One of the most charming towns I visited on my journey through Southern Italy & Sicily had to be Noto. You’ve never heard of it? Well, that’s not surprising. Neither had I.
Located about 30 kilometers southwest of Syracuse, this Baroque beauty is home to one of Sicily’s most beautiful historic centers and is an absolute must on any Sicilian sojourn. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century and then completely rebuilt from scratch.
As soon as you enter through the Porta Reale (the main gate) you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. You’re now on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the city’s main thoroughfare, which is flanked by golden churches, stunning palazzi, ornate balconies and interesting Baroque architecture everywhere you look. As you begin to make your way down the Corso, don’t forget to peek down the alleyways as you take it all in.
As you begin your explorations, you’ll encounter several churches along the Corso. One that is definitely worth a visit is Chiesa di Santa Chiara. While the exterior isn’t much to look at, the interior is stunning, and the balcony offers great views of the Cathedral, the main focal point of Noto’s “skyline”.
If you’re not afraid of heights and small, enclosed spaces, make sure you also check out the Chiesa di San Carlo. Not only is the interior gorgeous, but for just € 1.50 you can climb a narrow, spiral staircase up to the church’s campanile (bell tower) for truly breathtaking views over much of Noto.
As you continue to make your way down the Corso, be sure to stop at one of the many colorful gift shops to pick up gifts or reminders of your afternoon in Noto. If you are – or know – a chef, a local cookbook makes a great gift. Or perhaps a necklace made from lava stone of nearby Mt. Etna is more your style. Like political comedy? A t-shirt with the phrase “Forget the gun. Take the cannoli.” definitely caught my eye and made me giggle. Whatever you crave, checking out the wares of the local gift shops are a great way to pass the time.
After you’ve strolled the Corso, explored the alleyways, climbed a couple of bell towers and shopped for souvenirs, you’ll undoubtedly need an afternoon pick me up.
It’s said there is a rivalry between two of the neighboring cafes as to who serves the best desserts in town. Caffe’ Sicilia, located at Corso Vittorio Emanuele 125, is an institution that has been serving up its sweet delectables since 1892. Dolceria Corrado Costanzo, located at Via Silvio Spaventa 9, is a bit quieter but offers up instagram-worthy plated desserts . Both shops offer exquisite gelato, granita and plenty of gorgeous little cakes and pastries.
So who is the best? My recommendation: Order something from each shop, along with a cafe of course, and do your own little taste test! You’ll be very glad you did.
Did you know? In Sicily, if you order “cannoli” they’ll ask you how many you want. Cannoli is plural. If you want just one, order a “cannolo”, which is the singular and means “little tube.”
(But really, who can eat just one?)
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