Italy

Baroque Towns of Sicily: Noto, Modica, and Ragusa

With the time it takes to get from one place to another in Sicily, it’s a huge island, we decided to skip the hotel breakfast and have an early start so we can visit more places. We left the hotel by 7 am for our day’s adventure to explore the baroque towns: Noto, Modica, and Ragusa. All those three towns were all rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake. It took 2 hours to get to our first stop, Noto, from Taormina so we arrived at 9 am and there was plenty of free street parking right on the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, at the entrance of the Royal Gate (Porta Reale).

I loved the quietness in the early morning; I felt like I have the town to ourselves! Then, we noticed there were a lot of China flags along the street and we were wondering if there’s any special event going on with China….in Sicily!

The first beautiful square we arrived was Piazza Immacolata with the famous staircase of Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata. The massive staircase stood out and we ran to it to take some photos before other people arrived.

We went to the church to check out its interior architecture; it is dominated by white columns and paintings.

Continued with our walk down the avenue and arrived at Town Hall Square (Piazza Municipio). The Town Hall (Palace Ducezio) building is magnificent!

We saw a sign “Hall of Mirror tour” so we walked in to check it out. The receptionist said it opens at 10 am so we’ll need to come back in a few minutes. Isn’t the building looked amazing?

The glass chandelier hanging down at the entrance of the Town Hall.

Right across from the Town Hall is yet another famous landmark: Noto Cathedral (Cathedral of San Nicola di Mira).

More staircases to the church! As we were about to enter the church, we saw a group of students walking in like they are on a field trip so we decided to come back to the church later to avoid the crowds.

Next is another famous street: Via Nicolaci. It might look ordinary now but notice the chalk mark on the street? It is for the yearly Infiorata di Noto that occurs on the 3rd weekend of May; we were one week early 🙁 During the festival, this street would be covered by flower petals arranged in a way to create mosaics.

We walked back to the Noto Cathedral to check out its interior. I was a little surprised by the grand facade outside but inside is very simple.

I was more impressed by the huge doors!

Right on the stairs of Noto Cathedral, it has the best view of the Town Hall 😀

At 10 am, we walked back to the Town Hall for the Hall of Mirrors and there was no one at the reception urggg… We waited for over 10 minutes and finally, a staff arrived! We paid the admission fee of €3 (if I remember correctly) and the Hall of Mirrors room was just next to the receptionist’s desk LOL. He showed us the room and we were the only ones in there to take our time to take photos!

Well….what it means by Hall of Mirrors are those two adjacently sided mirrors so when you look at one of them, the reflections from each made it looked like infinite. It is nothing like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles but the room is grand indeed.

The ceiling is very beautiful and huge that even my wide angle lens couldn’t fit it in the frame.

More photos of the room:

 

At last, I placed my camera on the floor to get as wide as it could but still missing the edge.

We walked to the side street and saw this cute car, it is so tiny!

Along the main avenue is the St. Charles Church where we paid €2 to climb the spiral narrow staircase up to the bell tower for the views.

It has the best view of Via Nicolaci and 365 degrees view of the baroque town of Noto!

 

The church itself has beautiful paintings on its ceiling.

As we were exploring the side streets, we couldn’t believe it we ran into this street and saw the “flower carpets”!!! The mosaics were Asian themed too, they were beautiful! I couldn’t be happier!

The Chinese opera theme one, it looked amazing!

Wahh this Japanese one with cherry blossoms, I really like this one!

And more…

The last church we visited in Noto was Chiesa di Santa Chiara, I love its interior with its circular white dome and columns.

We left Noto at around 11 for our lunch stop at the fishing village of Marzamemi: Campisi Salvatore. Google Maps guided us through a very narrow one-lane bridge to reach the fishing village, I would be scared if I was the driver! So stick to the main road even Google thinks it would save you a minute or two! Once we entered the fishing village, there is a huge parking lot; they charged €3. It was a distance walk to the restaurant at the far end of the village. We walked by the shore and the water was crystal clear!

The little “beach” where there were people swimming there.

The restaurant just opened when we reached there but still a wait to order our food because only one waitress speaks English. The menu was limited choices and not what I expected to be….they don’t even have the basic steam mussels, so sad! For starter, we ordered a mixed seafood dish……the grilled octopus was very good and I like the sauce.

For the main course, we ordered the fried calamari (fresh, crispy, and once again the sauce made the dish enjoyable) and a hum…….sort of like risotto but not. The texture was interesting but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The view was okay looking out to the sea but not the pretty turquoise water that I would expect.

After lunch and waiting for the only English speaking waitress to hand me the bill, Jason took the camera to take some photos of the harbor. Across the harbor is the village center.

Nice crab shells, I wondered why Italians don’t eat crabs? I have never seen crabs on the menu in Italy!!!

The restaurant has a good atmosphere but slow….

The blue and white themed by the sea reminded me of Greek Islands….awwww I miss Greece!

After lunch, we took a stroll along that street before heading to the center of the village…..it was not much to see!

So we turned back and walked to the village center…

It has more restaurants and shops over this side of the village…

But it is only this one square that I saw in photos that misled me; I was expecting a big fishing village with all those pretty shops instead of just this one square. It was nice to take some photos of the shops highly decorated with flowers. In my opinion, it was not worth the stop; I would continue exploring more baroque towns instead! But since we made the stop there, we took some photos and left.

Do you see the sewing machine?

We walked back to the parking lot and headed off to the next baroque town in our list: Modica. Purged on a cliff; the rows of yellow houses looked like stacking from one to another.

The must-see in Modica is Basilica di San Giorgio, I think the most beautiful baroque cathedral I have seen in Sicily!

The exterior facade is incredibly detailed!!!

No idea why but in almost every Cathedral, there’s a young man sitting at the entrance begging for money; see that young guy there?

The interior is pretty with blue complemented the golden outlines of the craved artworks. I usually think those bird nets ruined the design of the cathedral but in this case not too distracting because of its color.

Can you believe that we were the only ones there in such a big cathedral???

Once again, we paid the small fee to walk up to the bell tower for the best views of the town. It reminded me of Matera!

Haha be very cautious with those low metal beams 😉

Another side view of the town, I took a panorama to show how the town was built on each side of the mountain!

I love the facade of Basilica di San Giorgio and the guy left so I wanted more photos with it 😀

I know I said this already, it is a must-see in Modica, very worth the climb!

The narrow streets in Modica but at least not curvy and hilly like Taormina so it was an easy job for Jason!

The last of the three baroque towns: Ragusa, the mountain road to get there offered excellent views of the town but too bad they didn’t build any stop viewpoints along the way for photos so by the time I pulled out my camera, the best views were passed 🙁

There are a few free public parking lots along the sides of the old town so it is very convenient for tourists. I didn’t realize how big and spread out Ragusa is so I recommend to allocate more time to spend in this town with plenty to see!

Ragusa has some other than yellow colored houses like this very stand out – orange/reddish hotel.

The first point of interest on my list was Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria; what attracted me is its blue-domed bell tower. I located the church from Google Maps but where could I locate the viewpoint to see its blue-domed bell tower? We arrived at the church and confirmed this is the one by the blue-domed bell tower looking from the ground:

We tried our luck by keep walking up the stairs and hum….didn’t look like it and turned back down a little bit. We stopped at this wonderful building with a very nice facade for a photo:

Then walked out to the bigger street and kept going up till we saw this, by chance, we found the viewing point! The blue-domed bell tower with the flower terracotta really stands out!

I was so glad that we found it by chance! After that, we headed down to the center and stopped by Chiesa Anime Sante del Purgatorio to check it out the interior. So far this is like the fourth cathedral with white interior!

Next, I plugged in Google Maps for the walking direction to San Giorgio and kept walking through the town.

The narrow streets shared with pedestrians, it is best to get a small car in Sicily!

Approaching the cathedral…

At first, I thought it was closed because the gate at the front was locked up…Jason stick the lens in for this photo:

Then, we saw a sign saying entrance to the church on the side entrance. The cathedral is much darker compared to the other cathedrals but it is still white ceiling and columns but decorated with those red draped curtains. It reminded me of a theatre! What attracted us were those light beams from the dome.

The facade of San Giorgio; it’s not as detailed as Basilica di San Giorgio 😉

Piazza del Duomo with San Giorgio at the end.

The town was large enough that there is a tourist train!

We checked out the shops in the plaza, this creative lamp shop, I want to take one home but such a hard item to transport back home especially Sicily was only our first stop in our world tour 🙁

It was already 5 pm and there was one more place we want to visit in Ragusa: Castello di Donnafugata. However when I plugged in Google Maps, it said it is closed on Monday 🙁 So we headed back to Taormina which took 2 hours. Our car finally fitted in the 4 parking spaces in front of the hotel so took some photos of those flight of stairs up to the hotel.

After a short bathroom break, we headed out for dinner and before walking down those flight of stairs, we went up to check out the sunset views at the rooftop of the hotel.

 

 

See our car (the black one) finally fit into the limited space? That was the only space that would fit our car, the other two spaces, the back of the car would stick out.

We got down to the town and arrived at a different entrance haha….we tried different roads each day!

We were on the other end of town that we haven’t been to yet so it was nice to explore this side of town.

The buildings were very cute and decorated 😀

Lovely hanging lamps and very good use of the stairway as a shop itself!

A stairway art gallery!

We walked to Trattoria Don Ciccio for dinner since our first choice Trattoria Tiramisù was closed on Mondays. We were super glad we went to Trattoria Don Ciccio, first, we were given free champagne and a toast! Which restaurant will give you this amount of champagne for free??? Too bad I don’t drink alcohol but Jason drink his, he said it was good champagne too!

The steamed mussels were cooked almost perfectly!

The seafood risotto, on my first bite, my eyes were like O.O and I told Jason “OMG, it is so good!” Jason didn’t believe it and he took a scope, he totally agreed!!! It was the best risotto we had so far….the seafood taste all absorbed into the rice and about the right softness for our Asian taste buds. Every bite was burst with seafood flavors!!! We are not a fan of Italian risotto so we always preferred seafood pasta but this has totally changed our perspective of risotto! Must-try please!!!

The seafood pasta was excellent too. Let me put it this way, we had been to a few places where we had excellent seafood pasta but this is the only place we had such excellent seafood risotto so when you put those two together, the seafood pasta wasn’t as impressive.

We were super satisfied with both and for the main entree…remember in Italy the pasta/risotto is the second course only…..we ordered the seafood soup. After both the super yummy pasta and risotto, I had a high expectation of the seafood soup but I guess too high that we weren’t impressed by the seafood soup. I was expecting more “seafood sweet” flavors but it was a little bit heavy in the salty side. The soup was good but not impressive.

Our super delicious and filling dinner cost $86.56. Without hesitation, we decided to come back for the next dinner, we wanted the seafood risotto again!!! Our long walk filled with climbing stairs helped to burn off some of the calories haha! It was a long day for us, we started at 7 am and came back at 7 pm…12 hours of exploring the baroque towns. Our favorite was Noto, we just wished that we had more time to spend in Ragusa and should’ve skipped Marzamemi for it! Overall, we enjoyed the baroque towns of Sicily 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *