Following the Sicilian Baroque architecture trail in Noto
If you’ve never heard of the southern Sicilian city of Noto, I strongly suggest you add it to your list. Sicilian baroque architecture in the historic centre of Noto is everywhere, and it’s really worth seeing its magnitude in person.
Before visiting this month, I’d only watched a very brief video about the town. But let’s face it, videos never do justice to seeing the real thing.
Noto is in the province of Syracuse, and is around 20 miles from its main city. Like much of Sicily, Noto has a rich cultural history, having first been conquered by the Arabs in 866. It later became a Christian stronghold after the Arabs were defeated in 1091. The Normans were the last to conquer the city. That said, you can only imagine the mix of influence on the city’s culture, architecture and people.
Following the earthquake that devastated the city in 1693, a group of architects were hired to rebuild Noto to become a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque.
Sicilian Baroque architecture, Noto – the sights
You cannot visit and miss the Sicilian Baroque architecture, simply because it’s everywhere! From the churches to the buildings, there’s plenty going on, so where do you begin?
Cattedrale di Noto
Noto Cathedral has got to be one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever seen in Italy. It comes a close second to the Siena Cathedral, or that in Florence. Building of this mesmerising structure began in the early 18th century and was completed in 1776.
An exterior of pale yellow limestone, the cathedral’s façade takes on the stylings of Sicilian Baroque. Take particular note of the grand doorways, which are revivals of the 15th century architecture and the façade, which hints to the style of the Notre-Dame in Versailles.
Constant repairs after the 1693 earthquake to the cathedral’s roof, most notably during the 1950s, led to its eventual collapse in 1996. The entire roof and vault of the nave, along with one of the 4 piers supporting the dome collapsed, and it didn’t reopen till 2007.
Upon entering, the more contemporary roof and paintings are very evident, while still being a sight to marvel at.
“Take particular note of the grand doorways, which are revivals of the 15th century architecture”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Directly opposite the cathedral is the Ducezio Palace, which is the town hall. Designed by Sicilian architect Vincenzo Sinatra in 1746, he took inspiration from the style of French palaces from the 17th century to build the palace. Its oval hall inside has Louis XV-style mirrors created by another Sicilian craftsman.
His love of Sicilian Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture is evident just by looking at his work. Along with Ducezio Palace, Sinatra also worked on the Church of Monte Vergine and the Church of S. Giovanni Battista.
Undoubtedly the best way to see the historic centre of Noto is by foot. Though you can drive into the city, you’ll be missing out on the quaint streets and all its architecture by staying in the car. That, plus the streets are so narrow, you may just spend more time in the car than exploring.
If you’re lucky to visit during the month of May, don’t miss out on the annual flower festival, the Infiorata di Noto. Every year, the street of Via Nicolaci is adorned with pictures and ornaments all in floral display. Though I missed it, I still managed to see some streets with hints of Noto’s floral charms.
Via Nicolaci is also home to the spectacular purely Baroque Villadorata Palace. The residence was once home to Baron Giacomo Nicolaci, a local aristocrat, but today is the city’s library.
The 18th century palace has many striking features, most notably its wrought-iron balconies, with the theatrical figures hanging beneath. Look out for the mermaids, sphinxes and winged horses. Inside the palace are around 90 rooms, with some lavishly decorated, such as the Feast Room.
For a unique way of exploring Noto, why not see how many churches you can count?! There seems to be one within every 2 minutes, so I won’t bore you with naming them all. The ones I spotted, and remembered their names, are Santa Maria Della Scala and San Corrado.
Don’t miss this…
“The 18th century palace has many striking features, most notably its wrought-iron balconies, with the theatrical figures hanging beneath.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
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