The small town of Noto is about 30km from Syracuse. Like so much else it was completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1693. Supervised by the Duke of Camastra, the Spanish viceroy’s representative, the town decided to relocate to a new site and spent some ten years planning a new town which would exemplify the baroque style and provide suitable settings for a range of important churches, monasteries and nunneries. In the resulting town, religious prelates must have substantially outnumbered the remaining citizens.
You can reasonably be horrified by the scale of investment in gratuitously extravagant religious building, and the subsuming of the needs of individual Sicilians to the Noto master plan, but the result is an extraordinary feat of Sicilian baroque master planning. The town is a stage set, the focus of each building is on creating the right external impression with the interiors markedly less grand than the exteriors, but the result is an architectural tour do force.