«… Modica. Sentieri velati da un tratto di eterno: basole fra scorci di storica passione; a passi tardi rinvengo in cor mio, nascituro sguardo che soave m’attrista…»
Modica is a baroque town located in Val di Noto, in the south east of Sicily. In 2002 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the Neolithic age, it was the capital of a powerful county, boasting a rich tradition of culinary specialties and a great artistic and cultural heritage. Today, Modica is well known for the production of its typical chocolate, which has Aztec origins
The historic centre, which has been entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693, is composed by two big districts: Modica Alta and Modica Bassa. Today, walking through the streets of Modica means walking in the history, through late baroque palaces, churches, majestic staircases and great artworks.
The countryside of the area of Modica, characterized by a network of dry-stone walls marking the limits of each plot, is scattered by carob trees, olive trees, prickly pears and gives very suggestive landscapes.
Modica is the perfect place for your holidays in Sicily, an excellent starting point to visit the baroque towns of Val di Noto and swim into the limpid waters of its coast rich in golden beaches.
What to see in Modica
The streets of the baroque district
Curious to visit Modica and its historic centre?
Discover with us its treasures and take note of the most interesting tours to plan your holiday.
The city centre has a unique structure and extends along a valley to clamber then the surrounding hills. In the limestone rocks of the hills, which are typical of this territory, the inhabitants “dug” their houses and graves during centuries, so much so that today there are almost 700 caves.
Visit the necropolis Quartiriccio, in the historic centre, and the district Vignazza, with a few tens tombs dug into the rock, dating back to the 2200 BC.
The historic centre is a maze of little houses, tiny streets and long staircases enveloped around the spur of the hill Pizzo, on which the Castle stands.
The main churches, that is the Cathedral of San Giorgio and the Church of San Pietro, do not overlook usually over a square, but over a majestic and spectacular staircase climbing up the slopes. The main architectural style is the late baroque.
Things to see nearby
The territory of Modica is littered with archaeological and naturalistic areas of great interest.
Cava d’Ispica has, in its 13 km of length, several testimonies of different ages: from the small Siculan oven-shaped tombs of the Bronze age, to the Christian catacombs of the fifth century AD, besides frescoes on the rocky walls of the “Grotta dei Santi” and the ruins of the Byzantine Church of S. Pancrati. Remarkable is the catacomb of Larderia, a hypogeal cemetery that preserves around 464 tombs divided into three underground tunnels. The area is actually a “city into the rock”: nearby the caves inhabited by people or domestic animals, there were also caves used as warehouses and places of worship with altars and frescoes. Very beautiful also from the naturalistic point of view, Cava d’Ispica is suitable for walking and trekking. It presents a very luxuriant vegetation populated by several species of birds.
Nearby there is Cava Lazzaro, another area rich in caves and naturalistic paths. Here some findings, now preserved in the civic museum of Modica, have been discovered.
Finally, Cava dei Servi: an alternation of overhanging rocky walls, flat areas and deep canyons where the stream Tellesimo flows. This area is part of an easily accessible natural park ideal for walking.
If you want to have a swim, the coast of Modica offers beautiful golden sandy beaches, such as the ones of Marina di Modica and Maganuco. Both of them have equipped beaches and boasts crystal waters and shallow seabed, ideal for a family holiday with children.
A few kilometers away, you can visit the beautiful baroque towns of Val di Noto: Scicli, Ragusa Ibla and Noto. From Modica you can easily reach Syracuse, Marzamemi and its wonderful beaches, such as the ones inside the Nature Reserve of Vendicari.
What to do in Modica
During your holiday in Modica you will not get bored. Besides the interesting baroque monuments, the city offers events, shows and traditional festivals taking place in different periods of the years. We recommend you some you must not miss.
The tourism in Modica has known a great growth for different reasons. First of all, the recognition of the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the enhancement and promotion of the chocolate of Modica have contributed to make Modica known worldwide. Moreover, if you are a fan of the tv series “Inspector Montalbano”, you will certainly know the places where it is filmed. In Modica you can recognize some of the locations where Montalbano conducts its investigations. If you love shopping, Modica offers one of the most renowned commercial areas of the province, with numerous shops and shopping malls, located in the district of Sacro Cuore.
In the evening, you can have a walk in Corso Umberto I and go in one of the many pubs of the historic centre, which is always lively and full of people. Corso Umberto I and Piazza Matteotti are the heart of the nightlife: walk along this wide street rich in coffee bars, pubs and restaurants that are open until late at night. Be captured by the spectacularity of the baroque monuments lighten by the warm lights of the city.
Events and shows
The Teatro Garibaldi, with its 313 seats, is the cultural place par excellence. It offers very interesting shows of prose, music and opera that can meet all tastes. If you love theatre, go and see a show inside this elegant building of the late nineteenth century.
