When we planned our trip to Sicily last summer there were two things I knew immediately: I wanted to spend a lot of time at the beach, and I wanted to go to Noto in Sicily. It seems fitting that now I’m here writing a guide to Noto because it lived up to the hype and I’m really excited to share all the best things to do in Noto with you guys!
Odds are that you’ve heard of Noto because of its cameo in The White Lotus last year. The characters make quite a big deal over going to Noto, and honestly, mood! When we were there we ended up in town on the same night as Madonna—no seriously, I’m not joking, she was having dinner in Noto!—so it’s safe to say Noto has been a place to be.
Noto is definitely worth the trip, and I think once you’ve read through this guide to Noto you’re most definitely going to agree.
First I’m gonna shed some light on what the big deal is with Noto, and then I’ll cover all the specifics of where to stay in Noto, what to see in Noto, where to eat in Noto and what to do in Noto. So get comfortable, grab your notes and let’s plan a trip to Sicily’s Baroque gem!
- Is Noto, Sicily, worth visiting?
- Which is better, Noto or Ragusa?
- How long do you need in Noto?
- How do I spend a day in Noto?
- What is Noto, Sicily, known for?
- How far is the beach from Noto?
- Is Noto a good base for Sicily?
- Where to stay in Noto
- What to see in Noto, Sicliy
- What to do in Noto
- Where to eat in Noto
Is Noto, Sicily, worth visiting?
Short answer: yes.
Noto in Sicily is one of the best examples of the stunning and historic Baroque architecture that eastern Sicily is famous for—it’s even UNESCO protected. Walking along the pedestrianized streets will give you a true fairy tale feel to your trip, and you can explore all the cute boutiques and amazing restaurants that this gem has to offer.
Still unconvinced? Noto is also surrounded by beautiful countryside, making it a perfect destination for anyone who wants to explore the natural beauty of Sicily. Overall, Noto is a charming and unique destination that I think is definitely worth visiting for anyone who appreciates history, architecture, and natural beauty.
Which is better, Noto or Ragusa?
Honestly, I think Noto and Ragusa are both beautiful and charming destinations that would be a worthy addition to your Sicily itinerary. They’re both known for their well-preserved Baroque architecture, which is a unique blend of Sicilian and Mediterranean styles from the 17th and 18th centuries. However, they each have their own unique characteristics that make them stand out, and because this is a guide to Noto, I bet you can guess where I land ;).
Noto is known for its incredible palaces and churches, as well as its beautiful countryside. It’s the perfect destination for those who love to explore the great outdoors and appreciate history and architecture. Noto is also home to tons of excellent restaurants that serve traditional Sicilian cuisine. It really gives a quintessential look at what the Eastern side of Sicily has to offer.
Ragusa, on the other hand, is more modern and lively. It’s well known for its beauty and its bustling nightlife. It definitely feels more like a city than Noto might, and is a stronger option between the two for those eager to go out and experience Sicilian nightlife.
If it was up to me, I would suggest you try to fit both into your itinerary, but ultimately it depends on what you are looking for in a vacation. If you appreciate history, architecture, and natural beauty and want to get a feel for the Sicily that once was, then Noto is a great choice. If you are looking for a more modern and lively town, then Ragusa is a perfect destination.
How long do you need in Noto?
How long you need in Noto of course depends on your personal interests and travel style. When we went we stayed just outside of Noto in a gorgeous agriturismo for 4 nights, and we found this to be ideal for exploring both Noto and the surrounding areas.
The sites of Noto itself can comfortably be visited over the course of an afternoon – it is a pretty small town at the end of the day! That said, this area really does make a lot of sense to serve as a home base if you’re looking to explore more of the countryside and cities of southeastern Sicily.
We used Noto as a jumping off point to explore Siracusa, the Vendicari Nature Reserve, Modica, Ragusa, Palazzolo Acreide, and the beaches near Isola delle Correnti. The great thing about our decision was that, although there aren’t that many things to do in Noto, it is centrally located between all of these places making our exploration very convenient.
Another thing to consider is that if you are looking for a traditional agriturismo experience in southeastern Sicily, Noto and its surrounding countryside are your best bet to find it!
How do I spend a day in Noto?
While the rest of my guide to Noto will delve into more detail, I’ll give a quick run down of all the most important things to do in Noto if you’ve only budgeted for a day trip – it’s going to be super doable, and I’ve got you covered.
You should definitely start your day trip at the the Cathedral of San Nicolò, which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful churches in the area. We spent a bit of time taking pictures on the steps leading up to the gorgeous, ornate facade and admiring its beauty. I was genuinely in awe standing in front of it!
Noto is famous for its stunning display of Baroque architecture, so make sure you spend some time exploring all of the important Baroque buildings as you walk along the main roads. Luckily, whether you’re in love with Baroque architecture or not, you will most definitely enjoy your time as there are endless boutiques to stop into as you explore Noto.
Depending what time you’re visiting, you should try to have a meal at a local restaurant! Noto is known for its delicious Sicilian cuisine, and I can attest to the fact that it was delicious. If you can fit it in between all the strolling and eating and gelato having, visit the Palazzo Nicolaci, a stunning 18th century palace that’s now a museum showing the history and culture of Noto.
A fun way to wrap up the day is by taking a short drive to the nearby Noto Marina, a picturesque fishing village that absolutely deserves a stroll around. You can enjoy the sunset and take in the tranquil atmosphere before getting back to your packed holiday!
What is Noto, Sicily, known for?
Noto is probably most well known for its well-preserved Baroque architecture and beautiful churches. As I’ve already mentioned, the historic center of Noto is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often referred to as the “stone garden” because the amount of Baroque buildings that are made of local stone. It’s truly a stunning sight to see as you walk around the center.
When talking about Noto and Baroque buildings, you can’t not mention the Cathedral of San Nicolò, which is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the area, and is probably the most famous building in Noto.
Sicilian cuisine is also very easily found in Noto. It’s especially known for its sweet pastries and traditional desserts such as the “Cassata Siciliana” and “Cannoli Siciliani”. But of course if you want to stick the the basics, you’ll have no trouble finding a million gelato spots, or alternatively, granita from Caffè Sicilia is always a good idea.
How far is the beach from Noto?
Though Noto is technically more inland than some of the other well known cities on the eastern side of Sicily, it’s still relatively close to the water, so if you do choose to make Noto a base for your travels, you’ll have an easy time getting to and from the sea within 20 minutes.
We actually visited the beach three times while staying in Noto! We visited both Fontane Bianche and Calamosche in the Vendicari Nature Reserve – both of which were less than 20 minutes from our agriturismo right outside Noto. Once we drove all the way down to Sicily’s southernmost point to visit an amazing beach club called Kalè Portopalo (which I highly recommend!!), and that took only 35 minutes!
If you’re looking for more information about these beaches or any others, I’ve got the whole run down in my article on The Best Beaches in Sicily.
Is Noto a good base for Sicily?
Noto is an incredibly beautiful, historic and important destination for any Sicily itinerary. However, in my opinion, the city is not only a cultural destination with things to do in Noto proper, but also a great base for exploring the rest of Sicily. When we stayed in Sicily we spent four nights in Noto, and felt that it was an ideal setting to both relax and explore what Noto had to offer, but also to tackle all of the surrounding areas both up and down the coast!
The town itself is well-connected which makes it easy to reach other popular destinations such as the cities of Siracusa, Catania, and Ragusa. It’s also located pretty close to the coast, so it’s an ideal destination for beach lovers and culture lovers alike.
Plus, because Noto is also close to the Vendicari Nature Reserve, Noto Antica, and Cavagrande del Cassibile, it’s perfect for visitors who want to get out of the hustle and bustle and spend time with nature.
Overall, I think Noto is a great base for exploring the island of Sicily. The town offers a perfect combination of history, culture, and natural beauty, and its central location makes it easy to reach other popular destinations.
Whether you’re interested in culture, history, or nature, Noto is an ideal place to base part of your adventure in Sicily.
Guide to Noto in Sicily: Stay, See, Do, Eat
Where to stay in Noto
Before you can plan all the exciting things to do in Noto, if you plan to base yourself in the area you’ll need to book your accommodation. Let me help you out with a few of my favorite options – one hotel in Noto itself, the agriturismo we stayed at, and a vacation rental if you’re looking for something a bit more private and a la carte.
You can also check out my full guide to the best hotels and Vrbos in Noto if you’re looking for a wider selection of choices.
When we were trying to decide where to stay in Noto, we knew that we were very keen on having an Italian agriturismo experience. Don’t get me wrong – we also love a city-focused trip, but something about the sprawling property with vineyards, gardens, etc. just begging you to explore it was really attractive to us.
Hotel Villa Favorita – just a couple of minutes outside Noto – came through for us! Not only is this gorgeous 18th century summer villa wonderfully decorated and charmingly Baroque, but its on-site pool area (with a dreamy sunset view over Noto itself), restaurant and gardens were exactly the experience we were after!
Villa Favorita was close enough to Noto that we were able to easily drive into town (or take a cheap taxi ride!) for dinner, but also had such a mouth-wateringly delicious menu that we ended up eating there two out of our four nights!
Within walking distance of all the best things to do in Noto, this stunning boutique hotel in the city center will have you truly living your Baroque duchess dreams not only when you step outside, but also inside the property itself.
