VAL DI NOTO AND ITS TREASURES
palazzo barocco Villadorata
Val di Noto (also called Vallo di Noto) is the ancient name of one of the three territorial areas in which Sicily was subdivided, from an administrative point of view, from the Arab period (9th-11th century) to the Constitution in 1812. The name derives from the city of Noto (in which probably the seat of the Governor of the Vallo was located), and its territory included the area that today corresponds to the provinces of Siracusa, Ragusa and Catania. The other two administrative areas in which Sicily was divided were the Val Dèmone, corresponding to the north-eastern part of the island, and the Val di Mazara, the largest one, including the entire western island.
The territory of Val di Noto is an area rich in uncontaminated parks and nature reserves (such as the Vendicari Nature Reserve, the Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve, the Plemmirio and Cava d'Ispica Protected Marine Area), and important archaeological sites: the Rock Necropolis of Pantalica (included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005), with about 5,000 graves dug in the natural rock; the Archaeological Park of the Neapolis of Syracuse, with the famous Greek Theater, the Altar of Ierone II, the Roman Amphitheater, the "Ear of Dionysius" and the Norman Church of San Nicolò dei Cordari; the Villa Romana del Tellaro, a rich suburban residence of the late imperial age; the Archaeological Park of the Alveria, with necropolis and cave environments, evidence of the Greek era (remains of an agora, a gymnasium, megalithic walls) and Medieval era, as the ruins of the Norman Castle (built on a pre-existing Arab fortress), noble palaces, churches, convents of the city of Noto Antica, destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.
The Val di Noto area is at high seismic risk caused by the geological instability due to the collision between the Eurasian and North African plates, as demonstrated by the earthquakes of 1542 and, above all, that of 1693, one of the most devastating in Sicily, which reduced the major urban centers of the Vallo to rubble. The chronicles of the time and the official documents of the Spanish government (which dominated the island at that time) report that the earthquakes of 1693 caused 93,000 victims and the destruction of nearly sixty cities, some of which have been completely destroyed, others heavily damaged or partly demolished.
After the earthquake, the reconstruction of Val di Noto had such unprecedented proportions as to be considered a unique case in the world, with urbanistic, architectural and artistic solutions that led the baroque style to flourish in this south-eastern area of the Island. Thus, the Val di Noto became the largest construction site in the history of Sicily, and the most important laboratory of Baroque urbanism. For this reason, in 2002 the eight cities affected by this important reconstructive episode, (Caltagirone, Catania, Militello in Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli) have been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with the following reasons:
1. the cities assigned to the title of Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily) are an exceptional example of late Baroque art and architecture;
2. they represent the peak and the last flowering of the European Baroque;
3. the quality of this heritage is also highlighted by the homogeneity, caused by the simultaneous reconstruction of the cities;
4. the eight cities are in permanent risk due to earthquakes and Etna eruptions.