THE STONE GARDEN
A journey through the Valley of Noto, between the provinces of Syracuse, Ragusa and Catania, towards the south-eastern corner of Sicily, is like going on an adventure into an extraordinary and maybe, unrepeatable chapter in the history of mankind.
We will learn about the history of a land at the epicentre of a terrible earthquake which, more than three centuries ago, in January 1693, devastated the island and also of its people, who in a few decades were able to rebuild their cities with a completely new and innovative town planning criteria. Noto stands out for its theatricality. Taking advantage of the gentle slope of the Meti hill, the city developed on three urban levels. At the top, there are the palaces of the nobility while the humble houses of the common people are at the bottom and on the middle landing of the hill, we find the public buildings of the temporal and religious powers (the palace of the Senate, the cathedral and the monasteries of the different religious orders).
Following the disaster, the opportunity to build a new city came, which made it more beautiful than ever: a place designed according to the baroque style of the time, with parallel streets interspersed with squares designed as large stages, with staircases, terraces and slopes.
The local architect Rosario Gagliardi, together with other masters such as Vincenzo Sinatra, were commissioned by great patrons and nobles of the city to build one of the most beautiful baroque cities in Europe in the golden stone of the region. Called the“stone garden”by the Italian art historian Cesare Brandi, Noto has become an essential stop on a trip to Sicily.
There is one place that allows you to enjoy the beauty of this place from above more than the others: the church of San Carlo Borromeo, whose bell tower can be visited, as long as you have no problem climbing the spiral staircase leading to the first terrace.An additional staircase leads to the last terrace where the church campanile and its three bells, which ring at regular intervals during the day, are located. From here you can enjoy a wonderful 360º view of the entire city. This place was chosen by the director Michelangelo Antonioni as the setting for his 1960 film "The Adventure": from here the architect Gabriele Ferzetti looks out and exclaims as he contemplates this superb urban space:"but look at such a fantasy, such a movement! They were concerned with the scenographic effects... what extraordinary freedom".
Vittorio Emanuele Street, 121
SWEET & CHIC
Noto is a tribute to the Sicilian baroque, with a very personal expression, elegant and exuberant, but never leading to excess or grotesque.The famous Café Sicilia, a gastronomic institution since 1892, is one of the most remarkable monuments.
Dessert preparation, created by the expert Corrado Assenza, fully embraces the idea of elegance shared with the whole context of the city. The bar is very busy and it is common to experience some funny situations, sometimes irritating, due to the rush or arrogance of sitting down first to enjoy the delicacies on display.The interior decoration is very sober which is related to Corrado´s personality. It is possible to know about the history of classic Sicilian confectionery through the showcase that the pastry chef has designed to entertain himself over the years. The only difficult thing to do in this relaxing place is choosing: This one or that one? Is it too much? You look around a little embarrassed at having filled the table with so many delicious things and taking pictures at the same time.
The tasting begins with the granita, mandorlasavour. The introduction of the use of granita, as well as almonds in the preparation of desserts, is attributed to the Arabs, whose influence can be felt almost everywhere. The granita is smooth and creamy, a bit sweetened to give the almond flavour the appropriate intensity. The same goes for gelsi(blackberry), also introduced by the Arabs, which is intense in flavour and wonderfully delicate.
We should admit that the classic Sicilian sweets are the most attractive and after the granitasit is the turn of the cannoli, exquisitely unique for the lightness of the well-prepared ricottaand the thin and aromatic wafer. The cassatinawill literally leave you speechless, here, the ricotta also works with subtlety with the delicate tone of sweetness with colours which have almost vanished, as they are left naturally. It is so tasty that you could easily eat a dozen.
In fact, the boundaries between sweet and savoury, between cooking and baking for Corrado are very flexible and personally changeable. They are mostly found in the new generation desserts such as the Fattore Zetapastry where the letter “Z” is present in all the flavours such as zenzero, zafferano andzucca(ginger, saffron and pumpkin). This is a curious mixture that confirms the mastery of Corrado, a refined pastry chef, far from the commonplace. As a good Sicilian, he plays a lot with citrus fruits and knows how to enhance the characteristics that make them so appetising and fascinating, such as the acidity and aromatic components. The lightness and Mediterranean characteristics are at their best in the mandarin dessert, the most elegant of the citrus fruits, very present in Café Sicilia´s preparations.
