The Sicily Series | Part VI – Noble Noto, treasure of the Baroque
I had heard much about Noto, the small town in the South Eastern corner of Sicily, before going. In fact the promise of a radiant Baroque treasure so intact that it has been granted UNESCO protection was what persuaded me that this would make the perfect base for the second half of our trip to Sicily. Yet as we approached the town, nerves started to take over. Not only were the surrounding landscapes devoid of civilisation, but the immediate outskirts of the town were anything but baroque. However there came a point when we crossed the brow of a hill and suddenly the landscape transformed; when what stood before us was an urban panorama which literally dazzled. Here was a horizon peppered with cupolas and embellished roof tops, with extravagant decoration and exquisite carvings. But above all things one imbedded with glowing tones of a creamy honey coloured yellow. This was the notorious Noto to which all the guidebooks had referred.
Built in the early 1700s almost entirely in one go when the former town of Noto was destroyed by an earthquake, the Noto we see today is inherently characterised by the baroque fashions which dictated its construction. The result is a town almost perfectly intact in its baroque splendour. Every building is elaborated with architectural flourishes, with putti and angels, with classical columns and vast sweeping staircases. But while the Baroque of Catania is darkened through the use of Etna stone, Noto’s constructions are luminescent in their creamy vanilla yellow turning a deeper shade of gold.
Thus the town glows and dazzles like a jeweller’s window or an architectural showroom from another century. But beyond its obvious splendour, it is a town which feels alive with a spirit of recreational indulgence and amenable sociability. As the sun descended each day, the swallows would swoop through the air, and the temperatures fell to a more bearable level. In this moment, Noto’s principle Corso Vittorio Emanuele would become a veritable magnet to residents and tourists alike.
As the great caramelised sun descended, the stone of Noto transformed into a heavenly shade of creamy ochre, and the best way in which to enjoy la bella vita was to sit in sidewalk cafes, sip on an affogato al cafe or drink a sparkling prosecco. Reclining back in the evening sun, the great silhouette of Noto’s grand spectacles warming the eye, it was truly possible to bask in the town’s reflected glory, and to become as resplendently baroque as the ravishingly theatrical town itself.
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