Modica has been likened to a split pomegranite – any visitor can see the cliffs with the houses tumbling down the valley sides like the seeds of a pomegranite. 2009 saw the launch of the new logo for the City of Modica.
The undiscovered jewel in southern Sicily, Modica was the ‘capital’ of the region from the 12th century. A disastrous flood in 1902 led to the rivers that ran through the town being covered over, and Modica lost its reputation as the Venice of the South. But Modica remains a magical city. Unlike most others in Sicily, the town is built in a valley instead of on a hilltop, and nestles between the sandstone ridges. The labyrinthine terraces climb up the gorges interspersed with baroque churches and roccoco palaces. The area is rich in history, there are regular events throughout the year, notably the giostra or joust in the summer and sagre which celebrate local produce, especially ricotta cheese and chocolate.
The area is rich in gastronomic delights, and it is easy to find local specialities ranging from almonds, chocolate and honey to local meat dishes of pork, sausage and fish.
Modica’s clocktower was built in 1725 and still has the original mechanism. It has to be wound regularly and is controlled by huge springs and weights.
One of Modica’s delights is simply to amble along the maze like lanes of the old town. However, below is a itinerary of the main tourist destinations in the city.
At the end of the XVII century Modica had around 100 churches, a vast number given the size of the population. Many of these survive and embody the legacy of the Baroque which has earned Modica its UNESCO listing. Modica has two duomos, that of Modica Bassa is San Pietro which dates back to 1350 athough it was partially destroyed by the earlthquakes of 1613 and 1693. It was rebuilt as a monument to the late Baroque and is filled with polichrome marbles and ornate plasterwork.
Nearby is the early Christian church of San Nicolò Inferiore. It was only discovered in 1987 although it is in the centre of the city. Built in a cave it is frescoed and dates from the 12th century.
The house of Salvatore Quasimodo is also open to visitors. Largely unknown outside Italy, he was a Nobel Prize Winner for literature, and is one of Modica’s most famous citizens.
The Theatre Garibaldi is a perfectly restored Baroque theatre which plays hosts to seasons of plays and concerts and also has guided tours
The other duomo, in Modica Alta, is placed at the top of a grand staircase. It was originally built immediately after the death of Saint George in 300AD, but was completely rebuilt after the earthquakes. its architect was Gagliardi who also built the duomo in Ragusa. It was inaugurated in 1738 although work didnt finish until 1834. It is reached by 250 steps and although the exterior takes the laurels, there is a silver reliquary from 14th century Venice inside known as the Santa Cassa which is worth the climb.
Towering over Modica is the castle. Originally, perhaps, a temple around 600AD it became the fortress of the city, and after extensive archaeology the womens and mens prisons and the torture room have come to light. The lengthy restoration is now coming to a close, and soon the castle should house the city museums, freeing up valuable space in other buildings to reopen the library, the new art gallery and the museum of Sicilian tradition and folklore.