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Val di Noto

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
The Church of Holy Souls of Purgatory, Ragusa, constructed in the latter half of the 18th century.
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv, v
Reference 1024
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2002 (26th Session)

Val di Noto (English: Province of Noto[1]) is a geographical area of south east Sicily; it is dominated by the limestone Iblean plateau. Historically, it was one of the three valli of Sicily.

The Val di Noto in the Arts

Chiesa di San Domenico - Noto

The Val di Noto owes its fame to the reconstruction which underwent after the year 1693, when the entire area was decimated by an enormous earthquake. Following the earthquake, many towns were rebuilt on entirely new sites, such as Noto and Grammichele. The rulers of the time, the kings of Spain, accounted the nobleman Giuseppe Lanza with special powers, which allowed him to redesign the damaged towns based on rational and scenographic town plans.

In fact, since the beginning of the Renaissance, architects had the dream to build an entirely new ideal city, where town planning follows rational design and streets and buildings are organized by functionality and beauty. However, only a very small part of their projects were really used, and most of them were limited to the reorganization of a street, like the Strada Nuova in Florence or the redesign of small villages, like the town of Pienza.

The earthquake gave the architects the chance to carry out those plans on a large scale. These new towns and cities were therefore redesigned according to renaissance and baroque town planning, with streets crossing each other either in a right angle or starting from major urban sites like squares with a radial pattern. Major buildings like churches, cloisters and palaces were built in order to give the streets a focal point and a majestic perspective. Many of these towns had a distinct shape, like the town of Grammichele which is based on a hexagon whose centre is the town square, consisting of the parish and town hall.

Another feature is the homogeneous structure of these towns, as the late baroque style developed in Sicily was extensively used in the rebuilding.

The area's towns were rebuilt in what came to be known as the Sicilian Baroque style; most notable the town of Noto itself, which is now a tourist attraction on account of its fine Baroque architecture.

The ancient town of Akrai (Palazzolo Acreide) was founded in 664 BCE: it was the first colony of the Corinthian settlement at Syracuse. The Syracusans steadily expanded their power over the Sicilian interior. Scarcely recorded, the ruined town was rediscovered by the historian Tommaso Fazello at the end of 16th century. Further excavations in the early 19th century by Baron Gabriele Iudica, unearthed important facts concerning the early history of eastern Sicily.

In June 2002, UNESCO inscribed eight old towns of the Val di Noto on the World Heritage List as "representing the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe".[2] The listed towns are Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa, and Scicli.


  1. ^ The Val in Val di Noto is in Sicilian and in Italian a grammatically masculine term, and it does not refer to a "Valley" as is usual in Italian geographical names, which are although always grammatically feminine, but to one of the Provinces or Governorates into which Sicily was administratively divided under the Arab rule and up until the 1812 administrative reform. The corresponding Arab term is Wāli, and the Sicilian Val is akin to the Arab Wilayah or the Turkish Vilayet, used as it would be a calque of the English term Shire
  2. ^ Noto (Italy) - No 1024rev, ICOMOS, January 2002, Advisory Body Evaluation, Unesco

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