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Val di Noto: history, beauty, flavors

If you are planning your own holidays in Sicily, it is essential to schedule a tour to visit the Val di Noto, an area located in the southeastern part of the island. This region holds a treasure of high artistic value, and its coasts are a succession of natural beauty. In 2002, UNESCO declared eight southeastern baroque cities to be World Heritage Sites: Noto, Ragusa, Scicli, Modica, Caltagirone, Palazzolo Acreide, Catania and Militello in Val di Catania. The baroque cities of Val di Noto and its beautiful beaches have become a tourism destination in great expansion in recent years. Discover this land’s treasures with us.
Noto



1 What to see in Val di Noto

The main attraction to be visited is certainly the eight baroque cities of Val di Noto. These cities are part of the area formerly known as Vallo di Noto, one of the administrative districts of the Kingdom of Sicily. However, what collective identity unites these cities? Although they currently belong to different provinces, i.e., Ragusa, Syracuse, and Catania, they are known as the baroque cities of Val di Noto because they share the same type of art and architecture, Baroque. This was in fact, the main artistic current flourishing during the reconstruction following the violent earthquake of 1693, which razed much of eastern Sicily to the ground. Although the evidence of Arab domination was utterly destroyed, unlike in western Sicily where there are still many remains, it is perhaps thanks to this earthquake that we can now admire the fascinating late baroque churches and sumptuous noble palaces of Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Scicli, and Noto.

Noto

Noto
Undisputed capital of Sicilian baroque, famous for its Infiorata and for the numerous noble palaces showing their majesty on Corso Vittorio Emanuele and on the historical Via Nicolaci. Just take a walk along the streets of the historical center to appreciate the architectural beauty of this city, symbol of what was the glorious rebirth of southeastern Sicily after the earthquake of 1693. Read more info about Noto Read more about Noto

Catania

Catania
Crowned by Etna and bathed by a blue sea, Catania is a great city where you can breathe the true atmosphere of Sicily. Visit its colorful fish market and the nearby Piazza Duomo, where you can see the symbol of the city: the elephant, ‘u liotru, whose back is surmounted by an obelisk. Walk along Via Crociferi and admire the particular facades of churches and noble palaces made of lava stone. Read more info about Catania Read more about Catania

Ragusa Ibla

Ragusa Ibla
Set among the Iblei Mountains, Ragusa Ibla is the ancient historical center of Ragusa, a small Baroque jewel enclosed around the monumental Church of San Giorgio. Walk along the historical streets, the long stairways and the garden paths. Admire the panoramic view of the surrounding countryside with typical dry-stone walls and green hills. Rich in churches and palaces, Ragusa Ibla will fascinate you with its particular views. Read more info about Ragusa Ibla Read more about Ragusa Ibla


Scicli

Scicli
This city is in a valley surrounded by three hills and its historic center winds through the rocky ridges on which ancient dwellings cut into stone are still embedded. Also admire the eighteenth-century churches and palaces, the ultimate expression of Baroque art in southeastern Sicily, and visit the offices of the famous Commissioner Montalbano. Read more about Scicli

Modica

Modica
Modica is the “city of a hundred churches,” named so for the high number of sacred places it hosts. Baroque churches, scenic stairways, and a large old town winding along Corso Umberto I and the upper part of the city, located on a hill from which you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view. Not to mention the famous Modica chocolate, a real delight to be appreciated. Read more about Modica

Caltagirone

Caltagirone
Known for its production of ceramics, Caltagirone is another of Val di Noto's baroque pearls. If you visit this city, you must stop in one of the many ceramic shops where you can see colorful everyday objects, from ornaments, vases, to kitchen utensils. Climb up the unique staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, decorated with hundreds of majolica tiles. Read more about Caltagirone


Palazzolo Acreide

Palazzolo Acreide
Experience a memorable Carnival, one of the oldest in Sicily, among the baroque streets of this small village located in the Monti Iblei (Hyblean Mountains), in the province of Syracuse. Palazzolo Acreide has an old town full of baroque palaces and monuments, as well as an important archaeological site testifying to the ancient Greek origins of the city of Akrai. Read more about Palazzolo Acreide

Militello in Val di Catania

Militello val di Catania
Located at the foot of Mount Etna, between Catania and Ragusa, this small baroque destination in the Val di Noto is worth a visit. Even in less than a day you can admire its many churches, the old town, and the ancient Barresi-Branciforte castle. Militello in Val di Catania contains small treasures from the Baroque period, but that's not all. Read more about Militello val di Catania


Museums

Discover the history and traditions of southeastern Sicily by visiting Val di Noto's many museums and galleries. This will allow you to delve even deeper into this territory's culture, dig into its millenary origins, and take an exciting journey through time.

The Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum in Syracuse is undoubtedly one of the most extensive galleries in Sicily. Inside are the artifacts that mark the area’s historical itinerary, from prehistoric times to the Bronze Age, in the first sector, and from Greek times onwards in the second sector. In the latter, testimonials relating to the Greek domination, the Doric colonies of Megara Hyblaea, Syracuse, Gela, and Agrigento are preserved. You can also visit the Museo del Papiro “Corrado Basile” (“Corrado Basile” Papyrus Museum) in Syracuse. A visit to the Museo Civico di Noto (Civic Museum of Noto) is also worthwhile, where you can admire artifacts from Noto Antica and the archaeological area of Eloro.

In Ragusa, we recommend the Museo Archeologico Ibleo, (Hyblean Archaeological Museum) established in 1900. Thanks to the artifacts, you can peruse the history of the territory of the province of Ragusa from the Neolithic to Late

Antiquity. Not far from Ragusa, there also is the Regional Archaeological Museum of Kamarina, housing the artifacts of the namesake site located next to the gallery. Another exciting gallery is in Modica, where there is an important ethnographic museum.

Interesting museums can be found in Catania and its surroundings. This city is rich in galleries and museums, including the Museo Civico di Castello Ursino (Ursine Castle Civic Museum) and the Museo Civico Belliniano (Melliniano Civic Museum). In Caltagirone, famous for its terracotta, you can admire many works of ceramic artwork at the Museo Regionale della Ceramica (Regional Ceramics Museum).

An important museum in the Enna area is the Regional Archaeological Museum of Aidone, which preserves the remains of the famous archaeological site of Morgantina.


What to see in the vicinity

Visiting the Val di Noto also means immersing yourself in its pristine nature, composed of marine and riverine nature reserves, beaches and coasts with crystal-clear water, quarries, ruins of ancient settlements in forests woods and beautiful Mediterranean landscapes. An enchanting land to discover for those who love hiking and excursions.

Volcano Etna Would you like to hike in the woods or spend a day in the winter snow? All this is possible in Sicily. Organize an excursion to Etna and discover its magnificent natural scenery, forests, and lava deserts that stretch as far as the eye can see. Follow our trails on Etna recommended by an experienced local guide. In the winter, you can also ski in the fit-out areas near Rifugio Sapienza.
You can also take an excursion to the natural area of the Gole dell'Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges), an extraordinary park traversed by a fresh-water river that passes through deep and fascinating canyons, formed by ancient lava flows. Gole Alcantara
Further south, in the province of Syracuse, there are other natural areas of great charm that you cannot miss. Such is the case of the Vendicari Nature Reserve, a protected marine area located along the coast of Noto and Pachino. In addition to hiking through Mediterranean landscapes and archaeological sites, you can dive into clear, crystal clear water in this natural area and enjoy the most beautiful and pristine beaches of Val di Noto. A few kilometers from Syracuse, just south of the island of Ortygia is a peninsula full of coves, cliffs overlooking the sea and submarine caves: the Plemmirio Marine Protected Area.
In the province of Ragusa, however, we recommend you explore the archaeological sites of Cava d'Ispica and Parco Forza. These are two historical-natural areas near Ispica where you can admire rock dwellings dating back to ancient times. Dwellings dug into the rock can be found throughout the territory of the Val di Noto, especially in Ispica, Modica, Scicli, and Ragusa. One of the most notable examples of a city dug into the rock, also used as a necropolis, is the site of Pantalica, located in the province of Syracuse and rich in natural and artificial caves. The limestone rock that characterizes the Hyblean Mountains is easy to work; this has allowed man to found real stone cities which have served as homes and necropoli over the centuries.


