You’ll be spoilt for choice: Calabernardo with its characteristic harbour, the bright beaches with fine golden sand of Lido di Noto, Eloro, the Tellaro river flowing along the Zahir Country House and then Calamosche, lovely heavenly beach, the Vendicari faunal Oasis, a wetland of exceptional natural value with its pristine ecological system, the beaches of San Lorenzo , Morghella, Portopalo and Eno Spinazza Capo Passero island etc. All this without counting the mosaics of the Villa Romana del Tellaro, Citadel of Maccari, numerous necropolis and many other archaeological finds that enrich the visitor’s vacation with the plus-value of a full immersion in the beauty and in the culture for a boundless human growth. The vast territory of Noto (554 sq km) is dotted by other grounds of appeal, including the hilly tourist-cultural pole with its archaeological, artistic and historic signs. We limit ourselves to a summary listing the most known sites. At 4 km from Noto, on the highway to Palazzolo Acreide, locality of St. Corrado di Fuori, the striking Valle dei Miracoli welcomes you with the hermitage where the patron of Noto spent the last years of his life. Further north, there is the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Scala, patroness of the Diocese of Noto, and then, about 3 km, the site of Noto Antica on Mount Algeria with the ruins of abandoned city after the earthquake of 1693. From Noto Antica it’s easy to reach the necropolis of Castelluccio, an archaeological site that has an inestimable value, the Cava della Signora with hundreds of burial caves, the Grotta dei Santi (cave of the Saints). Beautiful views are enjoyed from these locality! We cannot forget even the Cava Grande del Cassibile, the deepest Canyon in Europe, that you can access driving the national street to Palazzolo Acreide and turning right, three hundred meters before the bridge over the river Manghisi. The Cava Grande has been carved over millennia by Manghisi river which here takes the name of Cassibile. Picturesque lakes in the Valley Zahir Country House lying just over 3 km from Noto, guests will enjoy, whenever they wish, vision of the monuments, churches, palaces, stone garden, authentic Baroque Pearl, half of lovers of beauty, coming from all over the world.
The history of Noto, despite the continuity of its cultural, artistic and human noble traditions, is marked by two distinct periods: before and after the devastating earthquake of 9 – 11 January 1693. Prior to this devastating earthquake, Noto stood on Mount Alverca, about 10 kilometres north of the present site. Centre of culture, from the late middle ages and early Renaissance, Noto gave a significant contribution to the literature and arts thanks to personalities such as Marrasio, Barbazio, Aurispa, Carnilivari, etc. The city, demolished by the terrifying earthquake of 1693, it was rebuilt on the present site. The result of a unique artistic-creative season, resurrected Noto saw rise on a layout to stairs and terraces, overlapping and parallel routes, its beautiful Baroque monuments, by virtue of the ingenuity of the great architects of the time (Gagliardi, Labisi, Sinatra), assisted by excellent stonemasons and imaginative workers. The beauty and the architectural opulence of churches and civic buildings, sublimated by a lovely landscape , are embellished with tender limestone construction, that the patina of time has given a soft goldenrod honey, that the light of sunset enhances dramatically, projecting into the blue phantasmagoric visions with effects of Fata Morgana. The dome of the Cathedral, with that of the S.S. Crocifisso, soaring on high floor, proclaims the conquest of endless celestial spaces. Fully legitimate so are the flattering definitions of Noto, Golden Valley of Baroque temples, Baroque Rose, Golden City, Stone Garden, Theatre of Marvels, Baroque Pearl.
