Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata is among the largest private residences in Noto. Built in the eighteenth century in Baroque style, it was the urban residence of the noble Nicolaci family. Its splendid Baroque balconies, together with the prospectus of the Church of Montevergine help to create one of the most characteristic corners of Noto. The Infiorata di Noto is set up every year on the street the building overlooks, called Via Nicolaci.
History of Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata
Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata was the urban residence of the Nicolaci, one of the noble families of Noto. Construction work on the building began in 1720 and ended in 1765. The initial project, however, consisted of a few single-storey houses. It was Giacomo Nicolaci, known as "Giacomo il Hunchback", who in 1737 decided to build the palace as we see it today. In 1983 the municipality of Noto bought the main wing of the building and, after carrying out important restoration works, it allowed the public to visit it. In one part of Palazzo Nicolaci is the Municipal Library, founded in 1817 and filled with thousands of volumes and Latin and Spanish manuscripts. To these is added a gallery of portraits of illustrious men of Noto, a gift from Baron Astuto. During the 19th century the Nicolaci family made numerous changes to the building. Some rooms were added, the new double flight staircase leading to the first floor and the frescoes in the Salone delle Feste were built.
The internal environments of Palazzo Nicolaci
The Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, built in Baroque style, is spread over four floors and has over 90 rooms. The ground floor was intended for stables and warehouses for food supplies. The first floor, known as the "Piano Nobile", was the home of Baron Giacomo Nicolaci while the upper floor was used as a noble residence for family members. The top floor was intended for servants. Today it is possible to visit the nine furnished halls of the Piano Nobile. This can be reached after walking up a splendid neoclassical-style staircase, decorated with stuccos that perfectly simulate marble. Thus began a succession of halls furnished to suggest the activities and atmospheres of the time. We pass from the Tea Room, decorated with delicate oriental motifs, to the Yellow Room where the ladies probably met for conversation. The men, on the other hand, met in the Blue Room, decorated with beautiful majolica floors, while the climax is reached with the Ballroom.
The Party Hall
The most fascinating internal environment of Palazzo Nicolaci is certainly the so-called Salone delle Feste. This was entirely frescoed in the 19th century by the descendants of Baron Giacomo Nicolaci. On the vault there is a reproduction of a fresco originally painted by Guido Reni. The god Apollo is depicted on his chariot of the Sun chasing the Aurora, surrounded by the Muses. On its sides are the personifications of the seasons and the signs of the zodiac. A fake balustrade was created along all the walls with the "tompe-l'œil" technique, where many objects can be recognized. Some very common such as, for example, musical instruments, baskets of fish and fruit. Others certainly more anomalous such as a portable electrostatic disc machine, or backgammon.
Exterior architecture of the building
As often happens in the Baroque cities of the Val di Noto, it is in the balconies that private buildings find their maximum artistic expression. Palazzo Nicolaci has seven, each decorated with a different figure. It seems that to make them the inspiration came from those of the Palazzo del Barone di Trezzano in ancient Noto. At the center of the façade of the building, there is the entrance portal that separates the first three balconies from the last three. It is made in the neoclassical style with two columns in the Ionic style, surmounted by a continuous frieze of triglyphs in the architrave. The balcony above the portal, which is the fourth in order, is the so-called Tribuna d'onore.
The baroque balconies of Palazzo Nicolaci
The balconies of Palazzo Nicolaci are traditionally known by the names of the personifications represented in the brackets. It begins with that of the Teenagers and continues with that of the Winged Horses. The next balcony is known as the Balcony of the Turk, here you can see some bearded men and cherubs. The figure in the center, a man with a pipe and flute, perhaps represents Giacomo Nicolaci himself. It then continues with the Balcony of the Sirens, the Balcony of the Winged Lions and ends with another balcony decorated with human figures. The refined wrought iron railings that decorate the balconies are called "goose breast" due to their shape. These were specially made to accommodate the large dresses of the aristocratic ladies who faced the street.