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A virtual Museum of the Baroque

The Walls of Dionysius
February 15, 2021
The Papyrus Museum
February 22, 2021
All photos ©

The Val di Noto and the magic of places.

Towards a virtual Museum of the Baroque

There are many ways of talking about our heritage. South-eastern Sicily has a notable concentration of cultural, architectural and environmental heritage that dates from the pre-Greek period and runs well-beyond the baroque age. The examples found in this area each have a story to tell. The Centro Internazionale di Studi sul Barocco (International Centre of Studies in the Baroque) in collaboration with the University of Catania has developed a national research project for the area known as the Val di Noto called NEPTIS "ICT solutions for access to and ‘augmented’ exploration of cultural heritage” which aims to tell stories that can reveal the magic of places and stimulate the curiosity of visitors, whether virtual or real.
The exceptional site under study, identified as the ‘Baroque tour of the Val di Noto’ suggests the definition of tour-proposals which will create a link between the past and the present; the tours will be ‘itineraries of identity’ that lead from larger centres to less well-known ones, but all with with special characteristics, very attractive and situated in fascinating archeological or naturalistic contexts.
These ‘trails’ will link the larger, generally more famous centres like Siracusa and Noto with other equally fascinating places that are considered ‘minor’ despite their rich heritage; this will weave places with a high concentration of examples of the Baroque together with archeological sites. The itinerary for Noto, for example, includes Noto Antica, the old city abandoned after 1693, the one for Palazzolo includes Greek Akrai, while Ferla and Sortino are linked to Pantalica.
The Incipit of these thematic itineraries is Piazza Duomo at Siracusa which has a unique capacity to fuse its space with the surrounding architecture and to transform itself into a spectacular Baroque stage-set.
This, like the other themes chosen, has allowed Siracusa to be linked to the other cities of the Val di Noto during the designing of many itineraries. In fact many trails start at Siracusa with themes that lead to sites that are less famous and little visited.
Of the various evocative itineraries that have been designed, “Tower facades and Mother Churches of the Val di Noto” leads you round the architectural facades which characterise the area and make it unique, starting from Siracusa, Noto, Ragusa leading to smaller places like Floridia, Buccheri, Avola, Militello and so on, drawing attention to the corpus of baroque religious architecture that was rebuilt in the Val di Noto after the earthquake of 1693.
Other trails emphasise the naturalistic-archeological context, putting the cities that were re-founded after the destruction of 1693 in relationship with their original sites, now abandoned. Avola and Noto are two such examples which cannot be understood fully without considering the indissoluble links with the original old sites whose glorious past lies buried in the ruins.
This combination, still undiscovered by mainstream tourist tours, is the focal point of these itineraries of memory, and suggest a reading of urban history that can happen by following traces and fragments of them, piecing together a series of elements in order to trace relationships, dissonances and analogies between architectural forms, and giving form to the ‘bone-structure’ of the virtual museum of the Baroque of the Val di Noto. Through a newly created app, already at an advanced stage of experimentation, it’ll be possible to complete these trails of knowledge and promotion, with access to the sites, thus embracing the concept of open museums.
With the support of the Centro Internazionale di Studi sul Barocco, a prestigious institute for research and promotion of Sicilian baroque heritage that has for year been studying and developing thematic cultural itineraries around the baroque of the Val di Noto and with other Italian regions and around the Mediterranean, the aim is to give new life to the traditional museum by experimenting with new forms of ‘exhibition’ which will support the traditional forms; a network which will connect various sites on the basis of their identity.
The itineraries represent a possibility for developing sustainable tourism and an instrument for consolidating and promoting the rich, layered heritage which characterises the Val di Noto, using technological innovation to renew its image and its capacity to communicate.
Gennaio 2021

Laureata in Architettura e Dottore di Ricerca in Estetica, svolge attività di coordinamento e collabora all'attività di ricerca e all'organizzazione di mostre ed eventi nel Centro Internazionale di studi sul Barocco. È autrice di saggi sul patrimonio culturale dell'area del Val di Noto e in particolare sull’architettura effimera in Sicilia. È stata insegnante a contratto di Storia dell'Architettura nell'Università di Catania e assegnista di ricerca presso la SDS di Architettura di Siracusa.