Avola is a modern and vivid town in between the Ionian Sea and the Hyblaean Mountains in a vast area rich in almond tree plantation. The almonds from Avola are exported all over the world and are mainly used for the confetti, the nougat, the blancmange, the granita’s and many other delicacies that contributed to getting Avola to be considered the land of the Sicilian almond. Besides the almond, Avola also owes its notoriety to the wine called Nero d’Avola (Black of Avola), that took its name from the vine with the same name.
The current town of Avola rose two years after the earthquake of 1693 that tore to the ground the old Avola. The first populated area lied on a hill to the west of the current one. After the earthquake the town was rebuilt with its characteristic hexagonal shape with a genius intuition for the time that brought together a better defence with a better usage of it and better preparedness against earthquakes with large streets and low buildings. The shape of the historic kern is a hexagon with a cross inscribed with the main square at its center (the Umberto I Square) and the other four squares at its ends (Queen Helena, Trieste, Theater and Vittorio Veneto). To discover the town one must start at the central square, Umberto I, with its main church dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari: the baroque temple preceded by a large churchyard bordered by pillars with statues of saints. The other squares of the hexagon are equally deserving of a visit, just like the many churches and mansions that can be sighted along the route and the superb theater in neoclassical style.
Around the old Avola, destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, the delightful canyons and natural lakes of Cavagrande of Cassibile are certainly deserving of a visit. Trapped between the gorges dug by rivers in the soft limestone of the Hyblean floor, Cavagrande of Cassibile is certainly extraordinary and suggestive.
Last but not least, Avola has a beautiful shoreline very close to the center. The main feature of the shoreline is the “roundabout on the sea” and the maritime village with its the tuna fishery the ruins of which can be seen even today.
Having visited Avola, you can proceed towards Noto, a little baroque jewel settled on a high plain that dominates the Valley of Asinaro, covered by citrus trees.
Before Ancient Noto and the Valley of Noto were destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 the town was located 10 km away, on Mount Alveria. For the reconstruction, a more accessible place was chosen: the town has been reconstructed by the rules of baroque urban development, from the streets to the marvellous nobiliary houses build with locally available limestone. The scenery is charming as every construction has been built with utmost care for every detail symbolic to the baroque, in a chain of decorated facades, enchanting balconies and many other details that won’t escape the sight of the most attentive tourist.
Noto is an important and beautiful municipality of the Sicily, a UNESCO world heritage and a required destination for all tourists in this area.
The Church of St. Francis of Asisi designed by architect Sinatra, and the Monastery of the Benedictines (containing the St. Clara Church) open on the main square of Noto, the peak of the architecture of Noto, with its characteristic flight of stairs leading to the beautiful Cathedral. Across the street from the Cathedral there is the town hall (the Ducrezio Mansion) and the Bishop’s Mansion. The equally magnificent high part of the town offers the Church of the Cross (of architect Gagliardi) with the famous Saint Mary of the Snow (aka the White Lady) signed by Laurana.
Besides the churches, of particular relevance are some nobiliary mansions, like the Nicolaci, Trigona, Astuto, that represent the pomp and splendour of this splendid corner of Siciliy.
Few km away of the new and baroque center of Noto lies the old town, a very rich location in roman times and very important in the Middle Ages, completely destroyed by the previously mentioned earthquake.
Located on the south eastern coast of the island, partially on the promontory-island of Ortigia and partially on mainland, Siracusa has a millenary history: it was founded around 734-733 BC by the Corinthians. It became the main polis of Greek Sicily and a large metropolis of the classical world. It was the fatherland of great artists and philosophers and the birthplace of him who would be defined the greatest scientist of the antiquity: Archimedes. The city has been conquered by ancient Rome in 212 BC and became the capital of the Byzantine empire during the 6th century until the Arab occupation.
After the violent earthquake of 1963, the historic center of the city took on a baroque style that still characterises it today.
The city of Siracusa with its by vast historical, architectural and scenic riches has been declared world heritage by the UNESCO in 2005 together with the rocky Necropolis of Pantalica. The religious patrimony is mostly constituted by churches, monasteries and Christian convents. Among the most notable structures, St. John’s church at the Catacombs with the remotest crypt of San Marciano, the churches of Santa Lucia alla Badia and Santa Lucia al Sepolcro and the Rotonda di Santa Lucia, all dedicated to the patron of the city. Among the most recent constructions, the Pantheon of Siracusa and the Sanctuary of the Our Lady of Tears. The largest burial area is represented by the complex system of catacombs, one of the largest in the world, originated in the late roman age. The Maniace Castle, in gothic style, rose during the first half of the third century, designed by Frederic the 2nd of Svevia and played an important military role in the city: it was used as a prison to fight against the pirate incursions. Many were the forts and the watch towers that rose all over the city.
Marzamemi is a delightful fisher’s village developed around the now abandoned tuna fishery where the tuna used to be processed and where evidence can be found of the seafaring life: boats, storage space, utensils. In the town there is a typical square with a church, the homes on a single level and the manor house of the princes of Villadorata.
Nearby these architectural pearls the vivid Sicilian nature is ready to delight the tourists with the fauna oasis of Vendicari and the clear waters of Capo Passero where the currents of the Ionian and Mediterranean Sea meet.