What to see in Val di Noto in a day: quick itineraries

As you may have guessed so far, reading our guide to the Val di Noto, this area of Sicily is so rich in historical cities, archaeological sites and natural parks, that it would be impossible to concentrate the visit of everything in one day. However, if you are here in transit and want to enjoy the best of Val di Noto in one day, we propose the following quick itineraries that you can follow independently or availing yourself of local agencies that offer one-day tours and personalized packages. If you choose the first option, we recommend you rent a car to travel freely, being that public transport is not very efficient in the area. Sicily The first itinerary we suggest includes a visit to Modica, Scicli, and Punta Secca. Both baroque cities have a cozy old town and can be visited in half a day, then finish the tour in front of a beautiful sunset and a dinner in Punta Secca. In Modica, start your visit with a nice walk on Corso Umberto I to admire the old town, the churches of San Giorgio (St. George) and San Pietro (St. Peter), the Clock Tower and the upper part of the city. Stop for lunch in a typical inn and in the afternoon continue with a walk in the historic center of Scicli, especially on Via Francesca Mormino Penna where you can admire the heart of the city's baroque architecture and visit the Commissioner Montalbano’s office. Finally, head to Punta Secca to admire a romantic sunset on the beach and finish your evening with a delicious fish dinner. Modica The second itinerary winds through Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Noto. We recommend you start the tour with Ragusa Ibla which will take the entire morning. Visit Piazza Duomo and the Cattedrale di San Giorgio (Cathedral of St. George), take a walk to the Iblei Gardens and “get lost” in the alleys and steps of the old town that will offer you with beautiful glimpses of the city and breathtaking views. Go down towards Modica where you can stop for lunch and continue your visit as indicated in the first itinerary. In the evening you can continue to Noto and admire the baroque lights of this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage city. The most interesting baroque monuments, churches, and palaces are concentrated on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Enter this baroque street passing under the imposing Porta Reale (Royal Gate) and visit the Cattedrale di San Nicolò (Cathedral of St. Nicholas), Ducezio Palace and the scenic Via Nicolaci, home to the Infiorata (flower art). Some historic buildings and churches stay open until late in the summer: it's truly worth a visit! Siracusa The third itinerary includes Syracuse and Noto. Start the day by visiting the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis (Neapolis Archaeological Park) containing the most famous monuments of Sicily, including the Greek theater and the Ear of Dionysus.
You can't say you've been to Sicily without having seen the Greek theatre in Syracuse! The visit to the park will take about an hour and a half so that you can continue the morning walking through the streets of Ortygia, the historical center of Syracuse. Admire the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the Fountain of Diana in Piazza Archimede and continue in the direction of Piazza Duomo. Take time to observe this beautiful square with its baroque palaces and the majestic Syracuse Cathedral. Then head for the promenade and pass by the Fonte Aretusa (the Fountain of Arethusa). Take some photos on the seafront and have lunch in one of the great sea-view fish restaurants! Immediately after lunch, go to Noto and continue the visit as indicated in the second itinerary.


2 What to do in Val di Noto

The southeast of Sicily is full of exciting events and unique festivals held throughout the year, especially in the spring. Easter, in particular, is keenly celebrated in all towns of Val di Noto, each boasting a long folk tradition in the Holy Week celebrations. Participate in the most beautiful shows of south-eastern Sicily and immerse yourself in an atmosphere of great joy. For more information about events through the Val di Noto cities, go to the page related to the place of interest from the “Val di Noto” menu.


Events and shows

Summer in Sicily is not just sea, sun, and the beach. Fill your days with unique activities and discover the ancient traditions of the baroque villages of Val di Noto. Not only in summer but also spring and winter, you can watch some genuinely original shows. In spring, especially in May, come to Noto to attend the famous Infiorata, an event that attracts hundreds of tourists from all over the world. It will be an opportunity allowing you not only to visit the most beautiful historical city in southern Sicily but also to learn more about the territory's traditions and culture. During the Infiorata, in fact, the city presents shows, fairs, conferences, and many other collateral events. Become enchanted by the beauty of a vast carpet of images made entirely of colorful flowers and savor the baroque taste of Noto.

Is it too hot in summer to stay at the beach all day? In the evening, come to Ragusa Ibla to witness Ibla Buskers one of the most captivating summer events: you can watch a multitude of shows by street artists, including jugglers and acrobats from around the world.

Have you decided to visit Val di Noto during the Christmas period? Come and watch the Nativity Scene created in settings of great charm, among hills, caves, and ancient paths. Ispica's Living Nativity Scene, for example, is one of the most fascinating and characteristic.


Festivals and concerts

There are several traditional festivals in southeastern Sicily, but the most beautiful are held in spring. Easter in the Hyblaea area is an appointment not to be missed. In fact, the religious worship during Holy Week and Easter Day is keenly felt in the territory. Starting from Holy Thursday, you can attend the so-called sepulchers: in every church in the city, one of the altars is set up with candles, gifts, and symbols of the Passion of Christ. Then, on Good Friday, the processions of Our Lady of Sorrows are held. The Holy Week celebration in Ispica is very particular: the festivities begin as early as the next-to-the-last Friday of Lent with the Procession of St. Cascia and culminate on Holy Thursday, the longest and richest day in term of rituals and folk traditions. The solemn celebrations of Holy Week finish with an explosion of joy and color on Easter Sunday. From the “Madonna Vasa Vasa” (Kiss, Kiss Madonna) of Modica to the "Paci” (Peace) of Comiso to the feast of “Gioia” (Joy) in Scicli: In each of these festivals, you can breathe in the atmosphere of liveliness and joy characterizing the heart of Sicily.


