Baroque towns

The southeast and its baroque cities

UNESCO world cultural heritage

The baroque towns of the Val di Noto form an ensemble in south-eastern Sicily. Among them are Palazzolo Acreide, Noto, Modica, Ragusa and Scicli, and further north those of Catania, Caltagirone

and Militello in Val di Catania. All of these towns were declared UNESCO world heritage sites in 2002.


Noto lies in the province of Syracuse and has around 24,000 inhabitants. German travel magazine Merian described Noto in a 1999 special on Sicily as crumbling away without any chance of rescuing her.


Modica is home to approximately 55,000 people and lies in the province of Ragusa only 35 km away from Noto. A town worth seeing, Modica was built in a ravine where the houses seem to stick to the slope.

Not only is Modica known for its countless churches and palaces but also for its excellent chocolate which we love to buy at the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. The historical centre goes up into the upper parts of town where a newer district with shopping streets now exists.
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Ragusa is the capital of the province which bears the same name and has a population of around 73,000 inhabitants. A result of the city’s reconstruction is the juxtaposition of the “new” upper part of Ragusa with

straight, wide streets and the winding alleys of the lower part of Ragusa Ibla, which was built on the ruins of the medieval town. Today, the provincial capital is Sicily’s richest commune; its 18 baroque buildings make up one of UNESCO’s biggest urban ensembles. Not far from Ragusa lies the Donnafugata castle, which was immortalized in Tomasi di Lampedusa’s book “The Leopard”. We recommend the following road when coming from Noto: when driving towards Rosolini turn right onto the SP 17 towards Modica. We love this road which is lined with ancient locust trees and dry stone walls. You will then arrive directly into Modica’s historic town centre. Take the small panorama road SS 115 (not to be confused with the main road SS 115 E45) to Ragusa Ibla starting from the centre of Modica Bassa following the road past the church of St. Giorgio.
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Scicli has 27,000 inhabitants and belongs to the already mentioned five baroque cities in the south-east. Scicli maybe isn’t as famous as Noto, Ragusa and Modica, but is definitely worth the visit. Both she and Ragusa are known in Italy as the filming locations for the Commissario Montalbano series, based on the books by Andrea Camillieri.

Palazzolo Acreide

This small city in the Monti Iblei is a real jewel. You don’t really expect this much classiness from a place with just about 9,000 inhabitants nested in the middle of limestone mountains. A historic centre well worth seeing,

a few elegant cafes and plenty of good restaursnts as well as a well-kept greek theatre make the visit worthwhile. Palazzolo Acreide’s location makes it a good base from where to organise short visits to Buccheri, Buscerni, the Cava Grande del Cassibile or the Pantallica ravine.
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Siracusa was declared a UNESCO-world heritage site in 2005 for other reasons than those which give the other cities mentioned above their renown: the places and buildings which make up the ensemble of

Siracusa/Pantalica provide a unique collection of remarkable testimonies of the meditarranean cultures which flourished over the centuries in the some area. The historic city on the island of Ortigia, which was once left to crumble and decay, is now one of the most beautiful places by the sea which we know of. Narrow alleys, promenades by the sea, a great market and a marvellous cathedral on the impressive cathedral square make Ortigia a unique place to visit.
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