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Baroque art and soul in Sicily’s Noto

Squeezing in a visit to Sicily last summer between lockdowns, SLH’s Vice President of Development Daniel Luddington discovers an architectural treasure trove in UNESCO-protected Noto, where an 18th-century aristocratic residence has just opened its Baroque doors as a boutique palazzo.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am in love with and in awe of Italy. I have been privileged to travel across the country and enjoy its riches, but there was one town eluding me – Noto in Sicily. I had seen glimpses of it from the Chef’s Table Netflix episode on Café Sicilia and thought it looked gorgeous, so when my hotelier friend Andrea Quartucci, the mastermind behind Taormina retreats Hotel Villa Carlotta and Hotel Villa Ducale, met me in London last year and told me he had secured a palazzo opposite this very café, I saw the twinkle in his eye and knew he had special plans. “For us, this is like having a hotel in front of Harrods, because that is a food temple!Post lockdown, I knew Noto had to be one of the first visits to make.

Daniel pictured with the Quartucci family in Noto.

I was expecting amazing Baroque palaces and churches (and there are loads!) but I was really surprised by how stylish it all was – as well as the antique and bric-a-brac boutiques, there are modern art galleries, cool interior design stores, and just so many chic food and wine bars. It is brimming and buzzing with a liberal diverse artistic scene and spirit. Venture further out and there’s beautiful countryside in some way surprisingly similar to Tuscany, and African style sandy beaches only 10 minutes away. Its location is the southernmost point in Europe (further south than Tunisia by the way), so its climate is extremely mild, and very hot in the summer with a beach season that stretches all the way until mid November.

The lounge at Q92 Noto Hotel boasts beautiful views of Noto Cathedral.

Q92 Noto Hotel is a small, but beautiful Baroque palazzo. It only houses nine bedrooms, however seven of these are suites and I was impressed by how much public space there is for so few rooms. Although located in the pedestrian area among antique buildings and churches, the hotel has a Mediterranean garden with palm and lemon trees, and nestled in the corner of this courtyard is a small pool and sun loungers. The one internal living room is ideal for relaxing before entering the garden and another large super chic lounge space for breakfast, tea time, and cocktails with two large door-windows and a charming outside balcony overlooking the famous cathedral (the best view in town). In the antique underground “dammusi” there are plans to open a small cavernous Matera-like spa with Turkish baths, sauna and a massage room.

The Q92 Mini Suite, pictured alongside the Junior Suite Bathroom which comes with ETRO bath and body products.

Andrea and his wife Rosaria are collaborating with Florentine designers – Luxe by Studio Area, their partners of 15 years who specialise in transforming properties into luxury residences, treating the projects as homes rather hotels. Seven of the nine suites are incredibly spacious (about 55 square metres) with tall ceilings, adding to the feel of relaxed grandeur. A couple are decorated with striking fresco drawings with some floor lighting which exalts the ornate detail. One suite used to be a “noble party room” and is fully decorated on each wall and ceiling by hand. In keeping with the Quartucci philosophy that bathrooms are equally if not more so important than the bedrooms, the Q92 bathrooms are bedecked in boiserie and luxury wallpaper.

Whilst there is no on-site restaurant, guests benefit from the hotel’s close relationship with Ristorante Vicari, a fine dining restaurant just three metres across the street – with room service delivered directly from its famous kitchen. This is where we sat down to a celebratory meal with the family, filled with good food (and good Nero d’Avola wine) and great pride that this very special place opened as an SLH member in May earlier this year. I look forward to returning whenever possible, and I cannot wait for our guests to discover this new little hidden gem.

For more Sicilian inspiration, follow our 2-week itinerary here.