Baroque capital of Southeastern Sicily
The undisputed capital of Sicilian baroque, Noto is definitely one of the main destinations to visit during your vacation at Val di Noto, in southeastern Sicily. The city is located 31 km from Syracuse and 50 km from Ragusa.
Noto may be visited at any time of the year: in the summer you can combine you cultural stay with the beautiful sea of its coast and, in the winter months, you can plan a tour of the Val di Noto cities combined with a food and wine route, tasting the local dishes and wines of the area. This great architectural jewel synthesizes all the special features characterizing the Baroque of southeastern Sicily.
What to see in Noto
In 2002, Noto was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with Modica, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa, Scicli, Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania and Catania. The city is called “the stone garden” thanks to its sumptuous palaces and monumental churches built with the richly carved golden local stone.
Monuments and churches
The streets of Noto are interspersed with beautiful squares and imposing stairways connecting terraces, small houses, and aristocratic palaces. At the entrance to the old town center is the Porta Reale (Royal Gate) leading to the nerve center of the city, where the baroque flaunts its creative capriciousness. Traveling along Corso Vittorio Emanuele we come to the Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata (Church of St. Francis of Assisi of the Immaculate Conception), featuring an imposing stairway, and the Chiesa del S.S. Salvatore (Church of the Most Holy Savior), standing to its left.
Continuing ahead along the main street of the city we come to the Cattedrale di San Nicolò (Cathedral of St. Nicholas) in front of which stands Palazzo Ducezio (Ducezioi Palace), where the Municipal Palace has its venue. Next to the cathedral is Via Nicolaci, a beautiful street full of baroque palaces, balconies decorated with putti, animals, and mythological symbols. The famous Infiorata (flower art event) is held here each year.
Walking through the streets of Noto you will be impressed by their charm, accentuated at sunset by the lighting that provides a unique atmosphere to the city’s visage. The historic buildings remain open until the evening so that you can enjoy a show of rare beauty.
The best way to appreciate the Noto’s old town is to “get lost” in its streets, encountering churches and palaces overlooking stairs, alleys, or large squares. In this way, discover the most evocative Baroque corners of this open-air architectural museum.
What to see in the vicinity
Outside the old town, the territory of Noto is rich in fascinating places to visit, both from an archaeological and naturalistic point of view.
Not far from Noto, for example, stands Noto Antica (Netum), the original core of the city inhabited since prehistoric times up to the earthquake of 1693, which destroyed much of southeastern Sicily. Noto Antica is located on Mount Alveria and has walls, fortifications, and ruins dating back to the Middle Ages. Today it is surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation, amid ancient dwellings carved into the rock and ruins dating back to the Greek era. Of the most famous monuments along the route within the archaeological area, we note the Porta della Montagna (Mountain Gate) marking the entrance to the site. Then there are the ruins of the royal castle, dating from the eleventh and seventeenth centuries, the Jesuit Church, the gymnasium, and the Greek heroon.
For nature lovers, we recommend the Riserva Naturale di Vendicari, (Vendicari Nature Reserve), a marine and natural protected area located just 13 km from Noto. Ideal for lovers of hiking or just for taking a bath in the clear waters of the coast of Noto, this oasis also offers artifacts from the Greek era, as in the case of the Area Archeologica di Eloro (Eloro Archaeological Area).
If you are a lover of nature, take a trip to Cavagrande del Cassibile (the big Cassible quarry), a valley cut by the river Cassibile which forms small freshwater ponds, ideal for a dip during the hot Sicilian summers.
Another site not to miss is the Villa Romana del Tellaro, (Tellaro Roman Villa), an imperial residence recently discovered in 1971, and which preserves many mosaics.
A few kilometers from Noto also are the UNESCO World Heritage Site baroque cities of Ragusa, Scicli and Modica. Here you can admire other Baroque art masterpieces, monuments, palaces, and churches that frame the capital of Sicilian Baroque.
What to do in Noto
The best period for visiting Noto begins in April. This is when the events and festivals which last throughout the summer commence, enriching the already magnificent historic streets of the city. In fact, Primavera Barocca (baroque Spring), a series of events that climax with the Infiorata di Noto (Noto flower art), is held from April to June.
Events and shows
Infiorata di Noto (Noto flower art)
The Infiorata is one of the most highly anticipated events in southeastern Sicily. First held in 1980, the event now attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. It is held every year on the third Sunday of May and takes place along the scenic Via Nicolaci, covered with a carpet of flowers divided into squares, usually sixteen, depicting drawings by local and foreign artists. The uphill sloping road allows you to best admire of this beautiful and cheerful explosion of colors, a real greeting to the spring. Numerous events, conferences and food and wine fairs that are a valuable opportunity to visit Noto and learn about the Val di Noto across the board are held in the days before the Inforiata
After designing their works, the artisans begin arranging the flowers as early as Friday evening before the event. Seeing these masters at work is also part of the show; for that reason, we recommend you stroll by Via Nicolaci even during the two days before the Infiorata, especially on Friday evening, thus avoiding the crowds of the following days. To admire the Infiorata from above, climb the bell tower of the Chiesa di San Carlo (Church of St. Charles) directly in front of the road and observe the event from a true real place of honor.