Our favourite is the white pepper and bergamot pie, with unforgettable aromas that would surely make you fall in love with it.
Vittorio Emanuele Street, 125
The markets in the square adjacent to the public garden are a beautiful place to see and taste. Let yourself be conquered by the magic of one of the star products of south-eastern Sicily: Modica chocolate, named after the splendid baroque town in the province of Ragusa, where the ritual of preparing "ciucculatta muricana"has been handed down throughout the generations.
With its granulated texture and particular taste, it is very different from the classic chocolate due to the presence of sugar granules and the spices with which it is enriched. Modica chocolate contains less fat (only the naturally present in the cocoa beans), while most other chocolates contain cocoa butter added during the manufacturing process.In May 2008, it was recognised as a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), also thanks to the work of the syndicate for the Protection of Modica Chocolate, founded in 2003, which brings together twenty producers of the city.
It is said that the recipe goes back to an ancient formula brought in the XVI century by the Spanish, learnt from the ancient Aztecs (great pre-Columbian civilization that inhabited the current Mexico from the XIV to the XVI century). It was abandoned during the XVI century and returned to its former glory only today. The Modicans added sugar and spices, vanilla and cinnamon in particular, without including various lecithin and vegetable fats. This chocolate is still made using the same process, without conching (a term derived from the shape of the first machines used in the final phase of chocolate production, which makes the mass fluid and homogeneous), a process common to all chocolates throughout the world.
Simplicity is the main characteristic: natural and lightly processed ingredients. For production, the cocoa beans are roasted and grounded. In cold processing, the mixture obtained does not go through the conching phase: the dough is processed at 40° with the addition of sugar. This way, it does not melt or amalgamate and gives Modica chocolate its characteristic, "rough" appearance with a grainy consistency. The mixture is then poured into the appropriate tin moulds (iannidialect) which are shaken to release the air bubbles to make it homogeneous. Until the 1950s, the cocoa beans were processed in a crescent-shaped, lava-stone steamroller and then mixed with pistuni, a cylindrical stone roller of varying thickness according to the different stages of processing. The tablet has an uneven brown colour and the aroma is that of roasted cocoa.
THE JUBILEE OF BEAUTY
It is in Via Nicolacithat the genius of the baroque architects is best expressed: a slope closed at the upper part by the concave façade of the church of Montevergine.
The street takes its name from the pompous Palazzo Nicolaci of Villadorata, undoubtedly the most beautiful civil building in Noto, famous for its wrought-iron balconies supported by corbels in the shape of mermaids, horses, lions and monsters. The street, 122 metres long and about 7 metres wide, is the protagonist every year of one of the most popular festivals in Sicily: the Infiorata, the flowery spring.The carpet of flowers covers an area of 700 square metres and is made up of 16 sketches.
At the beginning of 1980, the municipal administration of Noto, led by Mayor Rizza, in search of an event to be organised in May, contacted a master infioratorefrom Genzano, a town in the province of Rome, famous for the oldest flower show in Italy.
The latter, after an inspection of the baroque town, was sure about which street to choose for the first edition of the floral event: the scenic Via Corrado Nicolaci. Thus, on 10th and 11th of May 1980, Noto hosted its first flower show and for the Genzanesimasters, it was an opportunity to export their centuries-old tradition.The realisation of the Infioratainvolves several phases: first, the creation of the sketch by individual artists or associations, who are chosen by a commission composed of three experts in figurative arts, elected by the mayor. This commission chooses the paintings and decides on their location, and also supervises the execution of the work, ensuring that all the criteria for the choice of material, shapes, colours and execution times are respected. The design representing the coat of arms of the city of Noto, placed at the opening of the event, as well as the first sketch are made by the Art Institute of Noto. The transposition of the drawings is done with chalk and white paint and takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays; materials other than flowers and plants are not allowed during the making of the drawings; the crushed flowers on Wednesdays and Thursdays must cover in any case at least 70% of the paint and may not be artificially coloured by dipping or using other techniques.
