NOTO the capital of Sicilian Baroque


Siracusa - NotoNoto (Sicilian: Notu; Latin: Netum) is a city  in the Province of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy. Its located 32 km southwest of the city of Syracuse at the foot of the Iblean Mountains and gives its name to the surrounding area, Val di Noto.

Noto is considered the Capital of Sicilian Baroque and  In 2002  was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The older town, Noto Antica, lies 4 miles directly north on Mount Alveria. It was ancient Netum, a city of Sicel origin, left to Hiero II by the Romans by the treaty of 263 BC and mentioned by Cicero as a foederala citilas (Verr. v. 51, 133). According to legend, Daedalus stopped here after his flight over the Ionian Sea, as well as Hercules, after his seventh task. In the Roman era, it opposed praetor Verres.

Noto by Vnavakys copyNOTO_1 Sicilianajpg copy


In 866 it was conquered by the Arabs, who elevated to a capital city of one of three districts of the island (the Val di Noto). Later it was a rich Norman city.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the city brought forth several notable intellectual figures, including Giovanni Aurispa, jurists Andrea Barbazio and Antonio Corsetto, as well as the architect Matteo Carnelivari and the minor composer Mario CapuanaIn 1503 king of Sicily Ferdinand III gave it the title of civitas ingeniosa (“ingenious city”). In the following centuries, the city expanded enlarging its medieval limits; and new buildings, churches and convents were built. These, however, were all totally destroyed by the 1693 earthquake. The devastation of the city on Mount Alveria was accompanied by its economy which relied mainly on agricultural products– vine, oil, cereals, rice, cotton and its renowned handicrafts.

Noto a house facade copyNoto streets by Vanvakys copy


L’Infiorata di Noto the Springtime Flower’s Fest . Although “The Infiorata”(flower feast of Springtime)  started in Noto 26 years ago, has already became one of the most beautiful of Italy. Celebrated at the end of May involves a particular painting technique with flowers and explosion of colors of the marvelous Sicilian Spring. The Artists, coming from all part of Sicily and abroad, start Friday night to work on their masterpiece, creating various and beautiful mosaics using petals. Directed by “i mastri infioratori”,  lay all their artworks over the  hill of  Via Corrado Nicolaci. Immerse on its unique fabulous Baroque atmosphere  becomes a temporary open air museum to enjoy all week end!




“Dulcis in fundo” Gastronomy of Noto. The so-called “cavateddi” are a typical product of the gastronomy of the city of Noto, dumplings made ​​from durum wheat semolina dried in the sun. When cooked, they are served with a sauce made of pork, which is colloquially called “u sucu fintu” (the fake sauce). In addition to this rich dish, during the winter holiday season; don’t miss bread and homemade pizzas, such as “scacce”. These traditional folk dishes, which bring the city of Noto closer to the neighboring province of Ragusa, are then stuffed with various ingredients. On the menus of the Baroque town, don’t miss ” the cucca”, a round cake made ​​of cheese and sausage. Very similar to those of Palermo, are the “sfinciuni”, a very thick pizza topped with tomato, oregano and anchovies. The province of Syracuse is also known for its almonds and honey from the nearby Sortino, which are the base for the sweets, along with “pasticciotti” biscuits stuffed with quince jelly and figs, the“facciuni” glazed and “cubbaita” homemade nougat.

scacciata siciliana copyFesta dei Cavateddi Ragusa by Vanvakys copySweet traditions copy




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Caltagirone The City of Ceramics

Santa Maria Del Monte 142 Steps of Artisan Majolica

The city’s name of Caltagirone is derived from the Arabic “qal’at-al-ghiran” meaning “Hill of Vases.” The city stays true to the meaning of its name as everything here will certainly remind you that it is definitely a city of ceramics!
The Town Garden, The Steps of St. Maria del Monte, the historic buildings, the balconies, the streets and every corner in between are decorated with ornaments and handcrafts made of majolica (ceramic tiles). When walking through Caltagirone, be sure to take an opportunity and visit one of its workshops, where these masterpieces of ceramic and terracotta are created. The symbol of the city is the vision of the beautifully embellished Steps of St. Maria del Monte. Imagine the grandeur of 142 stairs bejeweled with polychrome majolica tiles of geometric and floral designs. Stop at step number 37 and enter the workshop of artistic maestro Salvatore Gurreri, who has been creating the most important pottery from Caltagirone since 1989. In July, during the festival of “San Giacomo”, St. James, it is a tradition to light the Steps celebrating the Saint. On the evening of July 23rd, the Russo Family places candles along all 130 meters of the Stairs. The night after, on the 24th, the Stairs fall into darkness, and the people fill the Stairs with each person holding a candle, waiting for the event leader to start the show! The event takes place once again on the 14th, and the 15th of August.

