Syracuse-Hybla Guide

The Baroque of the Val di Noto top

Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa, Scicli, Mazzarino, Ispica, Acireale and Catania

Il Barocco della Val di Noto

UNESCO heritage, the Sicilian Baroque is considered the most beautiful baroque in the world. It 's the result of a 1693 post-earthquake in eastern Sicily. Everything was destroyed by the earthquake and the Sicilians, indomitable, rather than building low and less dangerous houses, defied the nature unleashing their creativity in magnificent buildings. Religious buildings and palaces took on the appearance of temples of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, very famous around 2500 years ago in Sicily. The Sicilian Baroque is exactly the architectural soul of an islander: an overflowing of generosity (sculptures of a thousand shapes, curves and spectacular scenarios), an excess of protagonism (zoomorphic and anthropomorphic faces that seem to play, sometimes almost attack the astonished visitor), a refined sensitivity (which can be seen in its simplicity, however, always present, even in this deluge of convolutes and pomposity). In the photo, a mask of the Palazzo Beneventano in Scicli.

Il Barocco della Val di Noto

It should be emphasized that the Baroque in Sicily, as elsewhere in Italy, began to assert itself at the beginning of 17th century. The one we speak about, and for which UNESCO has decided to make it a World Heritage, is an invention of architecture itself, during the 18th century, of eastern Sicily. A new Baroque, which at once contained and amplified all the original and earlier classic style.

Il Barocco della Val di Noto

This is the Sicilian Baroque, not the one of Palermo, very beautiful, but common to the whole Italy.

These are the topics most discussed by architects in the creation of their masterpieces:

1. An architectural style rich of shapes and figures, dramatic, made of light and shade, of sudden chiaroscuro.

2. The real stars, no doubt, are the well known “mascheroni” (big masks) with a human face (often telamons and caryatids) or animal or half and half, often sneering, mocking, furious. We find them, classically, in the shelves of the balconies, projecting below the visitors, as if to challenge them, bother, mock them.

3. Beautiful balconies, fat or not, with wrought iron railings.

Il Barocco della Val di Noto

4. The lava rock and limestone, one white and one very dark, which made the happiness of the Sicilian nobility, who commissioned masterpieces one after another. These two stones are playing not to end up in the facades of churches and palaces, especially in Catania.

5. The Sicilian nobility, in fact. That challenging in a contest of beauty, has created a competition with a very artistic value which saw winning the whole island. The galleries (the central part of the facade of a building) were the visit card for excellence.

Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa, Scicli, Acireale, Mazzarino, Ispica and Catania too, are the heights of this “Baroqueland”.


Giovanni Vallone tells you his Sicilian Baroque Contact him.

Kamarina top


Kamarina is an important archaeological site of the sixth century BC. Near the sea, presents few remnants of the glorious past. The site is in any case of great beauty.


Donnafugata top


Donnafugata is a village 15 km from Ragusa dominated by a magnificent nineteenth-century residence known as the Castle of Donnafugata. Very beautiful its park with the characteristic labyrinth.


The beach from Punta Braccetto to Pozzallo top

La spiaggia da Punta Braccetto a Pozzallo

Near the African Sea, this part of Sicily is characterized by wonderful beaches that probably reaches their most beautiful in the villages of Marina di Ragusa and Marina di Modica. Very typical all the seaside villages that follow each other continuously for the enjoyment of swimmers. There is also space for a naturalistic reserve: the one of the Irminio river, and also an archaeological site: Kaukana (III century BC).


Ragusa top


Ragusa, the ancient Hybla, is one of the great masterpieces of Sicilian Baroque, Unesco world heritage. Probably the best expression of this Sicilian style is the Cathedral of San Giorgio (photo). Among the buildings is to remark the Palazzo Zacco. But it is all the old Ragusa Hybla that gives absolutely unique feelings to the visitors. The stone beautifully crafted, makes this Sicilian town a movie set outdoor. Curious is the presence of a series of high bridges. And gastronomy is of great level. Not to be missed. Contact me for more information.


Modica top


Another town part of the baroque of the Val di Noto, Modica is spread on a plateau crossed by very deep canyons. A maze of small houses, narrow streets, long stairways, streets, projecting the visitor in the atmosphere of the past. Squares, churches and palaces are a wonderful expression of Sicilian Baroque, Baroque par excellence. The Cathedral of San Giorgio (photo) is one of the most fascinating and beautiful postcards of Sicilian baroque. Again, as in Ragusa, we recommend a thorough search. Contact me for more information.


Scicli top


Another beautiful and picturesque place full of caves (canyons) and rock dwellings. Also patrimony of Unesco for the Sicilian Baroque, it finds its highest expression in Palazzo Beneventano, symbol of the city, famous for its masks that seem to attack the underlying pedestrian. Very characteristic the Byzantine settlement excavated in the rock, in places Chiafura (photo).


