Noto is a wonderful Baroque style jewel, surrounded by citrus, olive and almond trees, declared by UNESCO World heritage Site, together with the other late-Baroque style cities of the Val di Noto. It was totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693: previously, in fact, the old town stood 10km away.
It was inhabited since the Prehistory, as shown by the necropoli of the 17th-15th century BC and 8th-7th century BC, found nearby. In the 5th century BC it was influenced by Siracusa; later it was conquered by the Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines and Arabs. The latter entitled it capital of one of the three areas which they divided Sicily in.
The Cathedral of San Nicolò dominates Piazza Municipio with its imposing Baroque style façade and two tall bell towers; it is preceded by a wide and scenographical stairway with a great movement, accentuated no doubt by the two tall exedra side hedges.
Alongside the cathedral, on the same level, stand the 1800's Palazzo Vescovile (Bishops Palace) and Palazzo Landolina di Sant'Alfano, both sober.
The opposite side of the square is characterised by the Palazzo Ducezio, a well-proportioned buildings with curvilinear elements, enclosed by a Classical type of portico designed by Sinatra. The upper section was added in the 1950s. The main feature on the east side of the square is the façade of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore.
Among the other masterpieces of this Sicilian Baroque style city, we have to mention Porta Reale, a monumental gateway realised in the XIX century, the Church of San Francesco all'Immacolata by Sinatra, the Monastery of Santissimo Salvatore, the Convent of Santa Chiara, the Church of Montevergini, with its beautiful concave façade famed between bell towers, Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, the Church of San Domenco and the Church of Santissimo Crocifisso, both by Gagliardi, Palazzo Astuto, Palazzo Trigona Cannicarao and Palazzo Impellizzeri.
We also suggest to visit the old Noto, the town destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, and the Natural reserve of Cavagrande del Cassibile, plunging down between impressively tall and sheer limestone cliffs. Along the valley bottom winds the river which opens out intermittently to make a succession of tiny lakes, accessible by a path leading down into the gorge.