Noto (SR)

Noto: Church of S.GiorgioThe ancient Noto (Netum) - a proud city which resisted Verres in the 70s BC, and, later, was the last Arab town to succumb to the Normans, fell victim to Nature on January 11th, 1693. The town was completely wrecked by the earthquake, which simultaneously flattened most of the towns in south-east Sicily. Recent news pictures of Muzaffarabad in Northern Pakistan (October 2005) will give some idea of the scale of destruction. Today there's nothing to see at Noto Antica bar a gateway and a few bits of wall - a nice picnic site though. The enterprising Notesi immediately started planning to rebuild - but the aristocrat entrusted with the rebuilding (Giuseppe Lanza, Duca di Camastra) insisted on moving the whole city 16km to the south - despite the objections of the surviving population. Lanza engaged the best architects of the period (including one Vincenzo Sinatra - any relation?) - a period which many would agree was the best ever for architecture.

Noto: S.Crocefisso in the Upper TownThe result, which can still be seen today - with a little imagination thanks to extensive dilapidation caused by traffic and fragility of the beautiful local honey-coloured sandstone - was stunning; a splendid baroque assemblage of public buildings and palaces on one level, with an equally well-designed upper town with smaller buildings for the plebs. For the time being (written 2005) you will see a great deal of scaffolding: luckily I was able to photograph the Duomo in 1993 before restoration began, after the dome collapsed in 1996. It's still a joy, though, to stroll round the centre, especially in the early morning or late evening when the sun adds its sheen of beauty to the stonework.

When I visited in 1993 there were two places to eat - and not much had changed in 2005. The Trattoria del Carmine was (in 1993) presided over by dignified octogenarian - and the simple, cheap food was exceptional (try the spaghetti alla capricciosa with a jug of the house wine - it's orange in colour and very potent); or the Trattoria Giglio: useful on a Monday when Carmine is closed. Likewise there's still only one hotel - Albergo Stella: get there early because it's quite small (and very basic). There's a superb place for gelati just outside the gate to the east of the town.

Duomo: 1993 Duomo: 2005
Noto: the duomo in 1993 Noto: the duomo photographed in 2005


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