The feast of “Madonna Vasa Vasa” takes place in the morning of Easter Sunday. It is a very ancient tradition dating back around 1645. The simulacrums of the Virgin and Jesus Christ are taken in procession separately through the streets of the city. At 12 o’clock, the Virgin meets Jesus Christ: the wooden statue of Mary, which has moving arms like the typical Sicilian puppets, is freed from his black cape as soon as she meets his Son and a tens white doves, previously hidden into the base of the simulacrum, take flight. At this point, the Virgin “embraces” Jesus Christ and “kisses” him: from this gesture the feast takes its name.
Feast of San Giorgio
The feast of the patron San Giorgio takes place on 23rd April, if it is Sunday. Otherwise, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the main date. The simulacrum of San Giorgio killing the dragon is taken on the shoulder through the historic centre. After that, the procession goes back to the Cathedral around 23:00, ending with some turns into the church.
Living Nativity Scene
During Christmas time, a living nativity scene is represented through the alleys of one of the ancient districts of the historic centre. Sometimes, the archaeologic area of Cava d’Ispica is chosen as location, a perfect and suggestive frame for this event, thanks to the presence of several caves.
Street markets and food festivals
Here you will attend the show of the chocolate of Modica: how is it made?
The Chocomodica, a local version of the Eurochocolate that takes place in Perugia, is a food festival dedicated to the artisanal production of chocolate. It has contributed to insert Modica in the network of gastronomic tourism.
It takes place during the holiday bridge of Immaculate Conception in December. This event is the perfect occasion to visit the city, by taking part in guided tours and tasting the local confectionery specialties. Moreover, there is a series of conferences and events focused on cocoa, on the typical chocolate and confectionery products for which Modica is renowned.
The chocolate of Modica is made by following an ancient Aztec receipt, from which the receipt of Modica should derive, dating back around 1746, when Sicily was part of the Kingdom of Spain. Its production is still strictly handmade. The particularity of this chocolate is in the cocoa paste that does not melt with sugar, creating a grainy dark chocolate that does not liquefy at summer temperatures.
Taste this unique chocolate and you will realize that it is possible to distinguish its three components: cocoa, sugar and spices (cinnamon and vanilla in the typical receipt).
Food festival of the carob
It takes place in Frigintini, a countryside hamlet of Modica, in September or October. You can taste typical specialties with carobs: lolli (a kind of fresh pasta cooked in carob syrup and covered with ground and toasted almonds), ice-cream, biscuits, candies and the typical scaccia from Ragusa.
Where is it and how to get to Modica
Modica is about 15 km from Ragusa, in the south east of Sicily, and rises on a hill cut through by deep canyons. The city is located at the confluence of three streams dividing the upland in four hills: Pizzo to the north, Idria to the west, Giganta to the east and Monserrato to the south.
You can reach Modica by car from Catania proceeding along the state road SS 194 and following the direction to Syracuse. Then take the direction to Modica.
From Palermo take the highway A 19 Palermo-Catania to Caltanissetta, proceed along the state road SS 626 until Gela and then take the SS 115 to Modica.
From Agrigento take the coastal road SS 115 to Caltanissetta and follow the direction Gela-Ragusa.
From Syracuse take the SS 115 to Noto and Ragusa.
The car is the best way to reach Modica, in order to travel in total autonomy, due to the lack of public means. If you arrive by plane, we recommend you to hire a car at the airport.
Parking in the historic centre of Modica could be difficult if you do not know well the area.
Here are some useful information that will help you during your stay in this beautiful baroque town. First of all, if you go to Corso Umberto I or nearby, we suggest you to park in the free parking areas of Viale Medaglie d’Oro or Piazzale Falcone e Borsellino.
Otherwise, if you go shopping in via Sacro Cuore, go to the free parking areas of Piazzale Beniamino Scucces or near the municipal swimming pool.
The areas marked by blue lines are paid parking areas.
You can reach Modica from Catania by the Etna Trasporti and from Palermo by the AST lines. The bus terminal is located in Piazzale Falcone e Borsellino.
From the airport
The nearest airports to Modica are Catania (100 km) and Comiso (40 km), offering excellent connections by bus, shuttle service or by taxi. To reach Modica from Catania Airport take the Etna Trasporti line from the Arrivals Terminal, where you can buy the ticket. From Comiso Airport you can take thea Tumino line. You can buy the ticket on the bus.
We do not recommend flying to the airports of Trapani (300 km) and Palermo (250 km), because they are very far from Modica. Moreover, there is a lack of adequate connections to the south east of Sicily and hiring a car may be expensive.
The railway line that runs through the municipal territory and serves the city of Modica is the Syracuse-Gela-Canicattì railway. The line is a simple non-electrified track. The service takes place in the daytime.
The train station of Modica is located at the end of Via Vittorio Veneto, near the Convent of the Capuchins.