Coming in Noto, the visitor receives the greeting of the city’s patron saint, s. Corrado Confalonieri, whose big bronze statue is situated in Piazzale Marconi, in front of the entrance of the public gardens, where there are several marble busts of illustrious inhabitants of Noto and a statue representing the allegory of Architecture. Soon after, crossed the tunnel created by ficus of public gardens, the visitor enters the Baroque capital through a triumphal arch. And the actual door (or ferdinandea or national door), elevated in 1843, leads to the Vittorio Emanuele street, a straight one kilometer, along which run many of the monuments of the 18th century. First, to the right, you can meet San Francesco all’Immacolata with its vast Plaza-staircase and the monastery of S.S. Salvatore with the Belvedere Tower, to the left, an amazing number of eighteenth-century potbellied windows. You don’t have time to rub your eyes that the monastery and Church of St. Clare force you to bow. Bewitched by the beauty, you find yourself, happily dazed, in front of the incomparable staircase at three flights before the wonderful Cathedral, whose facade with towers soaring in the sky open the soul to the immensity. The magnificent Cathedral was returned to its former glory after the reconstruction of the roof and the dome, disastrously collapsed on March 13, 1996. The solemn reopening to worship has taken place on June 18, 2007 in the presence of the then President of the Council of Ministers, Romano Prodi. Right to our days, with the completion of the frescoes, the Basilica-Cathedral was returned to the divine beauty that sets it apart. Turning the look around the temple, the astonishment guides your look to the left towards Palazzo Landolina of Saint Alfano and then, soon after, to the right to embrace the Episcopal Palace and the façade of S.S. Salvatore with its large churchyard with delicate limestone slabs. Only then, stupefied by the constant surprises, you can admire the immaterial Loggia of palazzo Ducezio,town hall of Noto , inside that is possible to visit the Hall of mirrors, an oval plan decorated in Louis XV style. 100 meters ahead, on the left, you find the concave façade of the Church of San Carlo al Corso and the Jesuit College. Glancing to right, you see prance via Nicolaci, hosting the famous Flower Festival during the third week of May. On that occasion, the Baroque that reigns over the Golden City, pleasantly shocked by the profusion of colorful flowers, penetrates and expands into the fibers of the visitors, fascinated by the seductive beauty of Noto. It is however the Villadorata Palace with its famous Corbels of its potbellied balconies which ends up capturing attention thanks to its chimeras, mermaids, unicorns, centaurs, griffins and sphinxes. Turning then the eyes to the North, there is the Church of Montevergini, charming perspective closure of via Nicolaci. Recovering the walk along the River, go directly to piazza XVI Maggio, where, right, you are surprised by the convex façade of the beautiful St. Dominic, a masterpiece of Gagliardi and Baroque of Val di Noto, the fountain of Hercules and, opposite, on the South side of piazza XVI Maggio, the Municipal Theater named after the great actress Tina Di Lorenzo, the Angelic of Italian theatre, known in America with appellation of Encantadora. A short distance away, in the southern part of town, abound other palaces and temples, including the churches of S. Maria dell’ Arco and S. Maria del Carmine. Climbing on the back of the Hercules fountain through via Bovio, cross Casa dei Crociferi and flow into via Cavour, where are large stately mansions, including Lorenzo’s Palace of the Marquis of Castelluccio, Astuto Palace with its characteristic potbellied windows and the Trigona Palace of Cannicarao. But it’s not over. Along a panoramic staircases that rise to the higher floor, you find yourself in piazza Trigona. On the corner of the left, the Church of s. Maria di Gesù, in the Middle, greets you; the church of SS. Annunziata (new abbey) invites you to admire its remarkable wooden altar; on the right, the complex of the Church of s. Agata dazzles you with its resplendent side under the afternoon sun. Moreover, the palazzo lmpellizzeri, the monastery of s. Thomas, today prison, and the complex of the former convent of St Anthony of Padua are waiting for you. But the symbol of the Upper Floor is the Church of the S.S. Crocifisso with its treasures, including the chapel Landolina, the large and gilded crucifix performed by Rosario Gagliardi in which is inserted the ancient image of the crucifix, an object of worship and pilgrimages to Noto Antica precisely in the Church of SS. Crociflsso, the shrine that encloses the Holy thorn, the white marble statue of the Madonna della Neve by Francesco Laurana (1471), the two Romanesque stone lions, not to mention the beautiful frescoes of Constantino Carasi and various paintings by unknown artists. Elderly but always beautiful lady, shaken by the earthquake, by suffering, by grief, Noto suffered the collapse of the dome and roof of his Cathedral in 1996, but today, after the reconstruction, is launched towards the future. Early phoenix is reborn more beautiful ever reactivating a process of hope, harmony, beauty and color.
Noto, a realized utopia, a symbol of beauty, harmony and peace.