Come to stylish Noto to admire fine 18th-century architecture, dine on Sicilian delicacies and mingle with locals in palace-lined squares.
Set into a foothill of the Iblean Mountains, Noto is a showcase for Baroque architecture. It was redesigned after an earthquake in 1693. Walk through its center to see classical gardens, ornate fountains and a wealth of palaces, churches and mansions.
The best way to enter Noto is via Corso Vittorio Emanuele. This street is lined with sublime churches, palaces and beautiful old houses. Make your way down the street toward the center to reach the Piazza Municipio. Here you will find the highest concentration of attractions. On the north side, admire the wide, limestone façade of the Cathedral of Noto. Explore the airy interior to discover superb frescoes and a sculpture by the artist, Giacomo Gaggini.
Several palaces surround the piazza, but the Ducezio Palace, with its classical columns and high arches, stands out. The building is now used as the town hall; see its exquisite murals on the interior walls. The Nicolaci di Villadorata Palace is another highlight. The building is empty of furnishings but the rich colors of the brocaded walls and intricate murals give a vivid insight into the life of the Sicilian nobles who once lived here.
Stop in a café overlooking the square; then explore the surrounding streets. To the south, you will find the Church of Santa Chiara, featuring a lavish Baroque interior and great views over the town from the rooftop terrace.
Many say Noto looks best in the evening, when the sand-colored buildings seem to glow in the dimming light. Then you will see local residents making their way into bars and restaurants lining the squares. Follow suit and treat yourself to a plate of fine Sicilian cuisine.
Noto is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Syracuse. Regular public buses connect the towns. You can easily explore the area in a day, but if the stylish charm of the buildings seduces you, many accommodation options are within easy walking distance of the main square.