Driving Tour: Baroque Towns

  • Start Noto
  • End Chiaramonte Gulfi
  • Length 71km; two days

A land of remote rocky gorges, sweeping views and silent valleys, Sicily's southeastern corner is home to the 'baroque triangle', an area of Unesco-listed hilltop towns famous for their lavish baroque architecture. This tour takes in some of the finest, all within easy driving distance of each other.

Just over 35km south of Syracuse, Noto is home to what is arguably Sicily's most beautiful street – Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a pedestrianised boulevard lined with golden baroque palazzi. Architecture aside, the town is also home to a number of culinary hot-spots, among them Ristorante Vicari, Ristorante Crocifisso and Manna. From Noto, pop into Riserva Naturale Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari, ideal for walking around and swimming off its beaches. Continue on to Ispica, a hilltop town overlooking a huge canyon, Cava d'Ispica, riddled with prehistoric tombs. Follow the SS115 for a further 18km to Modica, a bustling town set in a deep rocky gorge. There's excellent accommodation and a wealth of great restaurants, so this makes a good place to stay overnight. The best of the baroque sights are up in Modica Alta, the high part of town, but make sure you have energy left for the passeggiata (evening stroll) on Corso Umberto I and dinner at high-end Accursio or earthy Osteria dei Sapori Perduti.

Next morning, a short, winding, up-and-down drive through rock-littered hilltops leads to Ragusa, one of Sicily's nine provincial capitals. The town is divided in two − it's Ragusa Ibla that pulls the heart strings, a claustrophobic warren of grey stone houses and elegant palazzi that opens up onto Piazza Duomo, a superb example of 18th-century town planning. If you feel like lingering, consider lunching at casual hotspot I Banchi, owned by Michelin-lauded chef Ciccio Sultano. Alternatively, save your appetite for Chiaramonte Gulfi, a tranquil hilltop town some 20km to the north along the SP10. Dubbed the Balcone della Sicilia (Sicily’s Balcony) for its breathtaking panorama, it’s famous for its coveted olive oil and blue-ribbon pork, the latter best savoured at Ristorante Majore.