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Posts tagged ‘Noto’

The Sicily Series | Part X – Baroque Round-up

From Catania to Noto, and all the lavishly decorated theatrical towns in between, Baroque was a huge feature of our Sicilian adventure, and very much characterised the look and feel of South Eastern Sicily. Yes, of course modernity has crept in, placing its often ugly stamp around these towns of baroque splendour, but Sicily is no Manhattan, and for the most part it is the ancient architecture which continues to dominate, even though it is often tired, dilapidated and a mere shadow of its former self. This, I think, is the true essence of the Sicilian Baroque: complete over the top theatricality while bearing all the signs of age and weathering which is a side effect of the harsh climate and the poor economic conditions which still dominate in the region.

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For me, nostalgically romantic as ever, it is this battered and broken appearance which gives the Sicilian Baroque its charm, furnishing it somehow for my perception of what the Mediterrananen aesthetic should always look like. Fascinated, I took a lot of photos, as the elaborate lines and fantastical detail of the baroque flourishes became more and more over top. While, throughout the Sicily series on my blog, you will already have seen many of these, I thought I would end this Daily Norm trip to Sicily with a final round up of the many baroque splendours on show.

So let me indulge you in the beautiful Baroque of Sicily, in the abundance of putti (cherubs) and swirling clouds that offer the promise of paradise. Gaze in wonder as life-like statues of the apostles and the saints appear to come to life upon their baroque stage-set, and be dazzled by the plethora of intricately carved balcony corbels, each displaying its unique take on the ultimate Sicilian decoration, as angels and demons, animals and even house owners are rendered in stone and set at the base of palace balconies where they can be best admired from the street below.

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Sicily is characterised by its food and its people, by its climate and its architecture, but chief amongst its influences are the tectonic actives and that ever dangerous volcano, Etna, which have so often caused havoc on the island. But with disaster comes beauty, and were it not for the great earthquake of 1693, Sicily might never have been presented with this opportunity to redesign itself in the baroque style. Today we cannot help but admire this aesthetic all the more, both for its fortuitous advent, but also in the knowledge that its fragile foundations may be rocked again one day when the powers below the earth decide its time to stir again…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

 

My Sicily Sketchbook: Cattedrale di Noto

It was the evenings in Noto that we enjoyed the most. Strolling down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele with the sun sinking straight ahead to the West lent an ephemeral golden light to the time of the passeggiata stroll, touching people’s heads with a radiant halo, and reflecting wonderfully across every shiny surface, each café table top, ice cream kiosk and resplendent baroque building.

From the first of these euphoric evenings onwards, we found ourselves a local haunt. The Chiosco della Cattedralle was a cafe sprawling out of an old fashioned gelato kiosk which benefitted from an unrivalled position in front of the sweeping staircase leading up to Noto’s Cathedral of Saint Nicholas. Appropriate, give the name, that I should feel so comfortable there, although my partner was likewise a fan – for there we could enjoy the best affogato al caffe in town, while the prosecco packed a mean punch too.

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Cattedrale di Noto (Pen on paper, ©2017 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

So with affogato, prosecco, a book (for Dominik) and a sketchbook (for me) we would hang out each evening in front of our favourite cathedral view, and it was in those delirious moments of complete calm that I set about sketching the marvellous vista before us. Of course being baroque, the facade of Noto’s cathedral is pretty much as complex as they get, and there was no way I was going to attempt to capture it all. Contenting myself instead to a small portion of the mighty facade, I created this work, a sketch which remained mercifully free of drips of melted affogato, but which nevertheless retains for me the beautiful spirit of those golden summer evenings in one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.

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Sketching in Noto…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.