On 26th of June 2002, UNESCO declared 8 of the most beautiful cities in the Sicilian Val di Noto, World Heritage sites: Caltagirone, Catania, Militello Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli. The valley, which is located in the southeast area of Sicily, is a clear testimony of the Baroque art and architecture. After the local earthquake in 1693, it was almost entirely rebuilt with monumental structures in white limestone. Andrea Palma, Rosario Gagliardi and Thomas Napoli, all from Sicily, are some of the architects who design most of the baroque buildings around the cities, adapting them to the local needs and traditions.Ragusa, the ancient Ibla, is located on the Iblei mountains, surrounded by a chain of green hills. The city is divided in two cores, one older at the top and one at the bottom more modern and rebuilt according to the medieval order, which counts 18 UNESCO monuments including cathedrals and palaces. The charming Duomo di San Giorgio, surrounded by a fence, is located in a majestic square enclose in palm trees.
Palazzolo Acreide, born on the ruins of the antique city Akrai, was rebuilt following the old medieval elements, including the Greek-Roman theater in white stone, the Church of San Sebastiano, the house-museum of the ethologist Antonino Uccello. Don’t miss the festivals and celebrations in June and in July, such as the Feast of the Patron Saint Paul.Modica, consists of Modica Alta directly on the rocks, and Modica Bassa lower on the valley, which appears to visitors as a huge stone native scenery. The Nobel Prize for Literature Salvatore Quasimodo was born here. The major monuments to visit: the Church of St. George, the Carmelite church, the Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem, the Church of St. Peter, the Church of St. Maria delle Grazie, De Leva palace , St. John’s Cathedral and Polara palace.
Militello in Val di Catania, owes its success to Joan of Austria, who transformed this little city in a court. With its 24 baroques monuments, the city is such as an authentic outdoor museum. Some of the best churches and palaces to see: the Benedictine monastery, the museum of St. Nicholas, the Church of St. Maria alla Catena, the Church St. Maria della Stella, the Church St. Maria la Vetere.
Caltagirone, is the native land of the elegant majolica and ceramics characterized by lively colors according to the Moorish tradition. The center twists and turns along two main streets, Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Roma, composed by the major buildings like the baroque church of Santa Maria del Monte and San Giacomo Apostolo church, the Capitanale Court and the Municipal Museum. On 24th and 25th July, the impressive Santa Maria del Monte’s staircase lights up in honor of the Patron Saint James during the party called Luminaria.
Noto, is all in elegant Baroque style, to model a sort of stone garden perched on a plateau on the Asinaro valley. The urban structure runs into 3 main squares: Piazza Immacolata with the St. Francis Immaculate abbey, Piazza Municipio with Ducezio Palace and Piazza XVI Maggio with the San Domenico church and the charming house of Hercules. On the Nicolaci street, from May 12nd to 15th , some talented artists will decorate all the way with colorful flower petals that create a long flowered route. The Infiorata (Flower Festival) in Noto is an event not to be missed.
Scicli, stands out in a wide valley surrounded by rocky hills and is built with architectural illusionistic effects, making it a jewel in its territory. In Piazza Italia is located the Chiesa Madre della Madonna delle Milizie, decorated with gilded stuccos and frescoes and where you can admire the Madonna delle Milizie, a work in papier-mâché representing the Christian struggle against the Saracens. On May 30th the party named Madonna delle Milizie will commemorate the liberation of the Sicilians from the enemy army of occupation.
Catania, “the lava city“, has also suffered a violent volcanic eruption in 1669 that destroyed the city. Finally it was rebuilt thanks to the characteristic lava stones. Here are: the beautiful Duomo square with the symbol of the city “U Liotru” (the elephant crowned by an obelisk), via Crociferi with churches and convents and via Etnea, Saint Agata abbey, the Collegiata Church, the Benedictine monastery, Biscari palace and the Amenanno fountain. Other milestones are the fish market in the city center and the “O Luni” fair.