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4 min.

Sicily is a true Italian highlight, and when I worked as an artistic consultant at the Teatro Bellini in Catania, I fell in love with it! It is one of the Italian regions actually boasting the ranking of historical and cultural sites declared World Heritage by the UNESCO and visiting it you get why.

In the southeast area, this incredible cultural wealth finds its highest expression in baroque art and architecture. The Val di Noto, thanks to the chromatic sense and the impressive decorative style typical of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is a perfect fusion of landscape and architecture.

To discover Sicilian Baroque Art, the ideal is a short tour of the eight cities that make up this charming artistic mosaic.

Itinerary in the Valley of Noto

The journey into Noto Valley begins in Catania, at the foot of Mount Etna (also a World Heritage Site), where the baroque developed immediately after the earthquake of 1693 that forced planners to review the structure of the city. Do not miss the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, the eponymous Abbey, and the Church of St. Benedict. The central Piazza Duomo, where the Elephant Fountain, called “u Liotru” by locals, is the emblem of this colorful city.

There are many other monuments and private buildings with beautiful facades that are definitely worth at least a glance, the advice is therefore to slowly wander downtown, maybe taking some time to eat stuffed cannoli and try a delicious Sicilian granita 😉

After visiting the city, I recommend you rent a car downtown in Catania, to move and visit Sicily in total freedom and saving money.

Noto, the town which gives name to the valley, described as “Capital of the Baroque” in 2002, is just over an hour from Catania. The streets of the city, rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1693 under the Duke of Camastra, ruling on behalf of the Spanish Viceroy, are interspersed with scenic squares and imposing stairways that connect the terraces and slopes.
Things to do in this pink-gold city, besides to admire every detail, is undoubtedly a walk along Corso Umberto until the rebuilt Cathedral and the Theater and the Palace Nicolaci. A dip in the purest Baroque!

About forty minutes away from Noto, the third must-see town in Modica, a crossroads for artists and architects who fell in love with its scenic beauty. The imposing Cathedral of St. George is a symbol of Sicilian Baroque, but do not miss the Cathedral of St. Peter, the Church of Santa Maria del Gesu with its charming cloister, and the former Benedictine Monastery, now the Palace of Culture. There are also many private dreamy buildings and churches considered “minor,” but still impressive.

Modica is also the capital of chocolate, still produced starting from an ancient Aztec recipe! My favorite chocolate is always the spicy one, always yummy!

After leaving Modica, keep driving towards Scicli, just fifteen minutes away, where churches and palaces will leave you breathless: Beneventano Palace and its grotesque balconies, Palazzo Fava, Spadaro Palace, the Church of San Bartolomeo, and the Church of St. Matthew, dominating the city from the top of a beautiful hill.

A corner of authentic Sicily, famous for being the natural set of Italian Commissioner Montalbano tv show… the palace of the Vigata police station is actually the municipality of Scicli, and the superintendent’s room Luca Bonetti Alderighi is specifically the office of the mayor of Scicli.

Just 30 kilometers away, you’ll reach splendid Ragusa, also known as the “City of Bridges” or “island within an island.” Apart from the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista and a few buildings, the baroque heritage of the city (over fifty churches and dozens of eighteenth-century buildings) is located in Ibla, dominated by the Basilica of St. George.

Another must-see place, a half-hour away or so, is Palazzolo Acreide, an ancient city with gardens and courtyards that are a delight, part of the most beautiful villages in Italy, just like my village, Vernazza! Among the sites to visit in town, I particularly recommend the Church of San Paolo, San Sebastian, and the Mother Church.

At 60 kilometers, you’ll find Caltagirone, with its beautiful baroque cathedral, the Palace of San Elia, and the impressive Monumental Cemetery. Caltagirone is considered the capital of Sicilian ceramics, and the Ceramics Museum, a true landmark of this town, is well worth a visit.

Before returning to Catania, I recommend visiting Militello, which is just halfway and boasting magnificent churches: the Church Mother San Nicolò, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Stella and the Abbey of St. Benedict.

These eight cities, genuine baroque pearls, have their own history of centuries, sometimes millennia before 1693, and all of them retain traces of it. Architectural and archaeological traces, but also typical dishes, myths, and legends. This corner of Sicily has much to offer and knows how to enchant its visitors…

* trip in partnership with Easy Terra. Opinions and tips are my own, as always.

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.