In the south-eastern part of Sicily, eight towns comprise the World Heritage serial site of Val di Noto, recognized as a great rebuilding achievement in the decades following the devastating earthquake of 1693, which resulted in surpassing examples of Baroque town planning and architecture. It is a varied collection, ranging from entire historic centers in some of the towns to just a couple of named churches in others.
Our itinerary allowed us to spend time in five of the eight inscribed towns, and I intend to have a separate blog installment for each. Starting with Noto, which was our base for this leg of the trip and therefore ended up as the best-explored of the bunch.
The historic core of Noto is centered on the Cathedral, a prime example of the 18th-century Sicilian Baroque.
If you read my previous Sicilian notes (here or here), you may find the statuary on the cathedral steps familiar.
Yes, same sculptor, Igor Mitoraj. I did not bother to research why his works were so prominently exhibited at several of our itinerary stops (and never showed up again beyond Noto).
Perspectives of the cathedral façade and neoclassical dome.
Opposite the cathedral stands Palazzo Ducezio, the town hall, which also dates from the post-earthquake period but was only fully completed nearly 200 years later in the first half of the 20th century.
Ensemble of the church of San Francesco d’Assisi and the monastery of San Salvatore to its left.
A 19th-century gate to the city, Porta Reale o Ferdinandea, built by the local marquis on an occasion of the town visit by the King of Sicily.
Opposite views, down Corso Vittorio Emmanuele towards the gate, taken at different times of day.
The plan of the city core is surprisingly grid-like. The main east-west arteries run along the hillside. The cross streets run down the hill at a noticeable angle, as seen in these shots.
The last two shots above are the opposite views towards the church of Montevergine and away from it. On the right-hand side of the last picture is Palazzo Nicolaci. Its exquisite balcony support beams are a prime example of the delightful Baroque feature found throughout the region. Well worth multiple close-ups.
The interior of Palazzo Nicolaci, principally finished in 1765 and representing key features of the Sicilian Baroque for which Noto and the other towns in the area are inscribed on the WH list, is of limited interest. Nonetheless, the low ticket price makes it reasonably worthwhile to devote 20-30 minutes to a visit. Here are a couple of the most impressive spaces.
Another palace in the town core, Palazzo Castelluccio, built in 1782, is slightly more expensive to enter and offers a bit more variety of decoration and eye-catching interiors…
… plus a courtyard.
At churches, behind the impressive Baroque façades, there are usually comparatively understated interiors, not at all like the ones we have seen in Palermo. Here are the nave perspectives of Chiesa di Montevergine…
… the Duomo …
… and Chiesa di San Carlo.
The roof terraces of San Carlo are the can’t-miss highlight of Noto.
Above are primarily north and northeast views. To the south and southwest from here, the town continues to descend down the hill, so the perspectives open up to the surrounding countryside, in this case fronted by the upper façade of the Church of Our Lady of the Carmel.
Several staircases connect the area around the cathedral with even higher parts of the town core. They are decorated and colloquially called “painted” staircases, but in fact, the paint is not directly on the steps but rather on attached strips of canvas. I wasn’t overly impressed, but an example is worth of inclusion here.
Finally, a couple of the previously seen perspectives taken in the late evening.
Noto is a very beautiful town! It can really be explored in the course of an intraday visit, but our decision to make it the base for the stay in the area afforded us a better chance to fall in love with it. Which we did!