Siracusa and Noto

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Siracusa and Noto, classic white and Baroque gold

Siracusa and the South-Eastern Sicily: a world fame artistic heart. Not far you can se the famous “triangle of the Sicilian Baroque”, featured by Noto, Modica and Ragusa. In this corner of Sicily the attention is focused mainly on Siracusa – one of Unesco’s World Haritage sites featured by the “mainland” areas and the “island of Ortigia”, the old town that is connected to the other side through a bridge.

 During the Hellenic age Siracusa used to compete with Athens as far as the power and the importance are concerned and its glorious past is evident from all its monuments and streets starting with the Archaeological Park of Neapolis where you can see a big Greek Theatre – white and bright, excavated in the rocks, a masterpiece of the classical art that could contain six-thousand people where the works by Sophocles and Euripides were shown as well as the tragedies by Aeschylus. In the Southern part of the Neapolis there is the Roman amphitheatre dating back to the II century D.C., the third after the Colosseum and the Arena of Verona. Within this area there are the “latomie” (stone quarries), the very ancient stone quarries from where the white-grey limestone blocks were taken to build the town in its typical colours. These quarries are now crossed by amazing gardens of orange and lemon trees, figs and magnolias.

Archaeological treasures can be found at the Museum Paolo Orsi where a number of masterpieces belonging to the different civilizations that settled in this area can be admired. The island of Ortigia is the historical and spiritual heart of the town – it is an open-air museum featuring many remains from the Greek period as well as the Norman, the Aragon and the Baroque ones that are perfectly balanced. Actually, in spite of the mainly Baroque characteristics, the Greek origins are evident in the Duomo Square, the ancient necropolis, that is now surrounded by amazing Baroque buildings. The Museum of Medieval-Modern Art is located inside the most beautiful Catalan-Gothic palace and the Lanza and Platamone palaces in Piazza Archimede belong to the same style. You can go backwards in time until you reach the sweat water of the Aretusa’s source, a magic place that leads to the castle of Maniace, built by Frederik II that opens its shutters when the Festival of the classical Greek Theatre is held between May and June and also for the Festival of Ortigia, in September, dedicated to the avant-garde theatre.

 Noto is an amazing setting – almost completely restyled, it had already been rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 – and its Baroque style has come to new life. The most of its extraordinary monuments are located in Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the proud of this town is the Cathedral of San Nicolò, in the core of the Town Hall Square: its reopening was a very important event and its warm shades of gold are still amazing. The Villadorata palace is another important expression of the Sicilian Baroque style; it was restored in order to show the ancient wealth of the town: it features pure Baroque style – from a project by Rosario Gagliardi – and it contains ninety rooms going back to the first decades of the XVIIIth century.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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