Gran Palio dei Tre Valli (Great Palio of the Three Valleys)
This event is held at the end of April every year where a large procession with hundreds of people in antique costumes travel through the streets of Noto. The clothes are made by the greatest Sicilian masters of antique tailoring, who show off their skill for the occasion. The event is opened by A Great Master of Ceremonies, who has the task of recounting the history of the city and presenting the clothes. In conjunction with the event, organized by the Corteo Barocco association of Noto, there are processions of flag-wavers and musicians, all in the wonderful eighteenth-century atmosphere of Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Festivals and concerts
Feast of San Corrado (The Feast of St. Conrad)
The feast of the patron saint St. Conrad is held twice a year: on February 19th, and on the last Sunday of August. The faithful, followed by a long procession, carry, on their shoulders, a silver urn containing the saint’s relics throughout the city streets. Some of them carry votive candles, true works of art that tell the St. Conrad’s history.
Easter in Noto
The Easter tradition in southeastern Sicily is keenly felt, and the celebrations attract many believers and tourists. In Noto, Holy Week festivities begin on Good Friday with the Holy Thorn procession, in which the relic of a thorn from Christ’s crown is carried through the streets of the city. The festival’s origin is very old and probably dates to 1295.
Next, on Easter Sunday, the Pace (Peace) festival is held: a festive crowd gathers in front of the Cathedral to acclaim the meeting of the simulacra of the Risen Christ and the Madonna.
Effetto Noto (Noto effect)
Noto comes alive with music in the summer. From July to September you can attend concerts in the baroque palaces and listen to live music in the streets of the old town. You’ll find music for every taste and in every corner of the city: jazz, opera, classical music, modern music, and much more.
Markets and festivals
Every Monday morning from 8:00 am to 01:00 pm is an open-air market in Piazza Risorgimento. Here you can buy food, especially local fruits and vegetables. An excellent opportunity to taste fresh produce and stock up on local specialties to take home. In June there is the Pentecost Fair, where you can find typical products, antiques, and craft
What to do in the evening
Walking through the principal streets of the old city will be hard in the evening due to the high concentration of people animating the city. You will find many places for a drink or aperitif, spending a quiet evening with friends. In the evening, stroll along Corso Vittorio Emanuele to admire the warm atmosphere of lights illuminating the baroque monuments, giving it an even more alluring appearance. In the summer, you can also visit some of the churches and palaces that stay open until late and enjoy a spectacular night view of the city. If, on the other hand, you want to spend a fun and lively evening, there are numerous seafront discos in the nearby seaside resorts of Lido di Noto, Avola and Pozzallo. Lido di Noto also boasts excellent seafront restaurants where you can taste delicious dishes based on fresh fish and other local recipes.
Where is Noto and how to get there
Noto is in a hilly area in of southeastern Sicily, in the province of Syracuse, which is 31 km away. The city of Noto comprises a very vast territory, the largest in Sicily in terms of size, and is about 8 km from the sea. Follow our advice on how to get to Noto in the easiest way possible.
You can get to Noto from Messina and Catania taking the E 45 highway and then the exit for Noto.
From Syracuse, take SP 14 and get on E 45, continuing until the exit for Noto.
From Ragusa, take the SS 115 in the direction of Modica and continue along the SP 28/SP 51/SP 17 until you reach SS 115 for Noto.
The car trip to Noto from Palermo about 3 hours. Take E 90, continue along the A 19 highway to Catania and continue, as indicated above, along E 45 to Noto.
Car parks and pedestrian zones
Before arriving in Noto, read our tips to for parking your car and how to best enjoy this beautiful baroque city in a worry-free manner.
The old city is often closed to traffic, especially during events such as the Infiorata [flower art ] or the costume parades of the Palio Tre Valli (palio of the three valleys). A pedestrian zone is in effect in the summer, usually in the evening, from Friday to Sunday, and every evening in August. In addition to Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the pedestrian zone includes surrounding streets, such as Via Spaventa, Via Ducezio, Via La Rosa, and Via Zanardelli. The area closed to traffic may vary, but in any case, it is marked out by signs.
The car parks closest to the center are pay-to-park and are located on Via Cavour, Via Salvatore La Rosa, and Via Garibaldi. The free parking area on Via Tommaso Fazello is a ten-minute walk from the historic center.
Noto offers suburban routes with several bus lines, including the AST and Etna Trasporti connecting the city with Ragusa, Syracuse, and Catania. Take the Interbus line to get to Noto from Avola. You can also reach the nearby seaside resorts of Lido di Noto and Eloro by suburban buses.
The bus station is in Largo Pantheon, next to the public gardens.
Noto is about halfway between eastern Sicily’s two airports. The nearest airport is Catania, about 80 km from the city. To reach it, take the AST and Interbus buses, departing the Arrivals Terminal of the airport. Comiso airport is also about 80 km from Noto, but there are no public transport connections, so you‘ll need to rent a car or book a transfer service to get to the city. The Palermo (300 km) and Trapani (400 km) airports are quite far from Noto. If you have to go to eastern Sicily, we don’t recommend you land in either of these two airports to avoid long hours of travel by car.
To get to Noto by train from any Italian city, you must go to Syracuse and then continue to Noto. The train station is located south of the city on Viale Principe di Belmonte. Visit the Trenitalia website to buy tickets and check timetables and routes.