Noto, Sicily

Noto, Sicily

Continuing my trip in Calabria and Sicilia…

That afternoon we headed to our next city, Noto. Noto Antica lies 5 miles north on Mount Alvera. In the Roman era the city opposed the governor of Sicily, in 866 was conquered by the Arabs, and later became a rich Norman city. In the renaissance, under the kings of Sicily, the city gave birth to many important architects and musicians. However I never saw this original city as it was completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake.

The new city was built closer to the sea on the left bank of the River Asinaro. It was planned on a grid by Giovanni Battista Landolina. Being rebuild as it was, the new city is itself a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque architecture, thanks in great part to Rasario Gaglardi, Francesco Sortino, and others.

(Some of the Baroque architecture of Noto)

It is not that strange for cities for be rebuild like this in Italy. In fact the city of Old Calcata, where I spent Halloween last year, was condemned by the government and everyone from the town moved to newly-build New Calcata. Weird, huh?

Anyway, Noto. We stayed at the family owned B&B Federica. They were really sweet. Told us about the festival going on that evening, for the new mayor (actually they were waiting for us to be all settled in to go there themselves). And told us a great place to eat dinner, Trattoria Ducezio. At dinner I solidified a realization that Italians (as a generalization) really like going back to the same restaurants over trying new places.

It wasn’t dark yet (for once) when we were first walking around the city. So we checked out this new mayor celebration, which was basically a big crowd of people in the main street, some with flags. As well as the churches on the give-away-tourist-map, which Daniele (being from Rome) scoffed at saying that even the unimportant churches in Rome are more interesting. He often compares smaller cities to Rome and hates how they put less effort into their tourism industry, but try to take more money out of it. He has a good point, Rome has some amazing tourist sites, and most of them are free. However in these tiny towns you pay even to enter the church. That’s god’s house, who are you to charge an entrance fee?

(Noto celebration for their new mayor)

The next day we covered the rest of the city. We checked out of the B&B right after breakfast, but here is the thing, there are practically no publicly available bathrooms in Italy. Ever. Your best bet is a McDonald’s, and there weren’t any in this little town. My mother and aunt invented the “pee-pee-cino” where you buy a coffee to use the cafe’s restroom, but no guarantee the place even has one, and if it does, it’s probably what the Italians call a “Turkish” toilette. That’s where there is no “toilette” per say, more like what looks like a shower stall just with a bigger hole in the middle and raised sides for your feet. If you are lucky enough to find a toilette, don’t expect a toilette seat or toilette paper. Yes, even in nice places; that has nothing to do with it. It’s just how it is. Now, I’m really good at holding it in for hours and have pretty strong legs for the Turkish (thank you years of biking in San Francisco), so whatever. But I didn’t need a place to pee. I needed a ladies room. See, a bird shit on my shoulder. Twice that day.

Noto was really hot that day, but we covered it all. We saw all the churches and town buildings. We went inside the Madonna del Carmine church. We went through the old convent rooms and to the top of San Francesco d’Assisi Church, where we could see the whole town.

(View of Noto from San Francesco d’Assisi, featuring Corso Vittorio Emanuele and hills in countryside)

Every April Via Corrado Nicolaci is filled with designs of flowers. This street has a steep incline, the palace of Nicolaci noble family on the left and a little church at the top. We were there after the flowers were gone, but the designs were still marked in white and there were pictures around.

(Via Corrado Nicolaci, without the flowers)

We even eventually found sinks for me to wash off the bird poo. After striking out at a cafe and a public bathroom marked on the map, I resolved to wait for lunch. Only to find after we ordered that they didn’t have a public restroom either. But after confirming it was for me, and presumably deciding that I looked respectable enough (she must not have looked closely), the owner decided to let me use their little bathroom in the back. I was luckier the second time I got bombed, we quickly found another public restroom, this one was not locked and even had paper towels. I guess those birds really like baroque architecture.

The rest of the pictures from Noto are in my Calabria and Sicilia album: