The Val di Noto
The baroque towns of the Val di Noto were the result of rebuilding after the great earthquake of 1693 and represent the height of the Sicilian Baroque.
The city of Ragusa itself, like all of the cities in this part of Sicily was largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1693. A new town, Ragusa Alta was built, but the majority preferred to stay in the old town, Ibla and rebuilt their houses, choosing a baroque city laid out on a medieval street plan. The result is breathtaking. Wedding cake churches, elegantly carved palazzi and beautifully executed piazze allow the visitor to wander about the city, with endless vistas and beautifully framed views at every turn.
Ragusa Ibla is the picture postcard Baroque town, with winding allies opening into unexpected piazzas. Ragusa on the other side of the bridges (see below) is laid out on a more formal plan.
Modica has been likened to a split pomegranite - any visitor can see the cliffs with the houses tumbling down the valley sides like the seeds of a pomegranite. The undiscovered jewel in southern Sicily, Modica was the capital of the region from the 12th century. A disastrous flood in 1902 led to the rivers that ran through the town being covered over, and Modica lost its reputation as the Venice of the South. But Modica remains a magical city. Unlike most others in Sicily, the town is built in a valley instead of on a hilltop, and nestles between the sandstone ridges. The labyrinthine terraces climb up the gorges interspersed with baroque churches and roccoco palaces. The area is rich in history, and is now famous for its chocolate which is made to an ancient Aztec recipe.
The finest baroque town in Sicily according to the visitors. The locals call it ‘a garden in stone’. Built after the earthquake of 1693 by Prince Landolina along classical lines. the city became a personal vision of one family. The city is built on two levels, the lower level being the more grandiose, the public buildings and swathes of steps line the Corso. On the upper level smaller buildings compete for space without detracting from the whole.
Nowadays Noto is visited by many tourists, especially at the time of the infiorita, or flower festival, when (as in Umbria and other cities) the streets are covered with elaborate designs made of flowers.
Scicli is to be found at the confluence of three vallies, San Bartolomeo, Santa Maria la Nova and the Fiumara of Modica. Like most of the area Scicli was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 in Baroque style using optical illusions of space and light. Scicli was the forgotten jewel of the Baroque for two hundred years, leading Anthony Blunt to describe it as the ‘baroque preserved in aspic’.
Today Scicli is most famous as a film location. The hugely successful Montalbano series is largely filmed in the area. The town is also notable for its many spectacular events throughout the year, most notably San Giuseppe, The Madonna of the Militia and the Easter ‘Uomo Vivo’
The countryside is not what most visitors expect. Instead of being brown and arid, for most of the year the tourist sees lush green fields and miles of unbroken dry stone walls which criss cross the area, climbing near vertical gorges. For many visitors it was this similarity to the English landscape that invented the term ‘Ragusashire’, though thankfully the area has not become another Tuscany. To the east in the Vendicari nature reserve migrating flamingoes brighten up the autumn months, and the spring brings the heady perfume of the zagara - when the citrus trees are in flower
The sea is not the main reason why tourists come to Sicily, but it doesnt mean its not worth visiting. From hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, to rocky coves and fishing villages, nature reserves and seaside resorts with nightlife, the Val di Noto is blessed with something for everyone. The south coast is washed by the Mediterranean while the east coast is bathed in the Ionian sea, and the limpid crystalline waters are perfect for scuba diving, water sports, as well as just swimming. Most beaches are family friendly, with shallow waters and no tides. For most of the year beaches are deserted, and outside late July and August it’s quite possible that you will have the beach to yourself, even though the sea can be still above 20 degrees into November. You can choose from wild deserted beaches to serviced beaches with lido’s and bars. The choice is yours.
The Val di Noto in English - news and info.
As far as we know all the material used on this site is not subject to copyright. If there is any image or content that we have unwittingly used that requires permission, please let us know and we will remedy the situation forthwith.