Markets and festivals

Breath in the true essence of the south while walking through the stalls of the oldest local markets in Sicily. Immerse yourself in a maze of bright colors and scents within the Catania fish market near Piazza Duomo and listen to the typical voices of sellers who announce the prices of the catch. You can experience a similar atmosphere at the Ortygia market in Syracuse where you can find everything: cheeses, cold cuts, preserves, spices, and much more. The layout of these markets derives from the Arab culture of the bazaar which has survived up to the present day. Every town in the Val di Noto has its own local market rich in scents, colors, and traditions.
Don't miss the many festivals held at various times of the year. In summer, for example, you can enjoy delicious tastings at the Pozzallo fish festival or the cuttlefish festival in Donnalucata. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll find what you are looking for at Chocomodica, a Modica chocolate festival usually held in December.


What to do in the evening

The cities of Val di Noto offer different activities to relax, have fun, and spend beautiful evenings during your holiday in Sicily.
The historical centers of the baroque cities, for example, are a real jewel, especially in the evening: stroll through an atmosphere of the past and observe the beauty of the monuments accentuated by the play of shadows created by the city's artificial lights. Choose a restaurant or pizzeria where you can sit outside and enjoy a relaxing dinner in an almost magical setting. Ragusa Ibla, Scicli, and Modica are ideal for an evening walk in the center.
Catania and Marina di Ragusa, on the other hand, offer a wide choice of clubs for those who are looking for fun. If you want to dance or drink with friends at a seaside resort, you'll have plenty from which to choose.
Would you like to spend an evening dominated by culture? Baroque city theaters and numerous cinemas offer exciting programs that will please everyone.


3 What to eat in Val di Noto

Spending your holidays in Sicily also means taking a slow-food tour. Special delicacies of the local culinary tradition await you, such as the famous Nero d'Avola and the extraordinary Modica chocolate, to be tasted in one of the old pastry shops in the old-town of Modica. However, don't forget to try what is definitely the main dish of this area: scaccia (flatbread vegetable pies). These are flatbread pies stuffed with fresh local products, such as tomato, cheese, sausage, ricotta or vegetables.

Val di Noto's cuisine is so rich in specialties that each city has developed its own tradition. Although there are local dishes that unite the different locations of the territory, the same dish is often prepared in a slightly different manner in two neighboring cities. Such is the case of ricotta ravioli: in Scicli tradition has it that they are prepared exclusively in a salty version, whereas a sweet version exists in Modican and Ragusan cuisine. It's up to you to judge which is your favorite.

If you want to taste the best street food in Val di Noto, then you must go to Catania. Fried pizza, scacciate, onions, cartocciate (sweet-dough calzone) and so on: the city at the foot of Mount Etna is the undisputed queen of rustic dishes in southeastern Sicily.

Where can I find good fresh fish? Obviously in seaside towns and fishing villages. Syracuse, Marzamemi, Pozzallo, Donnalucata, and Scoglitti are just some of the places where you can always find good fresh fish.

Do you want to know what the other typical dishes of Val di Noto are? Click on the link below to find out.



4 Where to sleep in Val di Noto

A fundamental aspect of spending a beautiful holiday in Val di Noto is to find the perfect accommodation for you, your family and your friends. Our accommodations are in the most beautiful baroque cities of southeastern Sicily and, furthermore, Pomelia offers a wide choice of villas by the sea, luxury and with swimming pool that are the ideal place to start a tour of the Val di Noto.



Apartments

Do you want to stay in the historic center of Scicli, Modica or Ragusa Ibla? An apartment in the baroque, make yourself at home. We offer you luxury apartments and unique accommodations fit out with every comfort, from TV to wi-fi, to air conditioning. Take a look at our apartments in Scicli to discover unique accommodations carved into the rock: aren't you curious? Alternatively, spend a romantic holiday in one of our apartments in Ragusa Ibla enjoying the maximum luxury and a breathtaking view of the Duomo di San Giorgio (Cathedral of St. George).





Holiday Homes

Stay a stone's throw from the sea and take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of southeastern Sicily. Pomelia vacation homes are located in the most beautiful seaside resorts of Val di Noto, such as Marina di Ragusa and Punta Secca. Spend an unforgettable holiday with your family and quickly move around to visit the most beautiful cities in the southeast and take excursions to Mount Etna.





