From Syracuse we drove to Noto, only about 45 minutes by car. Noto is a UNESCO Word Heritage site, with several stately streets, churches and palaces.
One of the more interesting things we noticed was that as we were driving into town, a convoy of 16 Ferraris passed us. After we found a place to park, we walked into the center of town and noticed all the Ferraris had parked in a row right in front of the town hall (Palazzo Ducezio) apparently for a meeting. A convention of Ferrari owners? Sicily is known as the home of the Mafia, and this was as close as we came to seeing any signs of it.
We climbed the bell tower of San Carlo al Corso church for a good view of the city.
From Noto we drove to Ragusa, another UNESCO World Heritage site (less than 60 minutes’ drive), and specifically to Ragusa Ibla, the old part of the city set on a hill top.
The drive itself is scenic, over the deep valleys on high modern bridges climbing the hilly countryside of this part of Sicily. There was a large car park just below Ragusa Ibla, which is separated from the newer part of the city by 340 steps. It is worth the climb up these stairs for a good view of Ragusa Ibla. We then went into Ibla, walking to the Duomo (San Giorgio), and then down to the town square, and out to Giardino Ibleo (gardens) overlooking the valley. Ragusa Ibla is a classic baroque town of the 1700’s.
From Ragusa, we drove to Pozzallo and caught the night ferry to Malta (see Malta blog post).
Upon our return to Pozzallo from Malta, we drove up to Piazza Armerina (about a 2.5 hour drive), to visit the world famous mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale, which is just a few kilometers outside the town.
I was surprised that the entry fee was only €3, and discovered the reason was due to the closure of part of the site due to restoration. Most of the site is covered by a glass structure, like a greenhouse. The Villa is large, with many rooms. The floor mosaics are in excellent condition due to their being covered by mud since the 12th century. The original owner must have been very wealthy to decorate the Villa so lavishly.
The town of Piazza Armerina is bypassed by most tour buses and tourists, and gave us a feel for a “real” Sicilian town. We wandered up and down a few streets and to the Duomo (Cathedral) for a good view of the surrounding countryside.
The next morning we drove northwest about 30 minutes to visit the ruins of Morgantina, originally inhabited around 1000 B.C. There are great views of the countryside and Mt. Etna in the distance. We found very few tourists at this site, making it a pleasant stop without crowds.