Noto & Sicilian baroque style

visit the fascinating town of Noto

Noto - A Mini Guide to a Baroque Epicentre

The storybook scenery of Noto, one of the eight famous Baroque towns nestled in the picturesque south-east of Sicily, is nothing short of idyllic. The juxtaposition of stone buildings, coloured in a soft, honey hue, against a vibrant, dramatic backdrop supplied by the rugged Iblean Mountains, provides a feast for the eyes you'll not soon forget. Constructed on the ruins of the old city by the Duke of Camastra, in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 1693, Noto showcases the very best of the Baroque period with an exquisitely beautiful landscape of whimsical spires, ornate facades and balconies carved with intricate designs. Noto is a history and culture buff's paradise with more resplendent churches, monasteries and palaces than befits a town with a population of roughly 20,000. It is not hard to see why Noto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting countless visitors every year to wander its streets and admire its splendour. Notable sights include around 30 churches, palaces and a magnificent cathedral. Although some of the buildings of Noto are weathered from years gone by, many have been restored . However, this combination of grand architecture and crumbling stone add to Noto’s historical, rustic charm. Noto holidays bring together enchanting urban scenery with shady green spaces, picturesque piazzas and tropical palms that marry the Mediterranean with North Africa in a style that is truly Sicilian in nature. Visit by day to watch the golden stone glow in the sunshine or arrive as darkness falls, when strategically positioned floodlights light up the buildings and lend a magical fantasy ambience to the town. For those that are looking to experience traditional Sicilian life against a tranquil backdrop of extraordinary beauty, Noto certainly ticks all the boxes. 

What to see and do 

Noto is one of the most popular destinations for visitors in this region of Sicily and the only way to enjoy this stunning town is to take a leisurely stroll of the streets and soak up the atmosphere of the historical centre. This is Sicilian architecture at its very best and for anyone seeking a bit of escapism from the modern world, rest assured that renting a Noto villa or apartment will not disappoint.

Architecture in abundance 

The stunning cityscape that unfolds before you as you wander the main town road, Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle, is the big attraction of Noto. One end of this famous road is marked by the Porta Reale gateway, close to one of Noto’s pretty parks. As you walk the boulevard, you will encounter numerous sights of interest, such as the postcard-perfect spectacle of the Chiesa di Montvirginie and the sweeping staircase that leads to the Chiesa di San Franceso with its beautifully carved, medieval interior.  Other key sights include the majestic Duomo, the cathedral with its fresco-filled ‘hall of mirrors’, as well as the intricate balconies of the Palazzo Villadorata, alive with mythical creatures – from angelic cherubs to proud griffins. The panoramic view from the bell-tower of the San Carlo church will snatch your breath away and is a must-see when visiting Noto. The main attraction of Noto is the marvellous architecture of the city and the historical legacy that infuses these gently crumbling streets. The sweeping flights of steps and faded glamour that unfurls before you adds an ethereal beauty to Noto, reminiscent of days long past.  Many of the architectural highlights of this unique town are easy to find, located as they are, on or around the elegant main street, the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle. Just be sure to plan plenty of time to wander as the mood takes you – there are many side streets, intriguing facades and spectacular interiors to distract you en route. 

The Corso Vittorio Emmaneulle 

Start your journey from any point along this impressive street. The Porta Reale marks one end of this thoroughfare that extends through the city via the lovely, shady public gardens, a succession of picturesque piazzas, and several inviting churches. Each building boasts its own unique designs with mischievous cherubs, gargoyles and elegant, wrought-iron balconies to admire as you stroll down the street. Don't miss the Chiesa di San Carlo al Corso – climb the bell tower for breath-taking views out over the city.

The Duomo

In typical Sicilian style, Noto's cathedral takes pride of place amongst the sights this beautiful town has to offer. The Cattedrale di San Nicolo's restoration, after a collapse in 1996, has returned it to almost Disney fairytale perfection. The pale yellow limestone exterior glows in the afternoon sun while the interior is simply painted in white. 

Villa Romana del Tellaro 

Situated south of Noto by the River Tellaro, this example of a wealthy, Roman home is a popular tourist attraction due to the intricate mosaics that decorate the floors. The scenes depict hunters, wild African animals and carpets of geometric designs and make the ideal cultural attraction for those wishing to avoid the crowds at the larger Villa Romana del Casale, one of Sicily's more famous sights.

Lido di Noto

After soaking up the delights of the city, visitors may want to escape to the coast and discover the beautiful shorelines that Sicily is famous for. Located a 10-15 minute drive away from the town lies Lido di Noto, perched on the coast. A breezy little seaside resort that is popular with local holiday-makers, the beach is sandy, the sea is crystal clear and there are plenty of bars, shops and places to eat during the summer months.

The Infiorata di Noto 

Infiorata di Noto Infiorata di noto Floral Displays If you want to see this peaceful town come to life, pay a visit on the third weekend of May when the Infiorata di Noto is celebrated throughout the town. This flower festival sees the Via Nicolai taken over by Sicilian and international artists, paving the streets with petals as they create carpets of glorious mosaics. Parades and carnival shows continue all weekend until Monday when tradition dictates that children run through the streets, destroying the artwork and symbolising the fresh, new beginning marked by the coming of spring.

Take a trip to nearby Ragusa 

If the baroque beauty of Noto has merely served to whet your appetite for more of the same, the equally idyllic town of Ragusa is an hour's drive to the west. Ragusa is split into two separate towns - one that was rebuilt after the destructive earthquake of 1693 to play host to the flamboyant palazzis of the noble classes, and the other houses the old town, a fairytale maze of labyrinthine streets begging to be explored.

Eating out in Noto

Wining and dining is one of the chief pleasures of Noto. As well as traditional Sicilian fare such as rustic platters laden with antipasti, creamy cheeses and delectable variations on pizza and pasta dishes, you will encounter restaurants that provide fusion dishes guaranteed to keep the more adventurous foodies happy. Famous for its cafe culture and delicious gelati and pastries, it is quite easy to spend leisurely afternoons eating and drinking in one of Noto's sunny piazzas. 

Manna is a popular eatery, with three artistically decorated dining rooms providing an atmospheric setting to accompany your meal. Tuck into mains such as parmesan risotto and seafood linguine, but be sure to leave room for one of the mouth-watering desserts - the orange cake and lemon sorbet are highly recommended. Another Noto favourite is the Pizzeria Casa Matta, just the place to indulge in a varied selection of pizzas, topped with an assortment of rustic, Sicilian delights.

Copyright of Manna

A place to rest your head 

Choosing Noto as a base for your holiday in Sicily offers an experience of unparalleled baroque beauty, an escape from the outside world into a picturesque landscape, steeped in history and culture.

A self-catered holiday provides more freedom, space and privacy than is possible at a hotel, and our selection of Noto villas and apartments boast a range of individual features and facilities to enable you to create that home-away-from-home feeling. From private pools and spacious Mediterranean gardens, to breath-taking views and city centre living, browse our location guide to see individual properties or explore our collections if you know what type of holiday you are looking for. Alternatively, contact us for assistance in booking your ideal holiday home.

Essential Noto tourist tips

Noto is located in the south-east of Sicily, around 35 minutes’ drive from Syracuse. It is possible to reach the city by bus – AST and Interbus both run to Noto from Syracuse, Catania and Gela. Noto also has a railway station and can be reached by train, but the drop-off point for the bus is more conveniently located, in the town centre.