Villas

Do you dream of a holiday in a villa with a pool all to yourself or a comfortable villa by the sea? Pomelia villas are ideal for families, couples, and groups of friends, in addition to being in locations of great charm from where you can easily reach the main attractions and places of interest of the Val di Noto. Visit the sections on the villas in Ragusa, the villas in Marina di Ragusa and the villas in Syracuse. We are sure that with us you, will find the villa of your dreams.







5 Val di Noto's beaches

Marina di Ragusa Val di Noto’s beaches extend along the southeastern coast of Sicily for about 300 km. It is a very multifaceted coastline: take your pick from the different golden beaches of Marina di Ragusa and Donnalucata, to live in total comfort with your family. This area, often windy, is also the ideal place for those who love to practice water sports, such as surfing and kite surfing. Marina di Ragusa is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the southeastern Sicily and is perfect for spending relaxing days on the beach. If you are staying in a baroque town, in Ragusa Ibla, Modica, or Scicli, for example, Marina di Ragusa is the most fit-out and easy to reach the seaside resort. In fact, it has establishments, showers, playgrounds, services, numerous restaurants and cafés on the beach that will make your day at the beach more comfortable, especially for families with children. Don't miss the opportunity to take a picture in front of Commissioner Montalbano's home in Punta Secca and, if you're lucky, you might meet the protagonists of the television series in action on the set. You can also enjoy one of the most beautiful beach sunsets in Sicily in Punta Secca. Marina di Ragusa Do you love nature and discovering new still-virgin beaches? The Ionian Sea’s pristine coasts, such as Vendicari and the rocky cliffs of Plemmirio, rich in active underwater life, are a real paradise for those who love marine activities. The Vendicari Nature Reserve is just 13 km from Noto and certainly is a destination not to be missed. If you want to learn more about the beaches of Val di Noto, visit our guide to the beaches of Sicily.



6 Where is the Val di Noto and how to get there

The Val di Noto is an area of southeastern Sicily that geographically includes the provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse, and part of the provinces of Catania, Enna, and Caltanissetta.




By car

The two highways that cross the territory of Val di Noto are Catania-Syracuse and Syracuse-Rosolini (A18). If you decide to visit the cities of Val di Noto in full autonomy, we recommend you rent a car at the airport of arrival from at an agency.


By bus

You can get to specific places in southeast Sicily by bus, buying tickets online or from authorized dealers. In Catania, the two main bus terminals are in front of the railway station and outside the arrivals area of Fontanarossa International Airport.
The main bus lines that operate in the Val di Noto territory are AST, Etna Trasporti, which connects the cities of the Etna area with the Hyblean towns, and the SAIS Autolinee, which offers connections from Sicily to other national destinations. For more information about a particular location, visit the page regarding your city of interest.



By train

The main railway stations of the southeast Sicily are those of Catania and Syracuse, which offer numerous connections with the major Italian cities. It is possible to travel by train to visit the cities of the Val di Noto, but the service is not optimal due to the scarcity of routes and the slowness with which trains often travel.
Tickets can be purchased c/o any authorized retailer or on Trenitalia website.



Airports

The two airports serving the Val di Noto area are those of Comiso and Catania. The first is perfect for those who need to travel to the province of Ragusa. Catania International Airport is the largest airport in Sicily and offers many daily connections, both national and international. To learn more, visit our page Airports of Sicily.



7 Weather in the Val di Noto

Val di Noto's climate is Mediterranean along the coast, as it is in the rest of the island. Summers are hot and sunny and offer the perfect climate for a dream vacation, the thousands of tourists who visit Sicily every year are grateful for it. Again, along the coast, winters are mild, whereas the inland and mountain areas can become cooler and drier, with snowfall. Etna, the highest volcano in Europe at the height of 3340 m, is covered with snow for the entire winter and, often, during the first part of spring, so it also lends itself to skiing excursions.
For a seaside holiday, the best time to visit Val di Noto is definitely in the summer, from June to September. The most sweltering months are July and August, with temperatures that easily exceed 40°C. The summer climate generally extends until the first half of October, but even at the end of September rainfall is more frequent, especially in the afternoon.
April and May, on the other hand, are two perfect months to visit the cities and going on excursions: the days are mild and sunny, ideal for walking and taking long walks. In June, when the temperature begins to rise, but the oppressive heat of the high season has not yet arrived, you can enjoy both the sea, even though the water is still a bit cold, and excursions in the city and natural parks.



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