Earthquakes in Sicily


Eyewitness: "Then came an earthquake so horrible and ghastly that the soil undulated like the waves of a stormy sea, and the mountains danced as if drunk, and the city collapsed in one miserable moment killing more than a thousand people."

(As quoted by Stephen Tobriner: The Genesis of Noto: An Eighteenth-century Sicilian City)


Earthquakes in Sicily

  • On 11. januar 1693 Sicily was struck by an earthquake destroying more than 70 cities and killing 60.000 people. Whole cities had to be rebuilt.
  • 1726: Earthquake of Terrasini caused much damage to the church of San Salvatore
  • March 1823 see link
  • 1908 (Messina)
  • 15 January 1962: An earthquake (6.1 Richter) near Castelvetrano killed 370 people and 70.000 were made homeless.




Noto Antica

Noto Antica was a city of Sicel origin; Sicel tombs can be seen to the left as you approach the ruined city. Noto Anica lies about 10 kilometres to the north of the baroque city. It was built on Mount Alveria. The Romans called it Netum.

According to legend, Daedalus stopped here after his flight over the Ionian Sea, as well as Hercules, after his seventh task. In the Roman era, it opposed praetor Verres.

In 866 it was conquered by the Arabs, who made it a capital city of one of three districts of the island (the Val di Noto).

In 1091, it became the last Muslim stronghold in Sicily to fall to the Normans.

"The scant ruins, reduced to rubble and overgrown, are very romantic and provide inspiration for artists, photographers and writers," The Blue Guide Sicily states (p. 352). To me, Noto Antica was one of the few disappointments during my stay in Sicily in 2015. I found few visually interesting motives to photograph, and felt that the place lacked intensity.


high wall, Noto Antica

Part of the high wall in Noto Antica, next to the Parking.



Chiesa e Collegio dei Gesuiti, Noto Antica

Chiesa e Collegio dei Gesuiti, Noto Antica.



Tourist information at Noto Antica

Tourist information at Noto Antica.




The New Noto

Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, the baroque city Noto is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

San Domenico, Noto, Gagliardi

The spectacular facade of the church of San Domenico by Rosario Gagliardi (1690-c. 1762) from Syracuse, "a unique figure who operated in isolation in south-eastern Sicily, and yet was part of the international scene." (Maria Giuffrè: The Baroque Architecture of Sicily) Gagliardi's most important work is probably the cathedral in Ragusa Ibla, Duomo di San Giorgio (built 1744-75). According to Maria Giuffrè, "the true breadth and originality of Gagliardi's architectural designs is only apparent in his numerous drawings, which were probably intended for didactic treatise, or perhaps as a personal dossier to display his ideas, and which can only rarely be associated with actual constructions."




baroque balcony in Noto

Detail of a balcony on Palazzo Nicolaci in Noto.


Built after the devastating earthquake in 1693, Noto – planned on a grid system by Giovanni Battista Landolina – has numerous baroque gems to offer tourists, from the breathtaking cathedral (duomo) with its monumental stairway to the incredibly charming baroque balconies.



Chiesa di S. Carlo, Noto, Sicily

Chiesa di S. Carlo.







The late baroque towns of the Val di Noto in South-Eastern Sicily that are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

The late baroque towns of the Val di Noto in South-Eastern Sicily that are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List are Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli. These towns were all rebuilt after the earthquake in 1693 on or beside towns. According to UNESCO, they represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building.

The late baroque towns inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List represents the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe. The exceptional quality of the late Baroque art and architecture in the Val di Noto lies in its geographical and chronological homogeneity, as well as its quantity, the result of the 1693 earthquake in this region. The towns were all in existence in medieval times, characteristically around a castle and with monastic foundations.




Sicilian Sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List

  • Agrigento: Archaeological Area of Agrigento (UNESCO)
  • Aeolian Islands: Isole Eolie. The group consists of seven islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea) and five small islets (Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera, Bottaro and Lisca Bianca) in the vicinity of Panarea. (UNESCO)
  • Caltagirone (UNESCO)
  • Catania (UNESCO)
  • Cefalù Cathedral
  • Militello Val di Catania (UNESCO)
  • Modica (UNESCO)
  • Monreale Cathedral
  • Mount Etna (UNESCO)
  • Noto (UNESCO)
  • Palermo: Palazzo dei Normanni (The Norman Palace)
  • Palermo: Cappella Palatina (The Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace)
  • Palermo: Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
  • Palermo: Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (also known as the Martorana)
  • Palermo: Church of San Cataldo
  • Palermo: Cathedral of Palermo
  • Palermo: The Zisa Palace (La Zisa)
  • Palermo: The Cuba Palace (La Cuba)
  • Palazzolo Acreide (UNESCO)
  • Ragusa (UNESCO)
  • Scicli (UNESCO)
  • Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (UNESCO)




Val di Noto

Ragusa Ibla

Ragusa Superiore


Noto Antica