Val di Noto, called the Noto Valley in error, is instead a geographical territory in southeastern Italy notable for cities built in the late Sicilian Baroque style. An earthquake in 1693 leveled the towns that existed, requiring them to be rebuilt; the emergency reorganization caused a harmonious and rather homogeneous structure based on the styles current at that time. You can see that examples of this style, the southern Baroque, in our picture gallery below.
It's not often that designers have a chance to completely re-think the design of a city without the pressure that comes from current residents who generally oppose the "gentrification" of their corner of it.
In Sicily, such a natural disaster resulted in providing a fascinating glimpse at a period of ornate building with easily worked limestone underlying the Iblean plateau, featuring narrow but relatively straight streets leading up to stately Baroque churches. Viewed at the "golden hour" as the sun sets, the honeyed limestone seems to reach out with visual warmth as the air cools and people come out for their nightly social stroll, the passiagiata.
As with much of Sicily, traveling in the terrtory without a working knowledge of Italian can be challenging.
The Val di Noto is a UNESCO world heritage site (The Baroque Cities of the Val di Noto). It consists of the eight towns shown by the markers on the map below: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli.
Click the markers to learn more about each city.
Etna Rosso DOC is made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccino grapes, and Noto muscat, Moscato di Noto, was first produced in Noto.
The most common wine served in restaurants is Nero di Avola, a wine which likes hot, arid climates and is found in south east Sicily.
Sicily's primary wine road, Strada del Val di Noto, centers around the town of Noto.
By Ferry to Catania from Civitavecchia or Naples in Italy, or Corinth or Patras in Greece, or Valletta in Malta: Directferries.
By Car from the Italian mainland, Villa San Giovanni in Calabria, ferry to Messina, then A18 Autostrada down the coast to Catania.
By air: New Catania Airport
Ragusa makes a nice hub for Visiting the Val di Noto. It's large enough to have lots of things to do and some great restaurants. The newer city is easy to drive to--and if the weather is decent the walk to Ragusa Ibla, the old town, which involves dipping into a valley and then ascending to the old town, isn't a bad one. Taxis are allowed to take you almost anywhere in Ragusa Ibla, so they're an option if the weather turns nasty.
The Hotel il Barocco in Ragusa's Ibla is highly rated and quite inexpensive. The location is good; it's in the heart of Ibla, near St. George's Cathedral. Those with a larger budget might try the Antica Badoa Relais Hotel in the historic center. Check out other Hotels in Ragusa.
The booking box to the right lists hotels in the Ragusa province, which we find to be the most interesting cities which are easily accessible, Ragusa, Scicli, and Modica.
Noto itself is another option. Known for its flowers and almonds, Noto holds the Infiorata di Noto in May in which the sidewalks and piazze are fragrantly padded with "mosaics" of flower petals.
"On Friday the artists begin their creations so they can be admired over the weekend. Then on Monday children are allowed to run through the flowers, destroying the works. This theme, one of creation by the older forces and destruction by the young upstarts so that renewal can take place, is a theme in many traditional festivals in Italy. A similar occurrence takes place in the Festa della Madonna Bruna in Matera, Italy.
Compare prices on Hotels in Noto.
An alternative is to rent a vacation house and enjoy this fascinating area from a home base that's really more like a home (or a castle, or a villa). Here's a list of user-rated Ragusa Province Vacation Rentals. Don't know about this option? See What is Self Catering?
Spring can be quite spectacular in Sicily. Wild flowers start to bloom and the sea starts to warm up so that the intrepid souls can swim. Easter is a huge occasion, with many religious processions. On the last Sunday in May, Ragusa celebrates the Festival of San Giorgio of dragon slaying fame, in which the faithful bring bread to the Church of San Giorgio from which it is delivered to workers in the field to ensure a good harvest. There is a procession featuring the saint's remains after.
By the time July rolls around, Sicilians are heading for the beach; July and August can be stiflingly hot. In September the air begins to cool and the tourists thin out, a fine time to consider coming to Sicily. In October the fall rains bring the i funghi, the wild mushrooms.
In November, often a time of Sicily's "Indian Summer," the orange and mandarin season is beginning.
The famed almonds of the area blossom in February. In Sicily they are associated with love and fidelity and are often sugar-coated and given at weddings and baptisms.