Art and History in Syracuse
The Island of Ortigia
- - The Fonte Aretusa of Syracuse
- - Judaica. Exploring Jewish Syracuse
- - The Seaside of Ortigia, in Syracuse
- - Piazza Archimede (Archimede Square)
- - The Piazza Duomo in Syracuse
- - The Galleria Regionale of the Palazzo Bellomo in Syracuse
- - Piazza del Precursore in Syracuse
- - Santa Maria della Concezione in Syracuse
- - The Temple of Apollo in Syracuse
- - Maritime Museum
- - Shopping in Syracuse
- - Euryalus Castle in Syracuse.
- - The Complex of Saint Lucia.
- - "Latomìe": the Ancient Greek Quarries of Syracuse.
- - The Archaeological Park of Syracuse.
- - The Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi” in Syracuse.
- - Shrine of the Madonna delle Lacrime (Our Lady of Tears) in Syracuse.
- - The complex of San Giovanni Evangelista
WHAT TO EAT IN SYRACUSE
With Children in Syracuse
- - Marine Aquarium
- - Papyrus Museum in Syracuse
- - Puppet Lab and Theater in Syracuse
- - Boat Outing in the Port
- - Ciane / Anapo Rivers
- - The Nature Reserve of Vendicari
Nature and the Sea in Syracuse
- - Getting around by bike
- - Fontane Bianche (White Fountains beach)
- - Ciane / Anapo Rivers
- - The Nature Reserve of Vendicari
- - Spiaggia di Calamosche (Calamosche Beach)
SEASON OF THE GREEK THEATRE IN SYRACUSE
Surroundings of Syracuse
- - A Trip to Noto – Sicily's Capital of the Baroque
- - The Roman Villa of Tellaro (Noto) and its Mosaics
- - St. Ambrogio and Immacolata Offer
- - Visit Eastern Sicily Offer
- - "Visit Syracuse and its Surroundings" Offer
- - Syracuse and Cinema - "The Sicily of Montalbano and of The Leopard" Offer
- - Romantic Getaway Offer
- - "Winter in Sicily is Warm" Offer
Sports and Recreation in Syracuse
- - The Fonte Aretusa of Syracuse
The town of Noto
The ancient city of Noto, whose foundations date to the 5th century B.C., was capital of one of the three districts into which Sicily was divided prior to unification. During its peak, ancient Noto was rich in both agricultural and manufacturing activities. What remains today of Noto Antica ("Ancient Noto") are just a few ruins (some of them quite fascinating), that are completely surrounded by the vegetation that has retaken the area.
The new city of Noto was rebuilt approximately 15 kilometers away and owes its beauty to the fact that it was built using a consistent style. The architects who worked on its reconstruction throughout the 18th century thought of the city as if it were theatrical scenery full of unexpected views and in which no two corners were alike. Added to this was the ability of local sculptors who had learned to use the local stone, which is rather soft, to decorate the buildings with a sort of lacework made of stone. This unique result is the reason why Noto, and the Baroque towns of the Noto valley, were proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The neoclassical Porta Reale (Royal Gate), a veritable triumphal arch built in 1838 on the occasion of a visit of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, serves as the grandiose entrance to the town.
The Church of San Francesco, next to the former convent of St. Francis and St. Benedict, is decorated with grand, curved grating on the windows and even sports a lookout tower, which also serves as a bell tower. It stands atop one of the many theatrical staircases that dot the town’s historic center, in a space built as a true theatrical setting to great visual effect. The interior is rendered in white stucco and houses canvases by Baroque painters.
Museo Civico (Municipal Museum)
Just before reaching the main square (Piazza del Municipio) and located at number 149 is the Museo Civico (Municipal Museum), which is rich in archaeological finds from Ancient Noto, the nearby Greek necropolises, and the Greek city of Eloro. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed for renovation, and the only part open is the section for modern art, which is housed on the opposite side of the road in the adjacent former Monastery of Santa Chiara (combined ticket with the Teatro Comunale and the "Hall of Mirrors" of Palazzo Ducezio: € 3), which one can visit in addition to the church.
To request information regarding the possible reopening of the museum, contact the company Allakatalla, located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele 47 (tel. (++39) 0931 835 005 or 574080, fax (++39) 0931 836021), which organizes guided and group tours through the city.
Just behind the museum is the Piazza del Municipio, where on the left one can see the massive Palazzo Ducezio, completed in 1746 and now used as the city hall. As mentioned previously, a visit to the Neoclassical Salone degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors) is permitted.
