Eastern Sicily has unique pieces of Baroque art: here you can find some of this artistic style’s masterpieces, which have been gracing this island in the Mediterranean since the 17th century.
Sumptuous architecture and decorative excess are the two main features of this mannerist style, which took place in Sicily after the terrible earthquake that hit the Val di Noto in 1693. If you choose to visit this part of Sicily, you cannot forget to add three towns, symbols of Baroque art, to your travel itinerary: Ragusa, Modica and Noto.
Let’s start from Ragusa. Through peculiar steep lanes, we get to discover the lower and older nucleus of the town: Ragusa Ibla, which is rich in Baroque churches and buildings that are recognized as Word Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Let’s turn around the corner and, looking up, we can admire the beauty of the staircase that leads to the majestic Duomo di San Giorgio. Let’s keep on walking and look for the Portale di San Giorgio, symbol of the city: built in Catalan-Gothic style, it is the only part of the old Chiesa di San Giorgio that survived the earthquake. At night, some lights illuminate the portal and breathe life into a timeless piece of history of the town, offering you an amazing view.
Before going through the wide valley of Santa Domenica, which connects the 17th-century part of Ragusa to the 19th-century one, let’s go and visit the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Scale, to enjoy one of the most beautiful sights in Ragusa.
Even Ragusa Superiore, the new city, needs to be visited: here we can find many Baroque buildings, but we choose to focus our attention on Palazzo Zacco, featuring wrought-iron railings and peculiar balconies decorated with sculptures representing mermaids and musicians playing maracas, flutes and trumpets.
Its local chocolate is not the only good reason to go and visit Modica: its unique atmosphere comes from an exceptionally beautiful historic downtown, characterized by houses peculiarly attached to each other, formerly carved out of prehistoric caves, and by alleys going up Pizzo Hill.
Baroque left its mark here too: let’s start our tour of Modica from the Duomo di San Giorgio, which welcomes us with a majestic staircase of about 170 steps. Once we get on top, we are rewarded with a view of the Duomo’s sumptuous 203-foot-tall Baroque façade. The general panoramic view of the Church, which evokes the spectacular one of the Trinità dei Monti in Rome, is enhanced by the Orto del Piombo’s pensile garden.
Another Modica’s Baroque masterwork is the Chiesa di San Pietro: it welcomes us with its famous staircase adorned with statues of the 12 apostles, which guard the entrance of the cathedral. A tour inside the church will reveal exquisite decorations, marble statues and wood sculptures of great historic value.
A tour of Modica should also include a visit to the Baroque noble buildings that overlook Corso Umberto: the Palazzo Manenti, Palazzo Tedeschi and Palazzo Cannata’s facades are the result of an excellent chisel work done by local artisans.
If you choose to stay at the Dimora Edel you will enjoy the town’s beauty from a unique point of view: an early ‘900 historic building, where you can have a real luxury experience. At night, Edel’s quiet and cozy atmosphere will allow you to fully enjoy a wonderful sight of the city lights.
Last but not least, Noto is the final stop of our Sicilian Baroque tour: before the earthquake, this small town, sitting on a plateau dominating the valley of the Asinaro, was a precious masterwork of Byzantine architecture.
Some expert architects came from Rome and brought the town’s ancient beauty back to life, by reinforcing and enhancing its Baroque art’s identity: that’s why, today, we are amazed by the magnificence of the Cattedrale di San Nicolò, which had to undergo extensive renovation after its dome collapsed during a 1996 thunderstorm.
Our little tour ends here, and we’d have one more piece of advice: if you really want to enjoy Sicilian Baroque, leave your watch at home! You’d better get lost in these cities’ streets and let yourself be seduced by the magic of times gone by.