The Baroque in Noto.
Among smooth hills mostly covered with mediterranean scrub or cultivated with olive groves, vineyards or citrus trees, just 30 km from Siracusa is located the town which today is known as the capital of the Sicilian Baroque: Noto. Since when you will be driving through the countryside approaching the city, you will notice the atmosphere is special, in spite of the great number of tourists who every year visit the area, it seem to be some sort of lost world waiting to be rediscovered. The city center is one among the richest in churches and palaces you will see in Sicily.
The Cathedral of St. Nicolò with its huge four-ramps staircase and its dome, dominates the central Piazza del Municipio, creating with the elegant Palazzo Ducezio and other palaces a unique scenery made of honey-coloured stone. The cathedral has a troubled history of collapses and reconstructions it was reopened to the public by 2007 after in 1996 a large part of it ruined.
Not far from this wonderful square, along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele is located the smaller but worthy church of San Carlo Borromeo with its three-levels baroque facade. Inside is a stairway leading to the terrace with the bell tower, from where, you will have the best view over the cathedral, the monumental staircase, the palazzo Ducezio, the square and large part of the town, do not miss it! Among many others, jewels of the Sicilian Baroque in Noto are the church dedicated to St. Domenico in Piazza XVI Maggio and the Palazzo Nicolaci, particularly decorated outside and which still retains some of the original furniture inside.
Not only the center of Noto is worth a visit. A lot of interesting vestiges are spread every now and then in the countryside like the imperial roman Villa del Tellaro, with its wonderful original geometric and figurative mosaics, located a few km south of Noto along the road denominated Provinciale 19; Or even the ruins of Eloro, ancient Greek city situated not far from the mouth of the river Tellaro on the Ionian sea.
in the same area of the ancient Eloro, we find one of the most important natural reserve in southern Italy: La Riserva naturale orientata di Vendicari, more than 1500 hectares of pure nature! In autumn and spring, as it happens at lo Stagnone in Marsala, herons, flamingos and other migratory birds stop here for a while before flying to their final destinations. This is your place if you are interested in bird watching. One single day maybe is not enough to see all the beauties this area offers, the Tonnara, the Torre Sveva and the several beautiful beaches.
Right within the Vendicari reserve is the access to some among the most beautiful beaches of south-eastern Sicily: Marianelli, Vendicari beach (dominated by the famous Tonnara) and Calamosche, being in a protected area you will have to leave the car in the parking outside the reserve and reach the beaches on foot, the walk might take several minutes on unpaved paths and you won’t find sun beds or kiosks to buy a soda, everything here is actually wild. However, a few km north or south of Vendicari, are many other beautiful beaches providing amenities, like the Lido di Noto or the beach of San Lorenzo.