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July 8, 2017

Sicily: Modica

Monochromatic Modica

Sicily’s southeastern corner is our favorite area of the island. This portion of Sicily includes a cluster of communes that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage site in 2002. Collectively UNESCO refers to this area as the “Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.”

The UNESCO inscription specifies eight towns, Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli, which were all rebuilt after an earthquake devastated the Val di Noto in 1693. Reconstruction of the towns was a considerable undertaking. Despite the widespread destruction, the rebuilding was done at a high level. Cities usually develop with a blending of architectural styles as new structures are added as architectural styles evolve over the centuries. In this area of Sicily the 1693 quake left the mark of an architectural era: Reconstruction occurred in the middle of the late Baroque period. Three hundred years ago later, many of Val de Noto’s Baroque buildings stand as evidence of the rebirth of the area after the earthquake. It is this overabundance of Baroque buildings in Val di Noto that is lauded by UNESCO.

Duomo of San Giorgio

Modica was the third of the eight UNESCO Baroque towns that we have visited. We very much liked Ragusa and the small bit of Noto that we saw on our 2008 visit. The architecture in this area of Sicily is interesting but there is more to like in the area than the buildings.

For us much of the appeal of Val di Noto comes from the vibe of its gritty rough towns protected by the region’s hilly terrain. We’ve only visited this area at the edges of the tourist season, which might have biased our perspective. With few visitors about, the area feels like an undiscovered corner of Italy. It’s a good place for travelers who wish to avoid places overrun with tourist infrastructure and tee shirt vendors.

UNESCO World Heritage sites usually have plaques. We try to find them, but sometimes it is a challenge.

Add in the area’s excellent food and we are motivated to return again. And in the case of Modica, there’s an extra pleasure: The town is famous for its chocolate. Production of chocolate in Modica came in under the rule of the Spanish. With the cocoa, the Spanish brought the Aztec chocolate recipe that is used today.

We were curious about how Modica’s chocolate tastes so we sampled a version at one of the many factories in town. The chocolate is unexpectedly different. It is slightly dry in texture with crunchy crystalline bits trapped in the matrix of the bitter dark cocoa and sugar. The texture is rustic compared to most modern chocolate. Nevertheless, Modica’s version is every bit as addictive. Add Modica’s chocolate to our list of reason’s to return to this area of Sicily.

Façade of the Baroque church of San Pietro.

Making chocolate in Modica



  1. […] we left Modica Sicily last December we passed under a high viaduct. Pulling to rental car to the side of the road, […]

    Pingback by Sicily: Viadotto Guerrieri | Another Header — July 8, 2017 @ 9:48 pm

  2. […] Rasgusa and Noto in 2008. We liked both towns. It led us to return to the area in 2016 to visit Modica, another town included in UNESCO’s “Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.” Having visited […]

    Pingback by Sicily: Scicli | Another Header — July 16, 2017 @ 8:36 am

  3. Always a treat to visit Modica and the other towns in Val di Noto.

    Comment by gregsitaly — August 6, 2017 @ 7:09 pm

  4. I have traveled to Italy quite often, because it’s easily reachable from Romania, and it’s actually one of my favorite countries.

    But never got to Sicily so far.

    Modica looks such a lovely place.

    Comment by — September 3, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

  5. […] Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern […]

    Pingback by The List | Another Header — October 26, 2018 @ 8:55 am

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