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Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto

By Samantha

What are the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto?

The Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto in southeastern Sicily, Italy, comprise eight towns: Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, and Scicli. These towns were all rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693 in a distinctive Baroque style that is recognized for its unique architectural innovation and beauty. The towns are located relatively close together, making it possible to visit one or two (such as Noto and Ragusa) in one day. Each town offers its own unique blend of Baroque artistry, with churches, palaces, and squares to visit that exhibit the opulence and stylistic flourishes characteristic of the period.

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A cathedral in Baroque style - ornate with pillars and other ornamentation.

Why is this cluster of towns a UNESCO World Heritage site?

These towns are on the UNESCO World Heritage list because they “represent the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art” and architecture in Europe. The towns are noted for their exemplary Baroque buildings. They’re celebrated for their significant contribution to the development of Baroque in architecture, town planning and landscape design. 

A wide street that is a staircase, with each stair tread lined with colorful tiles.

What can you expect on a visit to these towns of the Val di Noto?

A visit to the Val di Noto offers an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in the world. Each town has its own character and architectural wonders to visit. It is not possible to see all the towns in one visit. However, they are close enough together that it is possible to visit one or two in a day. You can visit all of them in a single trip if you stay in the southeast of Sicily for a couple of days.

As you walk around the towns, you can expect to see intricate Baroque facades, grand staircases and beautiful decorations that adorn the corners, windows and doorways of the buildings and public spaces.

The towns vary in that in some cases, the entire old town is part of the UNESCO designation. This is true for Caltagirone, Noto and Ragusa. In other cases – Catania and Scicli – it’s just a specific part of the city. In the towns of Modica, Palazzolo Acreide and Militello Val di Catania, the designation only involves certain monuments within their old town centers. 

Text: Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, Sicily, Italy. Images: above, a staircase with ceramic tiles on each tread; below, a baroque cathedral.
Image for Pinterest.

Is the Val di Noto worth visiting?

The Val di Noto towns are 100% worth visiting. They rank as some of the top places to visit in Sicily. Anyone remotely interested in Baroque architecture will receive a deep-dive experience into the lavish world of Baroque art set amongst the most stunning Sicilian countryside. A visit to all the eight towns will take several days. Visitors should plan to spend at least a day visiting Catania and Scicli and a minimum of half a day for the other towns.

Use the map below, centered on the town of Noto, to find your accommodations in the area. Zoom out to see other choices in other towns.

What sorts of travelers would like the towns of the Val di Noto?

This UNESCO site is ideal for travelers with an interest in architecture, history, and culture. Art historians, architecture enthusiasts, and photographers will particularly appreciate the rich details and historical significance of the Baroque buildings. The beauty and charm of these towns also appeal to those looking for picturesque Italian landscapes and a taste of traditional Sicilian life.

Several buildings: a church and other buildings nearby, all in a baroque style.

Tips for visiting Val di Noto

It’s best to visit in the spring or autumn when the weather is pleasant and the towns are less crowded. If you must visit during the summer, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon in order to avoid the heat and crowds.

Consider hiring a local guide to gain deeper insights into the history and architecture of each town. Take a private tours to several of the towns or a small-group tour that includes Noto and Syracuse, another UNESCO site.

Other UNESCO sites nearby include the three locations that make up the Syracuse and the Rocky Necropoli of Pantalica (an ancient city) site, as well as Villa Romana del Casale (a Roman villa with mosaics), Archaeological Area of Agrigento (Greek temples), and, of course, Mount Etna.

A person's hand holding a brush, painting a flowery tile pattern.

Where are the Val di Noto towns?

The towns are spread across the southeastern part of Sicily, Italy, within the Val di Noto area.

By car: The towns are best accessed by car from Catania or Syracuse. Travel times vary from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the town. Paid parking is available in or near the historic centers.

Compare rental car prices for pick-up from Catania or Palermo airport.

By public transportation: Public bus services connect most of the towns to Catania or Syracuse but the bus frequency varies and doesn’t always allow the best opportunity to explore the towns. If you must use public transport, advance planning is essential, and don’t try to see more than one town per day.  

For more information about the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, consider visiting the official tourism website of Sicily for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Have you been to the Val di Noto? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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