Post updated in January 2023
A guide to help you Visit Noto, Sicily including my tips on What to Do and Where to Eat in Noto & Avola.
Have you been dreaming of your own dream Italian summer? Perhaps you’ve been especially inspired after watching a certain hit show (ahem, White Lotus!). If you’re a fan of wild coastlines, food so good you’ll remember it for life, aperol spritz by the sea, and beautiful baroque architecture, Noto in Sicily’s southeast is for you.
And while this post might be a little less glamorous than Villa Tasca, where Daphne & Harper stayed in season 2 of White Lotus, (which is actually located in Palermo!), I’d say it’s better because it’s actually real!
VISIT NOTO, SICILY: WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO EAT
What to do in Noto & Avola
The summer in Noto is truly dreamlike, from classic old Italian streets, to hidden beaches and wild hikes into freshwater gorge pools. This UNESCO Heritage-listed baroque town is surrounded by natural beauty, while the town itself is home to architecture that will leave your jaw agape. Here are just a few of my favorite spots to visit around Noto.
Visit Noto: Best Beaches Near Noto
La Spiaggia di Calamosche (Calamosche Beach)
You’ll need to spend a solid 20 minutes hiking into this beautiful bay (following a 20-minute drive from Noto), but even in the scorching August heat, it’s beyond worth it. The bay is pristine with beautiful snorkelling, especially along the rocks. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, food and an umbrella with you! Calamosche Beach is part of the Vendicari Natural Reserve so there are no bars or shops after you’ve left the car park. If you have time, you could even walk (or drive) to the Tonnara di Vendicari a little further along the way.
La Riserva Natural Cavagrande del Cassibile (Cavagrande Gorge)
Cavagrande del Cassibile is a breathtaking natural gorge, where you’ll find icy cold, freshwater pools – perfect for cooling off after the long hike down! This adventure is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s beyond worth the effort. The hike down is steep and tough (and coming up is even harder!) so it’s worth going early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. Plus, that way, you can hike out before the crowds arrive. Just like Calamosche Beach, there aren’t any bars or shops after you leave the carpark, so make sure to bring snacks and plenty of water.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if, despite the steep hike, you find Italians set up to live like royalty! They hike down with umbrellas, speakers, and enough food for a week, which of course just makes the place feel even more like Italy.
Oasi Gelsomineto (the Gelsomineto Oasis)
Honestly, at first, I thought the Gelsomineto was a complete rip off (€20 for entry alone!!), but this beautiful beach made up for it. Steer clear of the main beach, and instead explore the hidden areas to the south. We hiked up and over the rocks and found a rocky path that was practically deserted. I napped under a beautiful tree, we had a delicious panino we’d bought in Avola earlier that morning, and even spent some time snorkelling and relaxing on a hidden beach where there was only one other person!
Marzamemi is a colorful Sicilian town famous for its old tonnara (a traditional tuna-processing plant) and is possibly one of Sicily’s prettiest seaside villages. The limestone facades are brought to life with brightly colored shutters and plenty of potted greenery. I only went for an afternoon, but it seems like the town’s piazza would come to life after dark, filled with restaurant tables and live music.
Day Trip to Ortigia Island, Syracuse
Where to start with Ortigia… This beautiful island, connected to Sicily by a small bridge to Siracusa, is all that I dreamed Italian summer would be. Busy seaside osterie and trattorie (Fratelli Burgio is well worth the wait), open-air markets and the freshest fritto misto, baroque cathedrals, and locals lazing on limestone rocks as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Actually, you know what? Scratch that. Don’t go to Ortigia for a day trip – go for a week, a month, heck, stay for the entire beautiful summer!
Book in a Noto Portrait Session!
It’s not every day you get to visit a UNESCO-heritage-listed town in beautiful Italy, so why not make the most of it and book yourself a portrait session in Noto like Flaviana & Antonio? I’d love nothing more than to meet you there (or anywhere else around Sicily, for that matter, from Taormina to la Scala dei Turchi, Palermo to Marsala!) and take some beautiful photos for you so that you can look back on your epic Sicily adventure for life.
Visit Noto: Where to Eat in Noto & Avola
And of course, I couldn’t not share a few of my favorite places to eat in Noto and surrounds! From the creamiest granita to homemade pasta with pistachio pesto (I really cannot stop dreaming about that plate!), these are the eateries I’ll for sure be headed back to on my next trip to Noto.
Bar Pasticceria Mangiafico Mandolfiore, Noto
You can’t Visit Noto without stopping by local institution, Bar Pasticcieria Mangiafico Mandolfiore – if not for the intricate, colourful desserts and old-school interior, then for the truly delicious granita. This is where Flaviana, Antonio & I stopped for breakfast after their sunrise portrait session around Noto and it was the perfect end to the Noto photo shoot.
Dolcemente Piccante, Avola
When you’re ready for something a little more modern, make your way to Dolcemente Piccante in Avola. I had breakfast there nearly every day, and I’d do it all again! Their granita is impossibly creamy, and it’s just the right amount of sweet. The service is friendly and kind, and if you come back from the beach before dinner, the arancini are the best I’ve ever had (for the White Lotus fans, yes, these are what Portia called ‘rice balls’). I feel like I’ve complimented this sweet little place so much it could seem fake, but really, Dolcemente Piccante is all that!
Geranio Cucina a KM 0, Noto
Geranio is a restaurant that prides itself on using only the freshest, best-quality local produce, from freshly caught fish to vegetables from the local organic market. The same care that goes into choosing the produce goes into preparing each dish. Personally, I can’t get enough of Sicilian seafood and anything with pistachio, so of course, I went for the pasta gamberi e pistacchio (prawn & pistachio pasta).
Sudd the [un]Usual Food, Avola
Okay, for those of you wondering about the plate of pasta I genuinely can’t stop dreaming about, this is it. The pasta all’oro verde (pasta with green gold aka pistachio pesto) from Sudd the [un]Usual Food was out of this world. The details are hazy – this was where we stopped for dinner after doing the 16-hour drive from Milan to Sicily in one hit – and I have a sneaking suspicion this was a special for the night, but I’d go back and try everything else on the menu in a heartbeat. Plus, it’s right by the sea and surrounded by bars and restaurants, which is perfect if you want a nightcap afterward or a lazy walk along the beach.
Are you planning your own dream trip to Noto? I’d love to meet you there and help you document it with a Noto Portrait Session like Flaviana & Antonio’s. Or how about we meet in Marzamemi or Ortigia? Just get in touch to start planning!
Did you love this guide to Visit Noto: What to do & where to eat? Did it inspire you to plan a trip or do you have other suggestions you’d love to share? Let us know in the comments below!