Noto Sicilia | 18th Century Architecture

Photocred // Giuseppe Cannavò Sbn

Noto is “NoTo” Miss

My husband and I stood at the lookout point in Taormina at the crowded beaches below. We had just undergone the fiasco that is the parking lot, only to be ushered into a lineup for the elevator that would take us to this point. There were tourists everywhere, shops and hawkers galore (I confess I bought a swimsuit at Yamamay) and a sense that this wasn’t going to be a quiet beach getaway by any stretch of the imagination. We were already committed to 3 nights at our beach hotel, but we agreed we wanted to find a quieter town to settle into after this experience.

I had read about Noto, a town situated in the Syracuse province of Sicily. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Baroque 18th century architecture. It is often called the “city of Baroque Splendour.” 

We pulled into the town around sunset, and what perfect timing it was for this particular cityscape. You see, many of the buildings are made with tufa stone, a variety of limestone, whose sandy colour takes on a golden hue in certain lighting conditions. It was like the town was glowing as we pulled up to the Gagliardi Boutique Hotel which I had booked with my smartphone on the way over, in large part chosen for its stunning rooftop terrace. 

The Gagliardi name is significant in Noto because of the Palazzo Nicolaci, one of the prime examples of the traditional Sicilian Baroque architecture. The building was designed by  renowned architect Rosario Gagliardi. The palace used to be a residence of the Nicolaci family, 18th century aristocrats.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele is the main street of the town. It’s possible to take a leisurely stroll of the whole strip from one end of the town to the other in a couple of hours. Many historic churches adorn this path, not least of which is the Church of Santa Chiara, another Gagliardi design that features a panoramic terrace offering one of the best views in town.

Ristorante Manna is the place to go for the best dinner of your entire Sicilian vacation. We ended up eating there twice during our stay— it would have been 3 times if securing a table was easier. Have you ever heard of black chickpeas with mussels? I never had before and now I can’t stop dreaming about that dish.

And if gelato is what you’re after (who isn’t?), Caffè Sicilia has the best in town.

Do yourself a favour and watch a sunset in this town once in your life. Everything will be gold-hued and there will be magic in the air.