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Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-eastern Sicily)

The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily: Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building.

CALTAGIRONE - The visitors of Caltagirone cannot fail to notice the outward signs of a thriving industry now synonymous with the name of the place: brightly painted ceramics not only fill shop windows with a profusion of vases, plates and other household goods, they also decorate bridges, balustrades, frontages and balconies. This bears witness to an art which, here, is as old as the origins of the town itself ... (continue)

CATANIA - A renowned port and Sicily’s second largest city, after Palermo, with its 350,000 inhabitants, Catania is among Italian hottest cities with a summer temperature that can exceed 40° degrees. It was home to such great artists as the composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) and the writer Giovanni Verga (1840-1922). ... (continue)

MILITELLO IN VAL DI CATANIA - Militello Val di Catania counts some 10,000 inhabitants and owed much of its past prosperity to Joan of Austria (1573-1630) – Charles V’s grand-daughter and wife to Francesco Branciforte – a woman with a strong predilection for sophisticated culture and taste for beautiful things. Thanks to her, Militello became an aristocratic court entering its heyday. The streets of the old town are lined by beautiful secular and religious building ... (continue)

MODICA - “Modica. Noble, opulent and populated city, seat of the ancient and vast County”. This 18th century description by historian and clergyman Vito Amore elegantly summarizes the political, economical and cultural importance of this city whose history is rooted in remote ages and events. Historical sources maintain that a town called Motyca, hereabouts, was inhabited by prehistoric peoples, called Sikels, around the 7th century BC., at the time of the Greek Colonization of Sicily; the historian Mario Carrafa, in the 18th century, told of Greek coins discovered the area, bearing the inscription Motayon ... (continue)

NOTO - In a region populated by olive and almond trees, Noto sits on a plateau dominating the valley of the Asinaro and its citrus plantations. This tiny Baroque jewel endowed with an opulent beauty is the result of a single tragic event: the earthquake of 1693, that, despite bringing death and destruction to this part of Sicily, also sparked a huge effort to rebuild. Previously, the town that stood some 9-10km away (see below Noto Antica) had its origins way back in Antiquity ... (continue)

PALAZZOLO ACREIDE - At the top of the hill, where the acropolis used to lie, all that is visible of the small Greek theatre built of white stone is the floor of the orchestra and this actually dates from Roman times. To the right lay the bouleuterion, a stepped meeting-area, connected to the theatre by a narrow passage leading straight into the cavea. Near the gate that seals off the excavation area on this side, may be seen a section of the old plateia (main road running from east to west) paved with large slabs of lava stone ... (continue)

RAGUSA IBLA - Ragusa Ibla was founded on the site of ancient Sikel town Hybla Herea, of which remains have been found, such as rectangular burial niches in the Gonfalone valley, along the road to Modica. Some of these have been faithfully reconstructed within the Archaeological Museum of Ragusa. Few centuries later, Ragusa was taken by the Greeks who would largely influence all Sicily’s culture. A few necropolises discovered in the surrounding territory (along Cartolillo, Cava Pece, Cucinello and Tabuna districts) is all that remains of that period ... (continue)

SCICLI - Scicli is a most lovely city in the province of Ragusa, lying on a vast valley amidst rocky mountains, where the San Bartolomeo, the Santa Maria La Nuova and the Fiumara di Modica rivers join. Its 18th century look most resulted from the reconstruction that followed the terrible earthquake of 1693. Thanks to its elegant palazzi and churches, and its picturesque shape, it is famously known as the “Baroque Jewel” ... (continue)


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