Val di Noto is located in the south-eastern part of Sicily and in 2002 it was included among the Italian sites of the UNESCO World Heritage List for its splendid baroque cities. In particular, there are eight Baroque cities that are part of the Unesco site: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli. These urban centers already existed during the Middle Ages, but were rebuilt, in part or completely, after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693, following the prevailing style at the time. The architecture, urban planning and decoration of the buildings constitute the culmination of the Baroque in Europe. Val di Noto is a spectacular set of places, landscapes and colors; a renowned destination for national and international tourism.
Noto is a real European capital of the Baroque: palaces, churches, monasteries, squares, fountains, are shown in succession as a theatrical scenography. The earthquake of 1693 destroyed the ancient city of Noto. In the eighteenth century, the new city was rebuilt further downstream, in the style of the time. The newer part offers a spectacular set of buildings and streets in the Baroque style, from the palaces of the nobility, such as Ducezio Palace, to religious complexes such as the Cathedral of San Nicolò.
Rebuilt in Baroque style after the earthquake of 1693, the city of Modica also offers the visitor numerous architectural jewels, such as the church of San Pietro which, with the church of San Giorgio, is one of the two mother churches of the city. Many call it the most beautiful example of a Baroque city in Sicily. In Mercedari Palace it is possible to visit the museum of popular arts and traditions. Modica is also the city of chocolate: an annual festival is dedicated to this delicacy, whose processing here follows ancient and secret recipes.
Panoramic view of the old town of Noto and Noto Cathedral, Sicily, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)
Syracuse, thanks to its position and its natural harbor, was an important Greek city. The city is divided between the old part, the islet of Ortigia, and the newly expanded area. Ortigia, just one square kilometer, reveals the evidence of a glorious past, among Greek temples, such as that of Apollo, and Christian churches, Swabian, Aragonese and Baroque palaces. The Cathedral, which dominates the other Baroque buildings, is the main place of worship in the city and stands on a pre-existing Greek temple. In Syracuse there is also an archaeological park full of numerous remains worthy of a visit.
Also Catania was rebuilt from scratch. It is a real late Baroque jewel with its splendid Chatedral square, Elephants’ Palace and the Amenano fountain, without forget the beautiful Via dei Crociferi. Other noteworthy places include the Abbey of Sant’Agata, the Collegiate Church, the Benedictine monastery and Biscari Palace.
Caltagirone also has a rich Baroque architecture and the beauty of its facades is evident in churches such as Santa Maria del Monte, San Giacomo Apostolo and in palaces such as the Capitanale Court and the Civic Museum.
Ragusa is another “capital of the baroque”: the Cathedral of San Giorgio with its imposing bell tower is not to be missed, while among the main streets and squares it will be possible to find richly decorated buildings such as the Cancelleria Palace and Zacco Palace.
Militello in Val di Catania has a very particular urban plan. Among the main buildings are also the churches of San Nicolò and Santa Maria della Stella.
Palazzolo is another Baroque town in Val di Noto, located in the heart of the Iblei Mountains. The city is also famous for its Carnival, the oldest in Sicily, which takes place in the central square with dances, festivals and parades through the streets of the city.
Last but not least, the beautiful Scicli is another late Baroque jewel in Val di Noto, where churches and patrician villas form an urban landscape of great visual impact. In particular, the decoration of the facade of the Beneventano Palace is of great artistic and architectural value.
Text: Luca @ Italien.blog
The old town of Ragusa Ibla in Sicily before sunrise, Val di Noto, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)