This gorgeous hotel blends on trend, high design with Baroque inspiration and ornamentation for a truly luxurious feel. Actually, each room at Q92 Boutique Hotel is unique, meaning you’ll have that wonderful feeling of the experience being catered directly to you while you’re there.
Oh, did I mention the plunge pool and breakfast terrace with a view of the Cathedral of San Nicolò?!
For those of you after a more DIY visit to Noto, this apartment in the more residential part of the city will give you ample access to the more famous things to do in Noto featured in this guide, as well as a more local perspective on the life of the city.
Tastefully yet simply decorated, this apartment has Baroque touches layered on top of sleek, minimalist floors and dreamy dark wood finishes. It also features a private roof terrace with absolutely mind-blowing views over Noto.
The owner also prominently advertises remote work, so you can be sure this place will feature excellent wifi!
What to see in Noto, Sicliy
As I’m sure you can tell, with so many things to do in Noto and the surrounding areas, what to see in Noto will all depend on your priorities and your timeline. However, I do think that there are some absolutely unmissable things to do in Noto, so let’s start there!
In the city of Noto itself
The Cathedral of San Nicolò is a beautiful Baroque church located in the heart of Noto, known for its impressive architecture and intricate decoration both inside and out. This cathedral is basically the crown jewel of Noto, and, lucky for you, you basically can’t miss it. It’s right smack in the center of the city on the main road. If you’re walking through town, you’re going to come upon it at one point or another. So I like to recommend starting here.
Across the street from the cathedral sits the Palazzo Ducezio, a grand 18th-century palace that serves as the town hall of Noto and is open to visitors. Because it’s right across the street, you’ll end up seeing these two stunning buildings at the same time, making it very convenient. If you decide to go inside there is a roof terrace with stunning views, but otherwise not too much to see within the palazzo.
Continuing on with the theme of impressive Baroque buildings, we have the Church of San Carlo and the Church of Santa Chiara, also both located in the center of Noto, just a bit farther down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele from the Cathedral of San Nicolò. These churches are also known for their impressive decoration and frescoes. And we can’t forget the Palazzo Nicolaci, a grand 18th-century palace that’s open to visitors and boasts a series of rotating exhibitions inside.
In the surrounding area of Val di Noto
Noto has plenty to see in the surrounding areas as well. I recommend taking a quick trip down to the Noto Marina, a popular beach located just a short distance from Noto. Here you can explore a nice coastal area, spend time at a very well kept beach, and enjoy a meal on the promenade while looking out at the stunning sea. If you happen to be there when the market is open, I recommend strolling through it and checking out the pace of local life, as well as exploring the stalls of course! Exploring a market is honestly one of my favorite things to do while traveling.
In my opinion, if you’re staying in Noto for longer than a day, then you should really prioritize a visit to the Vendicari Nature Reserve, a protected area of great naturalistic and cultural interest, known for its beautiful beaches and rich wildlife. Within the nature reserve you can visit a couple of beaches, such as Calamosche, Eloro, and Marianelli. You do have to pay a small price to enter the reserve, but the water is so calm and warm. We had a really a lovely time here!
I’ll admit that the extent of my outdoor adventures is a good beach day, but the Noto area is teeming with opportunities for hiking and exploration! You can also consider visiting the ruins of Noto Antica – the ancient Roman city where it’s said that both Hercules and Daedalus passed through – as well as Cavagrande del Cassibile, Sicily’s “Grand Canyon” which is a well known and loved hiking spot!
What to do in Noto
Whether you plan to stay in Noto for a few days or just stop in for a quick visit, I highly recommend a guided tour that will be able to offer more detail about the history and significance of all the buildings around town. In fact, my one regret about my visit to Noto was that I didn’t do this, because I found myself constantly checking Wikipedia to get up to speed and I would have really appreciated a local’s explanation!
If you plan to find your own way to Noto
If you plan to be in the area anyway and just want a bit of direction about what to do in Noto, there are a few guided walking tours of the city you will love. Here are my two top picks:
- Two-hour private walking tour focusing primarily on the Baroque architecture of Noto, starting at any time of day. Check rates and availability for your trip
- Small group walking tour about Noto’s history. Check rates and availability for your trip
If you’re looking for a tour with transport to Noto in Sicily
There are also plenty of day trip tours leaving from other Sicilian cities like Siracusa, Catania, and Taormina that will bring you around Noto as well as a few other surrounding towns. Here are some of those that have the best reviews:
If you want to explore the region
With so many beautiful nature-y things to do in Noto, you’ll definitely appreciate leaving yourself some time to explore the areas surrounding Noto. Here are some guided options for doing just that:
Where to eat in Noto
There are endless options for where to eat in Noto, and people come from all over the area to dine at the city’s best restaurants. For dinner, reservations are highly encouraged, especially in the high season.