The most commonly used colours are shades of brown, white, pink, green and yellow; which are obtained not only from the flower petals but also from rice grains, coffee tuff, earth, sand, grass, etc. Therefore, the inforiuturapreparation begins on Friday in a dynamic and sparkling atmosphere and must be completed with the first light of dawn on Saturday. The symbolic flower of the Infiorata is the gerberawhich, with its multicoloured shades and large petals, allows surprising creations.
Corrado Nicolaci Street
LUXURIES FROM OTHER TIMES
Discover an authentic 18th century Sicilian palace completely restored and brought back to the dawn of time. Marvel at the sumptuous noble floor with its immense collection of furniture, sought-after antiques, beautifully preserved period paintings and frescoes.
Palazzo Di Lorenzo del Castelluccio belonged to one of the oldest Sicilian families of Noto, the Di Lorenzo family, marquises of Castelluccio. It was built in 1782, a period that followed the violent, tragic and famous earthquake of 1693, that destroyed much of the Valley of Noto.
Its façade, which stands on Via Cavour, does not adopt the baroque style typical of the reconstructions carried out at that time on the main buildings of the city, but follows a neoclassical style, in vogue at the end of the XVIII century. This style can also be found in the well-preserved frescoes on the vaults and walls of the traditional noble floor. The original Sicilian ceramic floors have been perfectly cleaned and preserved maintaining the elegance and glaze of the past.
It took four years to restore the palace to its former glory, respecting its style and history. The frescoes have been restored, the fabrics have been replaced, the silver wallpaper faithfully reproduced and the collection of furniture and paintings redeem the atmosphere typical of a period building. The music room, the chapel, the ballroom and the gallery give back to the former residence of Di Lorenzo del Castelluccio that aesthetic power and magnificence which was the flagship of one of the greatest Sicilian aristocratic families.
After the death of the last marquis, the palace was inherited by the Order of the Knights of Malta who kept it until 2011. The ancient house of Di Lorenzo remained uninhabited for 12 years until the present day. The owner took it over and transformed it into a real house-museum that is habitable and accessible to visitors.The rooms, the kitchens, preserved without any restoration, as well as the renovated stables, testify to the fervent activity of a time gone by and never forgotten.
Cavour Street, 10
FROM THE DISASTER TO THE GLORY
The time for celebrations is far away. But not for the time for memories: the 13th of March, 1996. That night, more than twenty years ago, the largest religious temple in Noto, the Cathedral, a symbol of Christianity, struck by neglect and imprisoned by bureaucracy, collapsed.Fortunately, on that tragic day there were no victims, because the collapse occurred at night when the church was empty. The silver ark of the patron Saint Corrado was saved from the Cathedral, it was stored in the chapel dedicated to him and then removed.
It was a violent punch for the community of the faithful and for lovers of beauty. That rainy night began a slow and interminable story that, amidst a thousand uncertainties about direct competences, shameful legal facts, insufficient financing, bureaucratic tugging, appeals to the adjudication of the work, will last more than eleven years.
It was on 18thof June, 2007 that the bronze door of the Cathedral was reopened. A date that many like to remember: the day of the inauguration, the long-awaited ceremony that brought the then presidents of the Council of Ministers Romano Prodi and of the Sicilian Region Totò Cuffaro to Noto.
The architect Salvatore Tringali and the engineer Roberto De Benedictis, both Sicilians, identified the starting point of the reconstruction project in the pillars and foundations, foreseeing their reinforcement. They then worked on the arches of the dome, the cladding of the spurs and, finally, the tambour of the dome.Many excavations took place during several months between 1996 and 2000. After this, restoration began. Once the wide access staircase had been fenced off, work continued until the first months of 2007, and on 18th of June, the church was reopened for worship.The marble decorations and colours of the past were no longer there and the walls and floors were pure white.
Today, the Cathedral of San Nicolò has been elevated to a minor basilica and has also been enriched with new frescoes by contemporary artists, such as the Russian painter Oleg Superego and the Italian Bruno D´Arcevia.The collapse is now only a bad memory, because the Basilica has become a worldwide tourist attraction and has once again become a precious jewel of the city.
