31km (19 miles) SW of Syracuse, 55km (34 miles) E of Ragusa.
The rich-looking, honey-colored buildings along Noto's Corso Vittorio Emanuele are some of the most captivating on the island, and the little town has been dubbed the 'Stone Garden' because of its sheer beauty. Justifiably the most popular day trip from Syracuse and a Unesco World Heritage site, Noto is a wonderful example of baroque town planning, since its palazzi, civic buildings, and churches were constructed after a devastating earthquake that hit the region in 1693. Its layout reflects the balance of power between the Roman Catholic Church, the state, and landowning nobles, and its curvilinear buildings sport wrought-iron balconies and breathtaking stone carvings. In the 17th century the town was wealthy, but its rich nobles only provided their eldest sons and daughters with inheritances and dowries, so they built numerous churches with accompanying convents and monasteries to house their remaining offspring. The result is a collection of architectural gems with windows shielded by billowing metal lattice work through which cloistered inhabitants could observe daily life while preserving their decorum. Chief among the fabulous churches is the Duomo (cathedral), which collapsed in 1996, but has been restored to its former glory.
Noto is set amid olive groves and almond trees on a plateau overlooking the Asinaro Valley, making for fabulous views. The town is even more magical at night, with all the buildings lit up -- you may want to stay for dinner and then stroll around, or even stay overnight. The best times to visit are in May, during the Infiorata flower festival when the streets are transformed by carpets of floral designs, or in February when locals honor the town's patron saint, San Corrado, on the 19th with an exuberant procession.