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The architectural style known as Sicilian Baroque is unique to this beautiful Italian island. It flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries and is dominated by the classic Baroque flourishes of sweeping curves and orate decorations. What makes Sicilian Baroque unique is the addition of cherubs (putti), masks and balconies that also adorn these dramatic buildings.
After a series of earthquakes in southeastern Sicily in the middle ages this is the style that was in fashion when it was time to rebuild these devastated communities. Which is why these elaborate churches and palaces with decorated balconies make up most of the architecture in this corner of Sicily.
UNESCO decided these eight towns collectively known as the Val di Noto; Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli are of such architectural importance they are now protected.
Here’s our guide to some of the most notable examples of this delightful and unique element that you can only find in Sicily.
Caltagirone is best known for its production of mailoca and terracotta ceramics. Even the towns name which comes from the Arabic qal’at-al-jarar means ‘castle of [pottery] jars’. You will find six churches here and the ceramic tiles stairs that are part of Santa Maria dei Monte are a highlight.
This ancient town has seven churches and eight palaces that are wonderful examples of the Sicilian Baroque style.
Catania is a busy port city that is a perfect place to begin your Baroque exploring. The main cathedral, Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, is only the beginning. There are over fifty more churches in this city. Wander through the market and make sure to look up along the way so you can take in the many details.
Split in two, Modica Alta and Modica Bassa, on the slopes of the Ibeli hills – this city is known for two things. The main cathedral San Giorgio with its impressive staircase and for the unique chocolate the town produces.
No visit to the charming ocra coloured town of Noto is complete without a visit to the main cathedral the Cattedrale di San Nicolò di Mira, and you have thirty more you can discover here. Take a break from your architectural tour with a stop at a café for a pastry or a granita.
The Church of St. Sebastian is the best example of Sicilian Baroque style in this town which also boasts Greek and Roman ruins.
Like Noto and Modica, Ragusa is also split into two: separated by two deep valleys, the Cava San Leonardo and the Cava Santa Domenica. The Ragusa Cathedral, San Giovanni Battista, is in the upper part of the town. The lower town is called Ragusa Ibla and is home to rich collection of Sicilian Baroque palaces and churches.
The origins of Scicli date back to the Bronze Age. The town is always a popular destination, but it really comes alive at Christmas, Easter and early May when there are elaborate religious processions.