencies to creep into its design and construction.

The dome of the cathedral had to be rebuilt twice in the 19th century due to its collapse following earthquakes. Most recently in 1996, the dome and a portion of the cathedral roof collapsed. Experts suspect that an earthquake six years prior in 1990, and improper repairs from previous earthquakes caused the structural weakening that contributed to the collapse. It took eleven long years to repair the damage and the cathedral finally reopened in June of 2007. Today, the Noto Cathedral sits prominently in the heart of Noto and certainly is a testament to the resiliency of this community.

Cathedral of San Nicolo

Cathedral of San Nicolo

Reconstructed dome of the Cathedral

Reconstructed dome of the Cathedral

Directly across from the Cathedral is the Ducezio Palace, which is the current town hall of Noto. This beautiful building, in addition to housing the local government of Noto, contains some frescoes by Sicilian architect and artist Antonio Mazza. The Piazza Municipio separates the two stunning structures and makes for a great spot to unwind for a bit. In the early evening, this piazza is a popular spot for the young and old alike to meet friends and observe the comings and goings of Noto.

Ducezio Palace

Ducezio Palace

Noto Cathedral at night

Noto Cathedral at night

The main road through Noto is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. This is a very popular road name throughout Italy and you may be wondering why? Vittorio Emanuele II was the first king of Italy having ruled from 1861 until his death in 1878. Corso is the Italian word for course or avenue. Almost every major city in Italy has a Corso Vittorio Emanuele to honor their first king.

At the west end of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Noto is the Church of San Domenico. In addition to being another superb example of Baroque architecture, there is also the Piazza XVI Maggio and the Viletta d’Ercole garden with its statutes, fountain of Hercules, and Mediterranean landscape. This is just another beautiful spot in this stunning community and makes the walk along the Corso Vittorio Emanule a fascinating trek.

Church of San Domenico with Fountain of Hercules

Church of San Domenico with Fountain of Hercules

If you happen to be visiting Noto during the third weekend of May then you are in for a treat. Noto celebrates the splendor of spring and the arrival of summer with a lively and colorful festival known as the Inflorata Flower Festival. The Via Corrado Nicolaci is a street that runs off of the main Corso Emanuele and it becomes adorned with color as local artists use flower petals to shape creative looking mosaics that run the entire length of the street. The entire street literally looks like a carpet of colorful flowers. When the festival ends, the children of Noto get to run through the flowers destroying the mosaics and bringing the festival to an end.

The Noto Flower Festival

The Noto Flower Festival

Via Corrado Nicolaci

Via Corrado Nicolaci

If you miss out on the festival don’t despair. The Via Nicolaci is home to some of the most amazing and unique balconies to be found in Noto. On one side of the Via Nicolaci is the Palazzo Villadorata with its interesting and curious buttressed balconies. Displaying both a humorous and intricate side to Noto, you will enjoy checking out these guardians of the Palazzo as these mythical creatures stare down on you.

Noto is home to numerous other beautiful churches and palaces, and the highlight of any visit to this unique community is to simply stroll its streets and admire the amazing architecture. The soft tufa stone, which was used to rebuild Noto, almost seems to absorb the color of the sun's rays and most of the town takes on this warm honey-like color. Noto is particularly stunning in the late afternoon and early evening as the setting sun casts a golden hue upon the town. The flamboyant curves of the Baroque style are very identifiable here and the town is dotted with beautiful churches and palaces built with this architectural style.

For a great place to stay in nearby Modica

Noto

Noto

When it's time to sit and relax for a while head to the Caffe Sicilia located right on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. This fourth-generation owned café opened in 1892 and is rumored to be among the best bar/cafes in all of Italy. We stopped in for a granita and were not disappointed. Granita is a semi-frozen dessert that originated in Sicily and it is both very good and very popular. It’s almost like a frozen Italian ice that comes in many different flavors. Give it a try!

Just down the street is the ceramic shop of renowned artist Sebastiano Caristia who can often be seen here crafting his work. Stop in for a look at some of his amazing creations.

Ceramic artist Sebastiano Caristia

Ceramic artist Sebastiano Caristia

Caffe' Sicilia - 1892

Caffe' Sicilia - 1892

Caffe' Sicilia

Caffe' Sicilia

If you’re looking for the perfect Baroque town that can be seen in a day and is completely walkable, then consider a visit to Noto. Noto is located about sixty miles south of Catania and approximately twenty miles south of Siracusa. The A18 autostrada is the most direct route if traveling by auto. Noto can also be reached by both train and bus from Catania and Syracusa. Enjoy your visit to the beautiful Baroque community of Noto.

Ciao for now.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 20, 2015:

Hi Mary. Sicily is wonderful and we enjoyed it very much. Not many people are familiar with the Noto Valley but it's an amazing region of Sicily. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2015:

My husband really likes Sicily and wants to go back there again. We drove around and enjoyed it. The Noto Valley is so beautiful.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 02, 2013:

Hi Alun. Sorry for the delay is responding, we just returned from a vacation. We loved this region of Sicily precisely for the reason you/we mentioned, it gets overlooked. The architecture is beautiful and there is so much culture and history here. Thanks so much for the vote, have a great weekend.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 21, 2013:

A very useful article Bill, for any tourist or traveller who wishes to explore a little when they visit a foreign country. The value is contained in the opening sentence:

'Often overlooked by visitors to Sicily is the Noto Valley'

Too often armed with too little knowledge of a country we only visit the most famous and celebrated sites in the world and miss out on lesser known gems just a few miles down the road. The Noto Valley appears to be one such gem, and this article and these first rate photos show that there is architecture, design and culture in this part of the world which would make a visit truly worthwhile. Voted up. Alun.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 03, 2013:

Hi Carol. It is always a pleasure to see you here. I hope everything is well with you. Thank you for stopping by.

carol stanley from Arizona on July 03, 2013:

As always beautiful descriptions with words to go with them.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 28, 2013:

Hi torrilynn. Thanks for the visit. Noto certainly was an interesting and beautiful corner of Italy. If you get the chance some day to visit please do. Thanks so much for the vote and pin. Have a great weekend.

torrilynn on June 28, 2013:

@bdegiulio thanks for the article, I must say it was quite interesting! the photos are beautiful! With Italy's culture food and beautiful architecture, i will make sure i visit one day. Voted up and pinned!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 30, 2013:

Hi Glimmer Twin. We been over there 3 times now over the last four years. You might say I've become somewhat addicted. I do take a lot of photos so I usually have quite a selection to pick from.

Today is the start of our first heat wave here in New England and I sure could go for a gelato right about now also :)

Claudia Mitchell on May 30, 2013:

Seriously Bill, did you take all of these photos of Italy on one trip or multiple. Every picture is better than the last. Another beautiful hub and I could go for some of that gelato right about now!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2013:

Thanks Elias. Glad you enjoyed visiting Noto. I'm looking forward to the day that we visit Greece. Have a great day.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on May 27, 2013:

Sicily is a very beautiful place to visit and Noto couldn't be an excemption. I enjoy reading your travel hubs Bill, as you have developed a unique style, accompanied by stunning photography. Thank you for another great hub about Sicily.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi rajan. Thanks buddy for the compliments, I very much appreciate your support and always look forward to your visits and comments. Have a great and thank you for sharing, pinning, etc....

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Marie. Thank you for the visit. The architecture is so unique and beautiful, it really is worth the trip. These small towns in this corner of Sicily have so much history to them, we really enjoyed our visit here.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Alicia. Thank you for touring Noto with me. Not only is the granita and gelato great but the food, as you can imagine, is out of this world. There is so much history to these little communities, they really are amazing. To think that an entire town was destroyed by and earthquake and then totally rebuilt in a different location would be unheard of today. Thanks so much for the share, have a great Memorial Day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hey Mr-Veg. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the tour. It really is beautiful over there. The architecture in these Baroque towns in this corner of Sicily really is something to see.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Suzie. You all are much too kind. Thank you my friend for all of the wonderful support. I'm waiting for the day when you are living over there so you can give us your perspective of everyday life in Italy. Thank you for all the votes, shares, pins, etc.....

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 26, 2013:

Bill, your travel articles are a delight to read, so informative, well described and full of excellent pictures. It is indeed both a treat and an honor to read these hubs. I love the Baroque architecture in Noto town. It looks so inviting and attractive.

Voting this hub up, awesome and interesting. Shared and pinned as well.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on May 26, 2013:

Wow, these pictures are gorgeous. Seeing the beautiful architecture up close and personal would be worth the trip. Thanks so much for sharing.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 26, 2013:

I enjoy reading your travel hubs, looking at the beautiful photos and learning about Italy's history so much, Bill. Your hubs give a wonderful look at the country, which is especially useful for those of us who can't visit Italy in person. The granita looks delicious, too! I'll share this hub.

mr-veg from Colorado United States on May 26, 2013:

Looks beautiful and amazing, thanks for the virtual tour Bill !

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 26, 2013:

Hi Bill,

I concur with Billybuc, you are such a gifted travel writer and everyone needs to read your great works from all these amazing places that you make pop! I love the baroque architecture in Italy and Noto is another great example I will have to make sure not to miss when there. Thanks my friend on another gorgeously written piece with your stunning photos. Votes, shares, tweets, shared and pinned to Italy!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Bill. You know I just might give that a shot some day. I'd be lying if I said I had not thought about it. We'll see. You've laid the groundwork for me as far as how to go about it so thank you. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Thanks Joe. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you are one of my mentors here. I would venture to say that I've learned way more from reading your work and than you from mine, but I do very much appreciate the gesture. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Joelle. You are so right, every where we have gone in Italy has been amazing. So much history, culture and amazing architecture. I have to admit that I am addicted :) And the gelato and granita, could eat it all day. Thanks so much for the visit and comments, keep dreaming, I did for years until it finally happened :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Thaks srsddn. We would have loved to have been there for the Flower festival, maybe next time. Thank you for stopping by to visit Noto. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi ologsinquito. Thank you for the visit and comment. You'll get there someday, it took us until we turned 50 and the kids were all grown and gone. Have a great day.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2013:

There you go showing us all how to do travel articles again....now my friend, if you find a unique niche to add to this, you will be published in so many magazines you will be able to quit your day job. :) And I'm serious about that.

Have a great day, Bill!

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 26, 2013:

Hi, Bill!

I always learn new things about the world as well as how to improve my writing from reading your beautiful articles, my friend. My most recent hub features several writers, and you are one of them. Thank you so much for your informative and inspirational work! Voted up and more, as well as shared! Aloha, and have a great rest of the Memorial Day Weekend!

Joe

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on May 26, 2013:

Don't you find that any place you go in that area of the world, Italy, Greece, ect. everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see?

There is a lot of history in those places! And I love the architecture. I suppose the sun helps the feeling as well! I lived in Belgium for 17 years and I always prefered Italy :-) It rains a lot in Belgium and the sky is often grey :-(

Great pictures of the Noto Cathedral day and night!

If you like Flower festivals, there is a nice one in Brussels it's at the Grand Place; it looks like a huge carpet!

Ice cream in Sicily.... you can't miss that :-)

Thank you for sharing this beautiful hub and all your pictures! You make me dream!

srsddn from Dehra Dun, India on May 26, 2013:

bdegiulio, Noto seems to a great heritage place and you have gone into great details while describing it. I liked the Flower Festival and the Cathedral at Night is looking gorgeous. Voted up and Beautiful.

ologsinquito from USA on May 26, 2013:

Yet another place I'd like to visit. Italy is very high on our list of places to see, at some point, once the kids are out of college and life unwinds a bit.