Pro tip: I don’t speak Italian, but I’ve found that many restaurants are either on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or the Google Maps messaging feature (yes, that exists!) and will take reservations that way. I’ll just copy/paste their messages right into Google Translate, and then translate my responses and things have gone pretty seamlessly for me this way!
Depending where you stay, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll have the option to have breakfast at your accommodation—everywhere we stayed in Sicily offered this and we found it to be a great option to save time (and money!) on many mornings. Also, it’s worth nothing that Italian breakfast is almost exclusively a sweet pastry – and, in Sicily, a granita. If you’re not a sweet breakfast person, your accommodation’s more international breakfast offering will probably be the most satisfying option.
When we weren’t eating at our hotel, or more likely, when we wanted a second breakfast/mid morning snack, we almost exclusively got granita and brioche. You really can’t go wrong as far as flavors go, but I personally strongly recommend getting pistachio or almond. Pistachio is absolutely unreal in all parts of Sicily, given that they’re grown there, and almond granita is kind of a must-try in the south where Noto is, so make sure to give those a try! You can also ask for a half-and-half situation. I personally really love ordering granita with cream (con panna) on top as well, but to each their own!
The best places to have a granita in Noto are:
- Caffè Sicilia (probably the most famous option)
- Pastry Al Fico d’India
- Bar Pasticceria Mangiafico Mandolfiore
- Pasticceria Kennedy
- Bruno American Bar
- Bar Girlando is another great option if you’re spending the day down by the marina
Yes, we had a lot of granita—I don’t need the judgement!!
Sicily is very well known for its street food culture, so you absolutely should prioritize trying some street food while you’re there. Putia del Coppo was my favorite option we tried in Noto, serving delicious fried seafood options for super affordable prices.
Alternatively, a nice and easy lunch option is always popping into a bakery and getting some arancini, focaccia or pizza, etc. Panificio Maidda definitely left an impression on us as far as quick bites go!
For something a bit more substantial but still not heavy, I recommend Sabbinirica à putìa d’ercole for their incredibly fresh and delicious sandwiches. Or equally as good are their meat and cheese platters—especially if you pair them with a spritz!
If you want to do a wine tasting while you’re in Noto, Tenuta Palmeri is a great option. They were the first wine producers in Avola, and boast sustainable and organic wines with delicious cheese platters to accompany.
Alternatively, Il Brillo Parlante is a wine bar that we thought was really good and worth the visit within the city center of Noto. This way you can have a wine tasting and cheese platter experience without going too far out of your way.
Orto di Santa Chiara is a pizzeria that has some really exciting and delicious flavor profiles on the menu. It’s part of an accomodation, so you can also potentially stay here if you want.
While there are tons of impressive and modern restaurants in Noto worth visiting, I personally think I might prefer sticking to the traditional when it comes to food. Trattoria ”Fontana d’Ercole” did just that for me. This is the older sister of the sandwich spot listed above, and is billed as “southern comfort” (Italian southern comfort, of course), it definitely left a delicious and comforting impression on us. I got the pasta alla norma and loved it.
Tannur is another great option to sample Italian and Sicilian classic dishes. The portions are generous and the prices are fair and the quality is amazing. The atmosphere really sold this place for me though, the staff was friendly and it just felt like a great dining experience overall.
Ristorante Pizzeria Casamatta is another solid pizza option, and might just be the highest rated one in the city. They have some really exciting options, and call their particular style of pizza neither Roman nor Neopolitan, but rather truly “Sicilian.” This is one of the spots I would definitely come back to if I ever returned to Noto. They also serve homemade beer!
Trattoria Giufà is a little bit off the beaten path, but the reviews speak for themselves! This more traditional, down-home type of Sicilian cooking is definitely worth the trek in my opinion. This is a great option for those of you wanting a bit more of a local feel.
Ristorante Manna Noto is one of the more famous restaurants in Noto, and for good reason. It’s definitely more modern and upscale than the average dinner spot, but I think sometimes it’s nice to go all out! We didn’t personally prioritize making it to Manna, but I would be remiss if I left it off the list! Fair warning, it’s pricey!
Cássaro-Bistrot-Noto is my choice for a Manna alternative. Still upscale and modern, but a little less pricey. Everything here was impeccable, no notes.
Ready to check out all of the best things to do in Noto, Sicily? Get packing!
I had such a nice time in Noto, and when I saw this stunning gem of a town featured in the latest season of The White Lotus I practically ran to my laptop to write this up because I was so inspired to share how I took advantage of all the best things to do in Noto.
Whether you choose to spend part of a day, or part of a week, in Noto, Sicily I think you’ll come to love it just as much as I do, and see why everyone who visits leaves a piece of their heart in Noto.