To enjoy its magnificence to the full, you will have to climb 260 steps... and from there to glory!
Resurrected after the terrible earthquake of 1693 with a spectacular and scenographic sequence of religious and civil architecture, Noto enchants visitors from all over the world.
Captivated by the beauty of the stone garden, along the way you will be nourished by the Sicilian baroque style until they are astonished when they arrive at Palazzo Nicolaci. You will focus on the carved corbels under the balconies depicting extravagant figures and are fascinated by one in particular: a bald figure with a wrinkled forehead, holding a flute in his left hand. Tradition has it that he represents Don Giacomo, called the hunchback for his appearance or the alchemist for his passion. A member of the Nicolaci family of Villadorata, he was a prince of theAccademia dei Transformati, a philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, astronomer, polyglot, lover of hermeticism and occultism. From Montpellier, a French city visited during the Grand Tour, he brought the plans for the Senate House (the current seat of the Town Hall) and also for his palace, for the construction of which he took advantage of the professionalism of the architect Gagliardi. There is no doubt about the membership of Giacomo and his descendants in Freemasonry, as the symbols of the association can be identified in his dwelling. With this key, we can interpret the figures on the corbels: the children, growth; the winged horses, purification; the mermaids, temptation; the winged lions, man in search of virtue; and the hunchback´s flute, wisdom.
There are some things that bring us back to the atmosphere of a lodge such as the family coat of arms (a rampant greyhound leaning on a column), the broken columns on the staircase leading to the main floor up to the so-called "Salone delle Feste", on whose walls a balustrade with colonnade is painted with trap technique and in the ceiling the allegory of Apollo´s chariot chasing the Aurora on and the dozens of symbols that fill every corner.
Then a reflection spontaneously arises. In the historical and cultural climate that arose precisely between the XVII and XVIII centuries, impregnated with Masonic ideas, the implantation of a newly founded town like Noto was the better field for experimentation.
Elements of the architecture-Masonry binomial seem alive in every corner: Solomonic columns, tower façades, staircases... and Palladianism, the official architecture of Freemasonry, very evident in the Senate House. To conclude, a city for Dan Brown!
Corrado Nicolaci Street
…AND YOU FEEL LIKE A KING!
There is a palace with the neoclassical rooms where King Ferdinand slept or the one where the marquises danced with the queen. There is a house decorated with traps that “play" with the visitors, and again the palace that hosted the princes of Piedmont, Umberto and Maria Josè di Savoia in the thirties. The baroque palaces of Noto are a wealth of beauty and history, a symbol of a time when the city was the destination of kings and princes.
The tour of the baroque residences can start from Palazzo Landolina Sant´Alfano, where, between 1838 and 1844, King Ferdinand II of Bourbon and Queen Maria Theresa of Austria stayed thrice. Built in 1730 by order of Francesco Landolina, Marquis of Sant´ Alfano, as his residence, it has always belonged to this very ancient family of Norman origin who arrived in Noto in 1901 following King Roger. The neoclassical façade, designed by Vincenzo Sinatra, stands out for its elegant sobriety; it is divided into three horizontal orders supported by quadrangular pillars crowned by valuable Corinthian capitals. The windows and balconies are crowned by elegant rectangular architraves. Inside there is a beautiful triumphal staircase adorned with marble statues. You can also admire the beautiful gilded walls of the main hall, enriched by beautiful paintings from the XVIII and XIX centuries.
The next stop could be the Palazzo Nicolaci, with its balconies decorated with a veritable bestiary of grotesque figures, such as mermaids, lions, sphinxes, hippogriffs, winged horses and angels. Inside, you can immerse yourself in a trap, the climax of which is reached in the party room where a false balustrade creates an extraordinary effect, with a reproduction of Guido Reni´s "Aurora" in a flat in Capodimonte (Naples). Palazzo Nicolaci, half of which was acquired by the Municipality, was built in 1737, designed by Rosario Gagliardi and Paolo Labisi. The access is through a portal with two large Ionic columns, crowned by a baroque balcony.
