Discovering Val di Noto

Discovering Val di Noto

Written by: Alessandro April 6, 2015

Visit Val di Noto: how to plan your journey

We couldn’t open our blog session without speaking about the Val di Noto, the land where Uncovered Sicily was born.

With this article I want to help you plan your holidays in the south-eastern side of Sicily. Start reading about its nature and history to choose your favourite destinations. Finally, discover our best delicacies which you will taste during your visits to family farms and boutique wineries.

Come here to find us, it would be a pleasure to make you discover the lights, the essences and the flavours of this gorgeous part of Sicily!

A bit of geography...

Washed by the waters of the Ionian Sea  and the Mediterranean Sea, the Val di Noto includes the south-eastern part of Sicily, between the Dittaino and the Simeto rivers on the north side and the Salso river on the west one. The area, whose name refers to one of the most influential cities in the island during the Middle Ages, includes the territories of two entire provinces, those of Siracusa and Ragusa, and part of the provinces of Catania, Enna and Caltanissetta.

The monumental wealth of the Val di Noto is concentrated in a landscape of rare beauty that, from the Hyblaean mountains to the wavy lines of the Erean Mountains, astonishes for the variety of its landscapes, colours, and sensations offered. Through the infinite network of dry stone walls, which rises and falls among Hyblean quarries and plateaus, you can understand how powerful the human contribution was to the transformation of these places. And again the sea, whose infinite shades going from the blue of the Maddalena peninsula and the turquoise of the waters of the Vendicari Nature Reserve amazes even the most inattentive travellers.

...and history: Val di Noto's Unesco Sites and the other highlights of South East Sicily

The numerous heterogeneous civilizations that have been alternating for centuries and, not less important, a multi-faceted and never monotonous landscape, make this part of Sicily a huge container of various cultural and environmental aspects. Not surprisingly, the Val di Noto boasts a high concentration of sites included in the World Heritage List of Unesco, such as Syracuse, the rocky necropolis of Pantalica and the late Baroque towns of RagusaModicaScicliNotoPalazzolo AcreideCaltagironeMilitello in Val di Catania and Catania.

  • Prehistoric sites:This area was heavily attended from as early as the pre-and proto-historic period, as evidenced by the suggestive necropolises with artificial caves-shape carved on the steep rocky walls of Cava d’Ispica and Pantalica.
  • Ancient Greek sites: From the 8th century BC, the whole east area of Sicily, and in particular the south-east one, was the destination of settlers from Greece who, founding cities like Catania, LentiniMegara Hyblaea, Syracuse and Kamarina, introduced in the island the way they lived and built. From the temples of the walls of Lentini, from the theatres of Akrai and Morgantina to the urban plants of Megara Hyblaea and Kamarina, the example of the Greek architects and planners is still there to witness the greatness of an extraordinary age.
  • Roman remains: Moreover, among the ancient ruins of the Classical world, it’s impossible not to take into account, how much was left by the Romans in Syracuse, Catania, Piazza Armerina and in the countryside of Noto, where theatresamphytheatres and villas rich in mosaics, remind us that Sicily, besides having been the first province to be established by Rome, it also represented for many centuries its barn. Until the Arab conquest of Sicily, the south-eastern part of the island played a central role  in the Mediterranean. Syracuse, which along with its large territory was inhabited during the Roman Empire by the first Christian communities of the West, was home for a few years, during the 7th century AD, of the seat of the Byzantine emperor. To this long period date back the numerous funeral hypogea scattered along the Hyblaean canyons, as well as entire towns-emporium such as the so-called Cittadella dei Maccari and Kaukana.
  • Medieval times: During the late medieval period, the Val di Noto, despite having lost its political centrality if compared to the Western Sicily, was home to important feudal institutions, such as the Dominio Reginale, which had its capitals in Syracuse, and the famous Contea di Modica (County of Modica), a real Regnum in Regno (Reign in the Kingdom). Hence, there was a remarkable drive to the construction of imposing civil and religious buildings that, drawing on the Gothic lines of the Swabian castles of Siracusa, Augusta, Catania and Lentini, enriched the architectural styles of the Catalans.
  • Baroque reconstruction: However, the immense classical and medieval architectural heritage underwent severe damages in 1693. Between the 9th and the 11th of January of that year, in fact, a series of earthquakes shattered the whole Noto Valley, causing about 60,000 deaths and destroying a large part of the inhabited areas of the time. The surviving population of Noto, Modica, Ragusa, Siracusa, Catania and other major urban centres recovered from that earthquake, building their settlements in new sites or rebuilding on the same area of the original medieval urban settings. In this scenario, besides local brilliant architects and  master builders, foreign experts were also called who, bringing constructive experiences from France, Germany, Austria and, in general, Central European countries, built the new cities according to the European architectural style of the time, which was late Baroque. Thus arose, even more radiant than before, the late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, recognised in 2002 by Unesco as considerable collective enterprise, successfully brought to a high level of architectural and artistic fulfillment.

Val di Noto Food&Wine: all the colors of our food tradition

Finally, we cannot talk about  Val di Noto, without making a brief reference  to some of its food and wine products. Following the infinite range of colours, one goes from ruby red wine of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG to the radiant one of the Pomodoro IGP (protected origin) of Pachino. From the red violet wine of DOC Eloro Pachino, based on grapes Nero d’Avola, to that brown of the tuna caught in the Ionian Sea. From the golden green of the PDO Oil “Monti Iblei”, to the amber colour of the honey of Sortino. From the intense yellow of the Ragusa PDO cheese, to the blossom white of the Hyblean ricotta cheese. Ultimately, the thousand colours of pastry-making that, from Noto to Ragusa passing through the chocolate shops of Modica, cheer the counters of the pastry shops and cafes of this incredible area up (brighten up joyously).

Take a look at our map to explore this amazing corner of Sicily and start your journey soon!