I return home with my suitcase full of new friends, unforgettable moments and few pounds extra. I come back having fallen in love with the Sicilian landscape, it’s people, amazing food, and its architectural and historical heritage. I am very excited to blog about Sicily; in fact I am going to dedicate few blog post just to Sicily because it’s the most fascinating and largest Mediterranean island with the most UNESCO world heritage sites listed per square kilometre. Consider that this island has been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish; it can’t get more cultural then this!
It’s very hard to just sum up and describe Sicily so I prefer to offer what Goethe said about the Island :
“Without Sicily, Italy creates no image in the soul, here is the key to everything.”
Sicily is one of the most attractive islands in the whole Mediterranean as its rich in culture, architecture, archaeological/ancient sites, natural reserved beaches, art, music and home to the most delicious cuisine. What is special about Sicilian towns is the contrast between stunning and completely run-down buildings. Perhaps you find yourself on a completely poor and run-down street but just parallel to the same street, you find yourself walking on a film set, absolutely gorgeous.
Last year we were invited to a Sicilian wedding so we took advantage of this opportunity to travel the South-East Coast of Sicily. Our Sicilian friends suggested that we visit: Noto, Siracusa, Ragusa, Modica and Marzamemi for our one week trip in this zone.
We flew from Rome to Catania and within one-hour drive we arrived to Noto. We found a very nice stay in Noto and the next days we made day trips to the other towns: Siracusa, Ragusa, Modica and Marzamemi (stay tune for the next posts on these other towns).
Noto is a true Sicilian Baroque town also an UNESCO world heritage that takes you back to the 17th century. Noto was completely destroyed in 1693 by an earthquake and was rebuilt. This beautiful town is built by local compacted limestone, a substance that absorbs the sun’s aureate rays and transforms them into a soft golden glow colour. The centre of Noto is truly stunning and you can visit the whole town in one day. Noto also offers great restaurants, from traditional to even more modern design restaurants. Basically you plan your day around ‘Food’ and ‘Dinning’; it’s actually a major part of the whole experience.
I am sure you have noticed from my blog posts that I take the beach life seriously especially if I travel to an island; the ‘3S’ (Sea, Sun, Sand) is on my itinerary. Noto is perfect because it’s only few km from Natural reserved beaches (San Lorenzo), and thanks to the climate, the beach life is longer compared to other parts of Italy.
WHAT TO DO IN NOTO
- If your traveling in spring/summer my recommendation is during hot hours you go to the beach. Consider most places are closed around lunchtime. From Noto is around 15min drive to San Lorenzo beach, I love Agua Beach Resort. http://www.aguaresidence.it/
- Walk around the centre, take Corso Vittorio Emmanuele that will take you to the stunning Cathedral and on the opposite the Municipio (town hall).
- Walk along the Corso and admire the architectural buildings and the neo-classic churches. You see stunning churches at every square: Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata is in Piazza Immacolata and Church San Domenico at Piazza XVI Maggio with the interior covered in white stucco and marble altars.
- Take here and there the side streets but don’t miss Via Nicolaci. This is the famous street that during flower festival called “Infiorata di Noto”; the whole street is decorated and covered by flower petals.
- On Via Nicolaci there is the beautiful Palazzo Villadorata, pay attention to the Baroque decoration on each balconies.
- At some point during your stroll in the centre you want to stop at Caffe Sicilia for a nice Granita or just a classic ‘Cannolo’.
- Visit the small local food stores or Mosaic stores. Lots of great ideas for souvenirs.
- In the evening there is always some kind of local shows: live signing or dancing at the Municipio (town hall).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NOTO
- Stunning Baroque Town on a valley overlooking the olive, citrus and almond tress.
- The most attractive towns in the Syracuse province,
- ‘Gay Friendly’ town.
- Affordable town; perfect travel destination to stay within budget.
- Historical sights from churches to Palaces.
- Sicilian cooking is famous worldwide so there is no need for introduction. Thanks to it’s rich history, Sicilian cooking shows all traces of Arab, French, North African cultures. Their specialities are dishes with aubergine, pistachio and beans so you want to try dishes like: Caponata, Macco di fave, Pasta alla Norma, Pasta con le sarde, and of course Arancini.
- Artesian shops: from clothing to ceramics.
- Food shops (local chocolate, olive oil, grind Pistachio, Almonds…).
- Perfect island for sweet lovers: Cannoli, Cassata, Granita, gelato and so many other great pastries. Sicilian pastry is unbeatable.
- Locals are very friendly, relaxed and they take their time.
- Noto offer both affordable and luxury B&B and there are no major chain hotels.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT FROM NOTO
- Don’t expect a commercial tourist town, as Noto has just been discovered! It’s not like Taormina.
- There are no commercial shops or major brands.
- The locals don’t speak English or very little English.
- Don’t expect a party town.
- Don’t expect major transportation (bus or taxi) so if you want to visit other towns definitely rent a car.
WHERE TO STAY
- Palazzo Trigona has beautiful suites in the 17th century Palazzo right in the centre of Noto. The suites are big decorated with style, friendly staff and great breakfast. Definitely my favourite place to stay in the centre of Noto. http://www.palazzotrigonasuite.com/
- I love Country House VillaDorata. The location of this place is strategical, in between the town of Noto and the sea. Perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the olive trees with the sea in the backdrop distance. The rooms are modern and minimalistic, every piece designed carefully by taste. They also have a fantastic restaurant with an amazing swimming pool! Wonderful staff and the great service! http://www.countryhousevilladorata.it/
- The Dependance Hotel is a luxury three star hotel in the centre of Noto. The hotel is modern and tastefully decorated. http://www.ladependancehotel.it/
- The seven rooms is a private apartment in the famous Nicolalci Palace in the heart of Noto that offers refined and aristocracy experience. http://www.7roomsvilladorata.it
WHERE TO EAT
- Manna is a cool restaurant; in my opinion a bit Milanese style with Amazing food. It’s a Sicilian cousin with a touch of modernity. A little pricy for Sicily but definitely worth the experience. (centre of Noto) http://www.mannanoto.it/
- Dammuso is a family-run restaurant, which offers great typical Sicilian dishes. Very nice atmosphere and great service. I really like their out-door tables but defiantly need to book ahead for those seats. (centre of Noto) http://www.ristorantedammuso.it/
- Trattoria Fontana d’Ercole, is a fantastic traditional typical rustic Sicilian Trattoria. http://www.trattoriafontanadercole.it/
- Cantina con uso cucina is another great restaurant, with out-door seating at Palazzo Modica. They offer great Antipasto shared dishes with cuscus, Caponata and typical Sicilian dishes. I love their dessert presentation on a typical mosaic served as a plate. (centre of Noto) Address: Via Nicolaci | Palazzo Modica di San Giovanni, 96017 Noto, Sicilia, Italia. Telephone number: +39 3405307937
WHERE TO SHOP
- Anche Gli Angeli is a Sicilian concept store with a bar and great music. Address: Via Arnaldo da Brescia 20.
- Ceramiche Giuspino is home to the best ceramic store in Noto. Every piece is an art piece and definitely worth a visit. http://www.ceramichegiuspino.it/ambient.html
- Haga Antichita on Via Cavour has beautiful antique furniture and decoration pieces.
- Mori e Pupe is a beautiful sun Sicilian jewellery brand that had benefited from a window at the hotel La Dependance Hotel on Via Rocco Pirri 57.