On our third week of our postponed Honeymoon (we’re still not married mind you, thanks COVID!) we spent our days relaxing in an amazing villa near Rosolini in southern Sicily. We explored many of the nearby towns, but our favourite by far was Noto.
Noto is a beautiful town with a fascinating history. It lies 8km south of its original site, now called Noto Antica, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, killing half its population. The fact that the remaining townsfolk were so dedicated to their home that they picked it up and moved it 8km further south to safer ground is really quite remarkable. Its Sicilian baroque architecture is held as some of the best on the island. At only 212 square miles, this little town is a perfect day trip activity, with plenty to see and lots of delicious food to sample – including some of the best gelato in the world.
Noto Cathedral is definitely the ruling attraction of Noto, which is saying something. The whole main street is lined with gorgeous baroque buildings and even the ones that aren’t churches or monuments are still adorned with wrought iron balconies and ornate stone carvings.
The Cattedrale di Noto, or La Chiesa Madre di San Nicolò, was built in the 18th century along with most of the rest of the town. It seems to be in the habit of collapsing, so different parts have been rebuilt in different styles over the centuries, resulting in a neo-classical dome and white washed walls. Sitting atop the imposing steps, the beautiful facade gives off some serious Versailles vibes, looking down towards the Palazzo Ducezio opposite and over the hills around the town.
The Palazzo Ducezio opposite is technically the town hall. Inside you’ll find a hall of mirrors, lots of frescos, and lovely views back up to the cathedral.
Every May since the 1980s, Noto has held a three day flower festival called the Infiorata, where the locals cover Via Corrado Nicolaci with floral mosaics. Do a quick google search and you’ll see how stunning these mosaics are. When we first booked our honeymoon for May 2020, we were thrilled to discover that our dates lined up with this festival – completely by chance! Obviously that didn’t work out, as COVID prevented the festival (not to mention our wedding and honeymoon) from taking place.
Chiesa di San Carlo
Another baroque church! The facade of Chiesa di San Carlo is really striking, with three superimposed orders of columns and a floral oculus at the top.
Instead of climbing up Palazzo Ducezio to get your view of the cathedral and the surrounding hills, go for this church instead. It only costs €2 to go all the way to the top. Fair warning though – the spiral stone staircase is extremely narrow and steep.
You can step out onto the balconies on both the second and third floors, with the best view obviously being from the top, where you get a proper 360 panorama.
The location of the church gives you an amazing view of the cathedral dome, the steps and the main street through Noto – Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Chiesa di San Domenico
Thought that was all the baroque churches? Think again. In fact, including the cathedral, there are 35 baroque churches. Chiesa di San Domenico on Piazza XVI Maggio has to be one of the most beautiful, the warm tones of the curvaceous facade offset by the greenery outside, with a huge pine tree, a fountain, and numerous statues and memorials. On the piazzo you’ll find a few cosy wine bars, and the town theatre, Fondazione Teatro Tina di Lorenzo di Noto.
Gelato: Caffè Costanzo
According to Matt’s research, there are two places in Noto vying for the title of Best Gelateria in the World – Caffè Sicilia and Caffè Costanzo. How would we decide between them? COVID made that decision for us – Caffè Sicilia was closed. Luckily, Caffè Costanzo came to the rescue with the best pistachio gelato of the entire trip.
We revisited Noto a couple of times on our holiday, wondered the streets some more, played cards and drank cappuccini from La Vecchia Fontana, bought some Sicilian red wine. It’s a great place to pop into if you’re staying nearby. On the 6 year anniversary of our Tinder match, we spruced up and drove into Noto for a lovely evening out.
Aperitivo: Trattoria ”Fontana d’Ercole”
After strolling the streets, we settled at Trattoria ”Fontana d’Ercole” on Piazza XVI Maggio for an Aperol spritz and some aperitivo. With its outdoor seating on the piazza, it was the perfect place to play some cards, enjoy a drink and admire the gorgeous Chiesa di San Domenico.
Dinner: Anche gli Angeli
I spotted Anche gli Angeli when we were eating our gelato at Caffè Costanzo, and was desperate to come back and try it. From what I could see through the window, it looked achingly trendy, describing itself as a “concept store, ristorante, lounge and wine bar”.
We were sat by the hostess in a section lined with shelves of wine bottles, feeling like we were in the wine cellar of a castle. The experience itself was lovely, but I have to say we were a bit disappointed by the food. We both ordered white boar ragu, expecting something rich with lots of homemade pasta. Unfortunately what we ate tasted almost exactly like chicken noodle soup. I’d like to hope other things on the menu turn out more exciting – you’ll have to try it yourself and let me know!
Where to park in Noto: Parcheggio Centrale
Top tip, the best place to park in Noto is Parcheggio Centrale on Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour. As you’re driving up the road, it’s the second car park on the right after Parcheggio Città di Noto (which costs more). We visited Noto three times on our holiday in Sicily and parked their every time. There was always plenty of space and we never had any security problems.
As I said, Noto was our favourite town that we visited on our last leg of Sicily. It was so cosy with its little streets, with its warm colour palate and amazing views. I for one am a big fan of baroque architecture, so its no surprise I liked it. It would have been wonderful to visit in May for the flower festival, but our visit was the oasis we needed after a tumultuous year. And anyway, it would be worth the trip even just for the gelato!