Must see in Caltagirone

The Monumental Crib of Peace is the largest animated crib in Italy (over 300 square meters) and is made ​​of terracotta. These ancient Sicilian crafts are represented in a typical village from the Caltanissetta region, dating back from eighteenth century.  It is a very special crib, as every year it is enriched by the addition of well known people who have been distinguished for important actions i.e. the Nobel Prize winners for Peace. The Sicilian crib has an important historical value as it represents the traditions of Caltanisetta region and is set in an ancient farming village from its rocky landscape. The crib is housed in a natural cave which is very evocative. It is made with very simple materials: reeds, plaster, moss, twigs water and coloured lights. One crib in particular is the historic eighteenth century one made ​​by the Vaccaro brothers and housed inside the Cathedral of St. Julian. 


from #4 edited by Vanvakys
Related link:, Siciliana Cities and Villages, Arts and Treasures /Ceramics

Mini-cruise to the Island of the Currents

An excursion by boat is the best way you can choose to cross the beautiful sea in the far south of Sicily. Boarding either rubber dinghies, motorboats or sailboats your experience starts from the Marina Marzamemi, and explores a stretch of coastline unspoilt. At 7.30am you set sail for the Isle of Capo Passero, just opposite the village of Portopalo.

You will arrive on the island by sea, but in summer, at low tide, the island can also be reached on foot from Portopalo, thanks to a sandy isthmus that joins the mainland. Navigating around the island, you can see the Cave of the Octopus and the small traps which were used to catch tuna that once swam under the tip of the island.

To the north of Capo Passero stands the fortress from the XVII century, commissioned by Philip III, grandson of Charles V, to look out for ships and fight the Saracen pirate raids. At Portopalo, at the extreme southern tip of Sicily, the rhythm is slow and life relaxed. Due to its strategic position, Portopalo was in previous centuries a trading port of considerable importance for those who had sailed the Mediterranean.

The current village, which dates back to XIX century, was established around a few old fishermen’s houses, still visible, in a stretch of coastline called Scalo Mandrie, just opposite the island of Capo Passero.

Continue sailing to the Isola delle Correnti known as surfer’s paradise. A small rocky island, round in shape, located where the Mediterranean meets the Ionian sea, creating strong currents which are also fueled by the winds that often blow up this stretch of coast. You will see the windsurfers whizzing sails, opened for their maximum enjoyment. Returning to port, go to the beach for a barbecue near the sea.

Plan your cruise with the diving center El Cachalot, they are expert and will arrange it all for you so all you have to do is have fun!

Distance 6km fromPachino (SR)

To visit Marzamemi and Portopalo:
from Pachino (Siracusa) take the SP84 and SP21

Suggested by Amuni’Sicily

El Cachalote Diving Center
Marzamemi (SR)
Tel +39 0931. 801107 Mobile +39 331.9265249 Mobile 366.3188452


Snorkeling and birdwatching at Vendicari

To get away from the city and get touch with nature, visit the Nature Reserve of Vendicari: an oasis of sand, rocks and natural lakes. We recommend that you enter from the north gate Eloro, just 8 km from Noto, to enjoy a more complete tour of the oasis.

This takes in the Big and the SmallLakes,The Swabian Tower and The Tonnara.

All around you are, ancient ruins and archaeological excavations testifying the Hellenistic, Byzantine and Medieval tracks in the reserve. Bring binoculars, because the reserve is home to many varieties of birds, over 180. Several varieties of plants, along with freshwater and brackish lakes, creating ideal conditions for a natural balance between land and water. Some flamingos, herons and moorhensmay come close to you, as they live in the reserve. But the true stars here are the thousands of ducks wading in a freshwater lake. If you arrive from Pachino , the city of the famous “cherry tomato” and fine wines, in the South, the gate to the Reserve is Cittadella.

Halfway along SP19 road, however, you will find the Calamosche entrance, certainly the best known because it leads to a paradise beach . Almost 1km in length, the path is rough and can be done on foot only. So do not forget hats and plenty of fresh water. At the end of the path, after 120 steps, a wonderful sight is in front of you.

Crystal clear waters there to be explored by snorkeling.

N.B. bring your need for your stay as the beach is not equipped.

85 km from Catania
30 Km fromNoto

by Car
From Catania: Autostrada Siracusa-Catania (Highway E45) exit to Cassibile,take the SS115 road to Noto then take the SP19 Noto-Pachino . Proceed for 8Km then you’ll find directions to the left to Riserva di Vendicari

Parking only during the Summer season
Auto € 3
Motorbike € 3
Camper or AR € 12

AST linea Catania-Siracusa-Modica Tel +39 0931.46271

SAIS from Catania – Tel +39 095.536168

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

Azienda Regionale Foreste Demaniali

Via Giovanni alle Catacombe – Siracusa

Tel +39 0931.67450

To Pantalica – First caves of the Mankind

Incredible but true! At Pantalica you will see over 5000 necropoles (which are old graves) naturally formed or dug out of limestone cliffs from approximately 70.000 years ago.

Visit the Palace of Anaktoron, a megalithic building dating back to the first age of Pantalica, believed to have been built between 11th – 13th Century BC. Here the vegetation is vibrant and luxurious, with many nature trails and abundant wildlife. You have to enter dark tunnels to reach the small oasis of natural stones and water (ponds formed from waterfalls) anddense green forests – remember to bring a battery torchlight with you. It’s best to stay on the designated track, but follow the signs along the trails.

The Reserve of Pantalica can be explored only on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and a swimsuit if you want to swim in the lakes.

Bill Gates visited once and fell in love with this reserve.

Please remember that cars are not allowed to help preserve the area. Pantalica is in Sortino – Ferla, in the province of Siracusa.

by Car
A18 (Highway 18) Messina-Catania-Siracusa direction Siracusa, exit Floridia, Valle dell’Anapo SP28, follow directions to Sortino, drive 9 km

GPS +37° 7′ 39.33″, +15° 0′ 15.64″

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

The Museum of the Landing in Sicily.

The Exhibition Centre – Le Ciminiere is located very close to Catania railway station and hosts “The Museum of the Landing in Sicily”, which shows a dramatic period in the history of Italy.
It was in 1943 that the Allied forces landed in Sicily, in the area between Gela and Licata (US Forces), Catania and Siracusa (British Army) , to liberate our country from German occupation. In the 3000 square meters dedicated to the museum, the highlights of the landing are traced through historical videos and displays of authentic pictures. Children may mistake the wax figures for real people!
Film lovers will be impressed by the special effects of sound and motion that simulate a bombing raid from within a bunker! The Museum, created by Catania’s Regional Province Institution, helps to keep alive our most recent history which saw our parents and grandparents, Italian / non Italian, fight a common enemy: Fascist and Nazis.

The Museum of the landing in Sicily
“Le Ciminiere” Catania- viale Africa Tel +39 095.4011929

Opening times: Tuesday/Sunday from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m. ( last admission 12.30 p.m.)
Tuesday and Thursday also from 3 p.m. till 6 p.m. ( last admission at 5 p.m.)
Closed on Mondays.

Trekking through the Gorges of the Alcantara River

The Fluvial Park of Alcantara covers a large region between Randazzo and Giardini di Naxos. In particular the gorges and ravines of Alcantara are located at Francavilla di Sicilia. The ravines are over 25 meters high and give life to an exciting spectacular canyon, gushing with water!
Access to the gorge is via a number of steps. The waters of the river are icy: in the deeper parts they do not exceed 10 degrees Celsius – not ideal to take a dip in! However, there is an opportunity for tourists to hire waterproofs and thigh-high waders to experience the fantastic rock formations and the highest cliffs. There are opportunities for sunbathing on the banks of the Gurne, natural lakes created by the river through the canyon.

