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Deep in the hills of Sicily’s Val di Noto lies the baroque town of Modica. It’s quite a sight to behold, with terracotta-topped houses clambering up steep slopes to the town’s crowning glory, the Duomo di San Giorgio.
The town is split into two parts, Modica Bassa and Modica Alta. Modica Bassa, the ‘lower’ town, sits down in a valley, with the Corso Umberto cutting a path through the middle. Look out for the Chiesa Rupestre di San Nicolo Inferiore (a tiny, tucked-away cave church decorated with Byzantine wall paintings), as well as shops selling the town’s famous dark chocolate.
From here, thigh-burningly steep streets wind up the hillside to Modica Alta. This is the older part of town, with medieval as well as baroque architecture on display. Make the Duomo di San Giorgio your first port of call, before pushing on up to the Pizzo viewpoint for photo-worthy views over the rooftops.
Tour the Val di Noto’s baroque towns
Modica is one of the Val di Noto’s UNESCO-listed baroque towns. There are eight in total, and several are close enough to explore easily in a morning or afternoon.
Twenty minutes’ drive south of Modica is Scicli, a jumble of baroque palazzos that you might recognise from TV show Inspector Montalbano. Drive north and in 25 minutes you’ll reach Ragusa, a photogenic town which spills down a hillside.
Further afield, you’ll find Noto (45 minutes’ drive away), Palazzolo (55 minutes) and Caltagirone (1 hour 10 minutes).
The closest airport to Modica is Catania (CTA). Direct flights to Catania from the UK take approximately 3 hours.
Modica’s chocolate heritage goes back centuries, when Sicily’s Spanish rulers introduced ancient Aztec cocoa recipes. The chocolate is worlds away from the sweet, creamy chocolate that’s popular in the UK – it’s dark, rich, crumbly, crunchy and a touch bitter, often laced with flavourings like pistachio, lime, cinnamon and vanilla. Learn a little about the history and production at the Chocolate Museum (decorated with chocolate sculptures and statues), then pop in to a few of the town’s chocolate makers to pick up a bar or two.