Modica is a charming little town in south-east Sicily, the perfect place for your next getaway. The town is UNESCO-listed for its stunning Baroque architecture and is particularly famous for its speciality Cioccolato di Modica, or Modican Chocolate. Modica has a unique location nestled in a valley of the Monti Iblei mountain range, with dramatic views over the Sicilian countryside. The town is located about 10 miles inland, but the coast is easily accessible by car or public transport.
Aside from its chocolate, Modica is steeped in history and makes a great getaway for those looking to learn more about Sicily’s rich cultural heritage. The two cathedrals are particularly worth seeing. Duomo di San Pietro dates back to the 14th century but was rebuilt in a Baroque style after an earthquake in the 17th century. Duomo di San Giorgio is the town’s most famous building, an architectural masterpiece that has been described as one of the seven wonders of the Baroque world. There are a number of intricate, smaller churches from different points in time dotted around the town but the Chiesa Rupestre di San Nicolò Inferiore is perhaps the most impressive, a cave church discovered in 1987 that is decorated with Byzantine wall paintings.
Like Modica, Scicli is another UNESCO-listed Baroque town but dodges the larger tourist crowds in the summer. Transport from Modica to Scicli runs throughout the day and is less than a half hour journey. The town is only just beginning to see budding tourist developments, so there’s no better time than the present to catch a slice of rustic Sicilian authenticity. The ancient town was founded within two valleys around 300 BC, but has been occupied by various cultures from the Arabs to the Normans throughout the centuries- and this is still reflected in the town today. The beautiful Baroque architecture of Scicli is its biggest feature, and tourists should be sure to check out works such as the Piazza Italia, a pedestrianised square lined with elegant villas, or the striking Palazzo Beneventano, Up until 1950, some residents of the town actually lived in cave homes surrounding the San Matteo church, and some cave settlements around Scicli can actually be visited as museums.
Ragusa is a picturesque little town high in the Monti Iblei, only a 20 minute drive from Modica. The original settlement was destroyed in a 1693 earthquake, prompting reconstruction of the town on high ground nearby, though some nobles chose to build a new palace on the site of the old town. This means the town is separated into two distinct districts; the older Ragusa Ibla, and the sprawling modernised Ragusa Superiore. While Ibla is the more popular tourist destination, Ragusa Superiore has a great selection of shops as well as the town’s archaeological museum and even has its own Baroque cathedral, the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista. In contrast, Ibla’s cathedral is the 18th century Duomo di San Giorgio. The Duomo is found in the very centre of the Old Town and houses beautiful artwork and ancient statues. Giardino Ibleo is the town’s park, located at the edge of Ragusa Ibla overlooking the Sicilian countryside.
Noto is slightly further out than Scicli and Ragusa from Modica but is well worth the journey. Hailed as one of the most stunning Baroque towns on the island, Noto was ravaged by the 1963 earthquake and rebuilt in its entirety a few miles away, producing the carefully-planned and harmonious town that stands today. This is what separates Noto from other Baroque towns in the area. Every single building in the old town is made of beautiful golden stone in the style that is now the very definition of Sicilian Baroque architecture, so the main tourist attraction is just walking the narrow, winding streets. Some must-see buildings are the grand 18th century Duomo and the nearby Palazzo Ducezio. For €1, visitors can enter the ‘Hall of Mirrors’, a room in the Palazzo decorated with intricate 19th-century frescoes. A visit to Noto Antica, the nearby ruins of ancient Noto, are a must-see while you’re in the town.
Every single building in the old town is made of beautiful golden stone in the style that is now the very definition of Sicilian Baroque architecture, so the main tourist attraction is just walking the narrow, winding streets. Some must-see buildings are the grand 18th century Duomo and the nearby Palazzo Ducezio. For €1, visitors can enter the ‘Hall of Mirrors’, a room in the Palazzo decorated with intricate 19th-century frescoes. A visit to Noto Antica, the nearby ruins of ancient Noto, are a must-see while you’re in the town.
Visit Cava d’Ispica
The Cava d’Ispica archaeological park is found just outside of Modica. The park is filled with ancient cave tombs and situated in a lush, deep valley coated in flowers and trees. Cava d’Ispica makes for a great day out year-round, though is best enjoyed in Spring when the valley is in full bloom. The tombs actually date back to the Bronze age, but some of the caves were actually used as homes until the turn of the last century. The entrance to the park also has a small café so you can enjoy a light bite or a refreshing drink after spending the day in the Sicilian heat.
Indulge in Modica’s gourmet chocolate
The crumbly, dark chocolate of Modica is its crowning glory. A trip to Modica wouldn’t be complete without sampling the delights of some of the many chocolatiers around the town. Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, founded in 1880, is the most famous of these chocolate makers and offers tours of the factory as well as selling its world-class Aztec-inspired chocolates. There are plenty of other chocolatiers around the city with a plethora of flavoured gourmet chocolates on offer, from orange peel to chilli pepper.
Relax on the beach at Marina di Modica
The sandy beach at Marina di Modica is the perfect place to soak up the Sicilian sun and relax between your adventures to the surrounding towns. With highs averaging 33oC over the summer months, Marina di Modica is one of the warmest beaches on the island. Parasols and sun loungers are available to hire on the beach, and lifeguards are on duty throughout the day making it a popular destination for families. There are a number of beach bars and cafés dotted along the coast, so you can grab a refreshing glass of granita to help you cool down.
Freshly-caught fish and locally-grown vegetables are at the heart of Sicilian cuisine, and you can expect to see such high-quality ingredients used in recipes around the island. Sicilian cuisine is so unique in that it reflects all of the cultures that have inhabited the island in the past- think classic Mediterranean food with heavy Arab, French and Greek influences. A particular favourite among tourists is arancini, fried rice balls stuffed with meat and cheese, or for something sweeter try cannoli filled with ricotta.
While chocolate is the cornerstone of food in Modica, there are still plenty of restaurants around the town serving authentic Sicilian food. Rappa Enoteca is one of the town’s most popular restaurants, a place to enjoy dishes presented to you by the head chef himself while you enjoy a glass of local Sicilian wine. For a more casual dining experience, the street food at Momo Taste & Cheers is delicious and can be enjoyed with a cold drink in the sun.
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