Opposite this is the towering Cathedral, one of the jewels of Noto. Its vast and extremely picturesque façade dominates the town from atop a huge staircase. This building narrowly escaped a bitter fate when, following damage by an earthquake in 1990, restoration was slow to come thanks to the typical bureaucratic procrastination. In 1996 the dome collapsed, taking with it the roof of the nave. A careful restoration, completed in 2007 with original materials, has finally brought back the cathedral’s integrity.
The interior is dominated by white plaster, dispelling the preconception of the baroque as "heavy" and "overloaded.” On the contrary, this cathedral is almost austere, lacking frescoes in favor of conveying a sense of spaciousness and light (there were some frescoes in the interior prior to the collapse, but they had only been added in the 1950s). Also included inside are some fine works of art, in large part from the Baroque era but also from Noto Antica, such as a Gaginesque St. George.
To the right of the cathedral is the Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore (Church of the Holy Savior), which is also fresh from a careful restoration that has returned to the façade the warm color of the golden local stone and that, inside, was enhanced with elegant Neoclassical decoration, also characterized by a certain taste for the theatrical.
Lastly, standing at the corner of the Piazza della Cattedrale is the Baroque church of San Carlo Borromeo (or San Carlo al Corso). Here too the interior, dominated by white walls and bathed in light, is airy and very elegant. One is encouraged to take the climb to the bell tower (ticket required), which offers an unparalleled view of the Piazza del Duomo and the historic center of Noto. (Unfortunately, the spiral staircase is very steep, so it is not recommended for those who have difficulty walking as well as to those who suffer from vertigo).
Church of San Carlo
Almost opposite the church of San Carlo, Via Nicolaci begins, rising uphill and seemingly capped by the curved front of the Church of Montevergine. The street’s pavement is painted with figures for the Infiorata, or Flower Festival, one of Noto’s most fascinating tourist events.
The Infiorata is held every year on the third Sunday in May, during which the pavement of the city streets, cloisters, and courtyards are decorated with various designs of social, religious or mythological subjects. Each design is created and colored by a fantastic and ephemeral "mosaic" of flower petals. Concerts and plays also accompany the event.
Standing on the left side of this street is Palazzo Nicolaci Villadorata. This building is certainly the most famous of the Noto’s Baroque palaces, and today it houses the library (visits allowed by ticket costing € 4). The decoration of the balconies and windows explodes here in a true decorative delirium with carved angels, horses, lions, gargoyles, moors, putti, in an attempt to ensure that each balcony is totally different from the next. This amazing creativity manages to avoid encumbering the building because it alternates with large areas completely devoid of decorations.
Using a typical Baroque trick, the palazzo was built with an inclined foundation in a way that exaggerates the perspective, making the short road on which it is located seem very long.
Also of value is the Palazzo Landolina, just opposite the Palazzo Nicolaci Villadorata. It was built in 1730 for Francesco Landolini, the son of Giovanni Battista Landolina, who is credited as one of the citizens influential in the rebuilding of Syracuse following the 1693 earthquake following Baroque sensibilities.
Sicily's Capital of the Baroque
While one can enjoy each of these monuments individually, it is when they are taken together that the buildings in the historic center of Noto make this city so extraordinary. It is therefore necessary to spend a little time strolling around and walking down some random streets to discover the surprises that the Baroque architects so thoughtfully included.
How to reach Noto from the Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel of Syracuse and from the Antico Hotel Roma 1880 of Syracuse.
Noto is 32 kilometers / 20 miles from Syracuse. The route can be traveled by car or train.
• By car, take motorway A18 Messina-Catania-Siracusa and the motorway A19 Palermo-Catania-Siracusa, exiting at “Bivio Cassibile”, and proceed to Strada Statale 115.
• By train, take the (free) shuttle bus #20 from Piazza Archimede close to the train station or opt to walk to the station. Approximately every hour an interregional train or a bus departs from Syracuse for Noto; the train journey takes about half an hour, and the bus can take up to an hour and a half.
The reception desk at the Hotel Algilà is available for information and schedules.
For those who do not wish to engage in a intensive examination of Noto, half a day is sufficient to view the sites open to visitors (many churches can be visited only on the outside because they were deconsecrated and transformed for other uses, or are otherwise closed to the public).
The trip to Noto can be productively combined with a visit to the Villa Romana del Tellaro, that with the beautiful mosaics, and perhaps with a stop for a swim and walk through nature at theNature Reserve of Vendicari.
In terms of accessibility, Noto was built making extensive use of steps to lend a sense of grandeur to the individual monuments. Although the buildings along the main street are mostly at ground level, churches tend to be preceded by enormous staircases, the true "mothers of all architectural barriers". For people with mobility problems, therefore, a visit is only possible when help to overcome these obstacles is available.