Please note “never do it on winter time”, temperature maybe too low. Horse riding lovers can go for a ride along the horse paths recently arranged. For those who love trekking why not secure the services of Byron Tours, who offer a range of excursions around the area to take in the beautiful flora and fauna of the Gurne Path of Alcantara.

by Car
A18 Messina-Catania-Siracusa exit Giardini di Naxos, follow direction to Francavilla SS185

by Bus:
AST – Etna Trasporti

Distance : 13km from Giardini di Naxos

Parco Fluviale dell’Alcantara, CT

Via dei Mulini 98034 Francavilla di Sicilia Tel +39 0942.989911

Suggested by Amunì:
Escursioni Byron Excursions

Tel +39 095.2936637; mobile +39 340.6006591


On the slopes of Etna, in the resort of St.Alfio, stands the oldest tree in Europe: ” The Chestnut of a Hundred Horses”.

So called because the legend tells that Queen of Sicily, Joanna I of Angiò, who ended the battle of ninety years of Catania in 1347, during a hunting expedition on Mount Etna, was caught by a storm and found shelter, along with her hundred knights, just below the famous Chestnut Tree.

Withover 62 metersin circumference,25 metersin height and an approximateage of between 2000 and 4000 years, the Chestnut is now considered the oldest and largest tree in Europe. In addition it has been in The Guinness Book of Records since 18 May 2008, as part of world heritage asset, given the title ofMessenger of Peace in the World. This is because it is classed as the desired destination at any time, a refuge for men and women from all classes, all united by the common spirit to find themselves through peaceful contact with the uncontaminated nature.

San’.Alfio is also famous for the production of typical products of Etna Park such asalmond, pistachio, hazelnut, walnutandhoneypaste. In restaurants and farm holidays in the area you can enjoy the specialties such as freshhomemade pastawith pork sauce, withmushrooms, with wild fennel and with chestnuts. Try theBBQ meat and cheese.

Distance fromCatania38 km

by Train
Giarre/Risposto railway station 10 km from St.Alfio

by Car
A18 (highway 18) Messina-Catania-Siracusa exit Giarre, take SP5-I, drive for about 6km direction Macchia di Giarre, then Paoli Primo and Sant’Alfio.

The trails of Etna

For those who want to spend more time discovering the natural beauty of Etna Park, there are alternative ways to explore it.

Always accompanied by experienced guides you can take a tour of the volcano starting from the town of Nicolosi or Zafferana Etnea. Etna Park offers different paths, easy or medium difficulty, on foot or by mountain bike.

Some of them are:

Etna South:
Sentiero Monte Nero degli Zappini , 4 km return (2h 30m), is ideal for trekking and mountain biking. It starts from Piano Vetore and comes to Santa Barbara Refugee, passing through the lava flow of 1985.

Etna North-East:
Sentiero Pietracannone-Cubania 4 km return (2h), is ideal for easy trekking. It starts on the road Mareneve, Case di Pietracannone homes, beyond Milo and St. Alfio, it ends at the Paternò Castello Refugee, passing over the lava flow of 1971.

Etna North-East:
Sentiero Monti Sartorius 4 km return (2h), is ideal for trekking, half and half on a bike. It starts from and returns to Citelli Refuge. The trail allows you to view the craters known to “buttonhole” lava flows dating back to 1865.

Etna North:
Grotta dei Lamponi e Grotta del Gelo This is a very difficult path of about 16 km that can be done in part by mountain biking (2h) and in part on foot (3h). The starting point by car is from the refuge Ragabo north of the volcano, and is on the road Mareneve a few kilometers from Lingfield. The first cave is called The Lamp, reachable by bike or donkey. Leaving the bike near the cave, you must walk up to the Ice Cave. This is a cave constantly frozen, so we recommend this route only to experts.

Etna North-West:
Sentiero di Piano Vetore, 14 km return (4h), is ideal for biking. When you reach the Ariel Refuge, park your car at the Rangers stop. Continue on foot or bicycle, along a path that leads up to a botanical garden in deep forest.
Galvarina Refuge is there for you to rest in a sleeping bag and warm up in front of a fire.

Distance 51 km from 
; 98 Km from 
 by Car
From Catania: A18 (Highway 18) Messina – Catania – Siracusa exit Gravina di Catania, drive to Nicolosi – exit Etna Sud.
From Messina: A18 Messina – Catania – Siracusa exit Giarre, follow direction to Zafferana Etnea.