Chiaramonte Gulfi top

Chiaramonte Gulfi

Typical Sicilian town perched on a plateau. Colored by the white Iblea stone presents the usual maze of alleys, neighborhoods, gates of the walls, alternating with beautiful squares. Excellent the Baroque style, here. In the district Paraspola there is an army of ancient olive trees, the so called Saracens olive trees (photo).


Cava d'Ispica top

Cava d'Ispica

Cava D'Ispica is a 13 km deep canyon where there are cemeteries, churches, recreation centers, houses, castles, carved into the rock! In some parts still unexplored, the Cave was inhabited since prehistoric age until 1693, the year of the disastrous earthquake after which the inhabitants moved to its present Ispica. Among carobs, wild olive trees, plane trees, alternate these monuments carved into the rock.


Visit Sicily with writer Giovanni Vallone. Contact him.

Portopalo di Capo Passero top

Portopalo di Capo Passero

Southern tip of Sicily, in Portopalo seems to be in Africa. It 's a place of great charm and, excuse the lightness, delicious fish. But perhaps its most characteristic feature is that it is the southernmost point of Europe. In short: it is the opposite of the North Cape.


Vendicari top


Vendicari is a natural reserve of great beauty being one of the most important wetlands in Europe. It’s one of the few places where you can still see the Mediterranean Bush. The great attraction is the presence of millions of migratory birds that arrive from all over Europe before going to the Sahara Desert. Outstanding is the archaeological presence ranging from the Byzantine period (churches, catacombs, cemeteries, houses), to the Torre Sveva (1400), and to the eighteenth century tuna abattoir.


Noto top


City dell'Alveria initially located on the hill (see Noto Antica) after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693 has risen great little further downstream. Noto is undoubtedly the most visible symbol of the Sicilian baroque heritage of UNESCO. A flurry of monuments with the beautiful local limestone. A real royal park stone of immeasurable beauty. Contact me for more information that in this text I cannot give you. At the mouth of the Tellaro river on a small hill are the ruins of the ancient Sicilian city of Eloro (seventh century BC), symbolized by the so-called Colonna Pizzuta, stone column of about 10 meters. Other archaeological site of interest is the Villa Del Tellaro of the late Roman period (fourth century AD), with mosaic floors.


Noto Antica top

Noto Antica

On a hill (the Alveria) above the actual Noto are the ruins of ancient Netum. Noto Antica is a place of great scenic and emotional impact. Heart-shaped, bounded on two sides by very deep canyons, a visit here is an experience that gives the most beautiful Sicily. Ruins ranging from prehistory through the greek, Roman, medieval time... until the earthquake of 1693 when the city was shattered. Also fascinating the descent to the river that cuts into the canyon below, and where there are several structures carved into the rock.


Castelluccio top


Castelluccio is a prehistoric site (XIX century BC) located on a rocky outcrop. Although abandoned, it remains a place of great charm. The sophisticated "tomb of the prince " (picture) with a table dominated by four monolithic pillars, is a great example of prehistoric funerary art. A Sicily of great scenery, the one around here.


Giovanni Vallone has written several articles on the Sicily of Noto and Castelluccio. Contact him.

Cava Grande del Cassibile top

Cava Grande del Cassibile

Paradise on Earth itself, as rightly described by all travelers who have visited it. It is a canyon (cava in Sicilian), where lakes, papyrus, animals, waterfalls, rock archeology ... come together in a perfect paradisiacal situation. If you choose a place to live wildly, and you wish no one could ever find you, this is perfect.


The beach between Avola and Syracuse top

La spiaggia tra Avola e Siracusa

Beautiful beach that reaches its apex in Fontane Bianche (photo). Fine white beaches and clear sea. Which counts numerous private beaches where you can rent chairs and umbrellas.


Syracuse top


City with a glorious past, so much that for a period of history (fifth century BC) was the most powerful city of the Mediterranean Sea, or of the Western world. It was also the capital, later, of the Byzantine Empire.

But it is the Siceliota period (greek of Sicily) to have it delivered to posterity. Spectacular series of masterpieces that have remained from that period: theater, temples, fortresses, quarries, archaeological fragments ... Missing only the lens of Archimedes (photo), perhaps the most famous of his sons who made the Romans crazy with its futuristic defensive weapons (fire-breathing lenses, catapults ...).


The greek theater in Syracuse is perhaps one of the most beautiful examples of Greek Art. The theater, with a diameter of about 140 meters is the largest in the world. Equipped with excellent acoustics, till these days greek tragedies are performed. Divine.


Approached the theater are the Latomie (stone quarries), among which the most famous perhaps is the one of Paradise where is the famous Ear of Dionysus (pictured), a cave high up to 23 m and 11 m wide, famous for being the prison of the defeated Athenians. The Altar of Hieron, adjacent to the theater, was a huge sacrificial altar long almost 100 meters. It must have been monumental, as the few remaining ruins would suggest.


The city was defended in its upper part (Epipoli) by a mighty fortress known as Castle of Euryalus (foto), a fortress still intact and never conquered.