Don´t miss the palace of the powerful Trigona family, marquises of Canicarao and Dainamare. It was originally designed by Rosario Gagliardi, but completed by Vincenzo Sinatra and the brothers Paolo and Bernardo Labisi. It is the only building with nine-barrel balconies on the façade with three large Aragonese eagles, a symbol of the noble family´s origins. In the sumptuous halls, ballrooms (with highly coveted invitations) were held in honour of the Queen of Naples. The interior is divided into two parts: one half belonging to the Municipality of Noto and one half jealously guarded by the last Marchioness of Canicarao.
Last but not least, the Palazzo Ducezio, seat of the Town Hall, named after the founder of the city, Ducezio, who in the V century B.C, made the Siculi rise up against the Greeks. It was designed by Vincenzo Sinatra in 1746, inspired by some XVII century French palaces, but the first floor was only finished in 1830 and the second floor in the first half of the XX century. Inside you can visit the oval-shaped Hall of Mirrors, enriched with stuccoes and gold in the Louis XV style. In the early 1930s, for the official visit of Umberto and Maria Josè di Savoia, princes of Piedmont, the hall was restored by the painter Gregorietti. From the terrace, you have an extraordinary view of the city.
Municipio Square (Palazzo Landolina and Palazzo Ducezio),
Corrado Nicolaci Street (Palazzo Nicolaci),
Cavour Street, 95 (Palazzo Trigona)
UNDER THE WATCHFUL EYE OF HERCULES
Walking along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, we reach Piazza XVI Maggio, a monumental space bordered on the left by the neoclassical Teatro Comunaleand on the right by the church of San Domenico, undoubtedly the masterpiece of the architect Vincenzo Gagliardi and perhaps the most representative baroque religious building of Noto. The church stands out for the beauty of its convex façade in which two orders of columns alternate with niches, executed in gilded stone. The interior, with a central floor plan and five domes, is decorated with stucco and has a rich high altar of red and white marble.
In the centre of the square, an elegant garden presides over the whole complex and invites us to take a break, accompanied by the voices of old men debating politics or playing cards.
On the present site, called "Piazzetta Ercole" by the inhabitants of Noto, before a steep rocky bank was sawed and removed in 1851 with the idea of creating the town´s theatre, was the cemetery of San Domenico. It is now dedicated to the Garibaldi revolutionaries of 16th of May 1860.
The central fulcrum is a fountain, built in 1757 by the Catania sculptor Orlando, which consists of a square poly-lobed basin with a cylindrical shaft, the upper half of which is in bas-relief and depicts cherubs resting on tritons holding bowls with their heads and left hands. The lion´s mouths from which water flows upstream from the fountain support a marble statue of Hercules.
The Greek mythology hero, depicted in a moment of rest after the bloody slaughter of Nemea´s lion, is caught with his right arm outstretched, to quench his thirst. As for the left arm, a clarification must be made: in 1838, in a burst of municipal pride, seeing in Hercules the symbol of the strength and a genius of the city, his mace was taken out of it to replace it with the coat of arms of the city, a more reassuring and inoffensive symbol. Moreover, as a result of this adaptation, unfortunately only the leg of the lion´s right limb remains, which could not be removed like the rest of the body and whose claws, which came to fall in correspondence of the groin, gave rise to some colourful graffiti. In any case, this monument has a symbolic and historical value. In fact, it was on the night of 15th-16th of May 1860 that the first tricolour flag, the emblem of the Garibaldian revolution, was raised in the arms of the hero by young anti-Borbonists, with the words: "Death to those who touch this flag...". As for the material used for the construction of the fountain, it has been found to be white Carrara marble, while the base, which was built later, is covered with red marble masonry. On either side of the fountain there are two monuments to illustrious personalities of the city: one in white marble of the sad and romantic poet Mariannina Coffa and the other, in bronze, of the jurist, prince of the forum and statesman Matteo Raeli.
XVI Maggio Square
Wellcome to Europamundo Vacations, your in the international site of:
Bienvenido a Europamundo Vacaciones, está usted en el sitio internacional de: