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Noto

Villas in Sicily near Noto

NotoIt all happened in a moment! On January 9th 1693 a terrible earthquake killed thousands of people in Noto Valley. But the worst was yet to come: two days later, on January 11th, the earth cracked and the sea receded to trigger a downright tsunami. Everything was destroyed by a shake comparable to a magnitude 8 earthquake. The end came: towns built during millenniums of different dominations, perfectly integrated and blended, were literally swept away in a few seconds. Both sumptuous aristocratic mansions and modest farmers’ houses became rubble and debris. Noto, on Mount Alveria, became what is still visible on Noto Antica site.

Despite this immense tragedy, the reaction was immediate: the Spanish authorities ordered the ingenious Netum to be rebuilt in a nearby place, on a less steep slope, Meti hill. In 1702 the reconstruction of the new town began. The plan divided the settlement into two sections lined on orthogonal axes: one section housed the districts of both political and religious power, and the other the districts of poor people. The huge work was entrusted to very important representatives of baroque architecture such as Rosario Gagliardi, Paolo Labili and Vincenzo Sinatra. The collective undertaking of these architects - along with stonemasons, workers and master-builders- resulted in a magnificent town, marked by over-elaborate decorations, colours, lines, volumes and perspectives which can boast no equal in the world.

In 2002 UNESCO has included Noto among the World’s Artistic Heritage (2002) and defined it “the culmination and final flowering of baroque art in Europe”, although famous travellers in 1700, like Patrick Brydone and Wolfgang Goethe, snubbed the town during their celebrated tours of Sicily. At last the artistic value of the whole area and of Noto in particular has been acknowledged. In 1977 art historian and critic Cesare Brandi defined Noto a “stone garden” , and the European Council has recently proclaimed it “the Capital of Baroque Art”.

Villas in Sicily near Noto

Noto

Baroque balcony detail in Noto

Baroque church in Noto

A balcony of the baroque Palazzo Nicolaci in Noto

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