The archaeological museum Paolo Orsi is certainly the most important museum in Sicily. The visit is a must. Everything is there.


The Catacombs (picture) of the Roman era of Syracuse are underground cemeteries, which are second in importance only to those of the Italian capital. In Syracuse, there are several catacombs: the ones of San Giovanni are famous for hosting San Paolo at the time of the sermons.

The natural reserve of the River Ciane is not only famous for migratory birds but also for the salt and the papyrus that surround its shores.


Syracuse, however, reaches its peak in Ortigia, the true focus of the powerful Sicilian city of the past. Ortigia is a small island, almost joined to the mainland (accessed via a bridge) of extraordinary beauty both for its ruins of the Greek era, and for the superb baroque coloring the Arabic town-planning of the site. Ortigia, often the place most visited in Sicily, has incredible tops like, for example, the Duomo (photo) where the aisles are divided by columns that once belonged to the temple of Athena (V century BC). The center of Ortigia is Piazza Duomo, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, sacred area of the Siceliota Syracuse. You can’t miss it.

In defense of the port of Ortigia in the twelfth century was built the castle of Maniace, a splendid example of military Federiciana architecture.

The temple of Apollo of the sixth century BC is the oldest Doric temple in Sicily. It is right at the beginning of Ortigia. Its ruins are testimony to the immensity of the past.


The absolute symbol of Ortigia is the source Arethusa described and sung throughout the ages. Characteristic is the papyrus inside. It was believed that the water came all the way Greece.


Among the many beautiful baroque buildings in Ortigia the photo shows a medieval one (1400): Palazzo Montalto.


Visit Sicily with the writer. Contact him.

Palazzolo Acreide top

Palazzolo Acreide

Beautiful city, a UNESCO Baroque heritage, with countless archaeological sites.

Akray (seventh century BC), Siceliota queen of Iblei Mounts, occupies the highest part of Palazzolo. In it there are several archaeological sites: a stretch of road that linked Syracuse to Selinunte (photo), a greek theater still intact, traces of the temple of Aphroditis, the gurus (worship of the Mother Goddess), cemeteries and quarries.

Palazzolo Acreide

Palazzolo acreide’s Baroque is one of the most important of the island. The masterpieces of this eighteenth-century architecture are the churches of San Paolo and San Sebastiano (photo). The palace Iudica Cafici features the world's longest baroque balcony: 300 m with 27 grotesque masks uniquely carved in stone.

Palazzolo Acreide

Palazzolo hosts the largest house museum in Sicily: the so-called House Museum Uccello.

Palazzolo's territory is crossed by very deep canyons (quarries in Sicily) almost unexplored and rich of evidence of the past. Baulì with all its ‘ddieri (cliff dwellings, photo). There are small caves with Byzantine frescoes (Grotta dei Santi), shrines (Santa Lucia di Mendola) ...


The area around Monte Lauro: Buccheri, Buscemi, Vizzini, Ferla top

I dintorni di Monte Lauro: Buccheri, Buscemi, Vizzini, Ferla

Monte Lauro is the highest peak of the Iblei Mountains (986 m). Radiating from it forests and canyons (the latter formed by the rivers that have carved the soft limestone, and arriving in the eastern sea and southern Sicily). Buccheri, Buscemi, Vizzini, Ferla ... are villages immersed in green and the white stone characteristic of the Sicilian arcitecture. Here and there, as always in Sicily, the archaeological ruins of cities, churches and dwellings carved into the rock, medieval shrines (the fourteenth-century pictures in the church of Sant'Andrea, tucked in the countryside of Buccheri).


Pantalica top


If the prehistory was a postcard, this would represent Pantalica. UNESCO World Heritage, Pantalica is a necropolis of 5000 tombs escavated in prehistoric time probably with the aid of ropes in the sheer cliffs of a canyon formed over thousands of years of erosion by the river Anapo that runs deep lush and sinuous. The area is wild and barren, it also presents yet another mystery: the palace of the Prince or Anaktoron. Evocative the presence of some striking Byzantine landscapes. You can reach Pantalica from Ferla or from Sortino.


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Augusta and Brucoli top

Augusta e Brucoli

Augusta, seaside town of Eastern Sicily. It has a Federician castle. The jewel of the place are the ruins of Megara Hybla (seventh century BC, photo). Very interesting the nearby village of Brucoli, a coveted summer destination. The site is equidistant (30 km) from Catania and Siracusa.


Lentini top


The City is scarred by several illegal housing developments though in the distant past it was one of the greatest in Sicily. The ruins of Leontinoi (seventh century BC), lie within an archaeological park in the nearby Carlentini.


Caltagirone top


An important centre at the edge of the Sicilian hinterland, it is the home of the pottery for which it is famous around the world. Beautiful and impressive (and colorful) the steps of Santa Maria del Monte: 142 steps made by local potters (photo). Caltagirone appears very noble in the monuments, streets and public gardens.

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