Pantalica, Noto, and Agriturismo Leone.

We are staying at the Agriturissmo Leone and using it as a base to explore this part of Sicily. The Leone is a working farm with a few rooms to let and a restaurant. It is run by a husband and wife team who seem to always hang out in the restaurant, so I don’t know who works the farm. Their 6-year-old son Salvatore helps out. Salvatore was a hit with me. He is a stout little fellow with short legs and chubby cheeks. He helps out by bringing wine or dishes to the table where he lands them with a thud and a deep-voiced “Prego.” I suspect that his favorite food to serve is his Mom’s homemade cannoli. He carries them to the table with both hands, his thumbs firmly planted in the powdered sugar generously sprinkled all over the plate. Once the cannoli are deposited on the table, Salvatore marches back to the kitchen with both of his sugary thumbs in the mouth.
We take all day excursions every day and my favorite are the necropolis of Pantalica and Noto.
Pantalica is a stunning natural reserve, a gorge actually. You could spend a whole day there hiking. The walls of the gorge are a maze of natural caves and caverns, which in the Byzantine period served as a burial place. The area is especially beautiful now, because the entire countryside is covered with a multi-colored carpet of wild flowers. This is a great escape into serenity from the craziness of Sicilian cities.
Speaking of Sicilian cities, Noto was my favorite.
As all cities in this part of Sicily, Noto was completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt later in the Baroque style. So if you don’t like Baroque architecture, you are not going to like Noto. I happened to love the opulence of Baroque, so Noto is my cup of tea. Noto seems to be better cared for than all of Sicilian cities we had seen prior. It might be because it is now under the protection of Unesco. Unesco took over when the main cathedral in Noto collapsed in 1996 due to the Sicilian negligence: one of the pillars sported a ominous crack for years and no one gave a damn. So after its collapse, Unesco realized it had to protect the rest of the town from the indifference of the local populace. So now, the town’s honey-colored buildings are actually cleaned and they are feast to the eyes. In addition to churches and palaces, the town has a lovely little theater, a couple of squares, some cool restaurants, narrow streets, gelato parlors, and many stairs – everything that endears a city to me.
Well, the only thing that’s missing here is good bargain shopping or any good shopping for that matter, so that is one area here needing a lot of improvement . On the other hand, there is delicious food and great coffee, so shopping could really be postponed.

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