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Modica, Province of Ragusa, Sicily

The town of the 100 churches is among the favorite tourist destinations in Sicily after Taormina, renowned for its southern position, superb Mediterranean climate, and for producing the first vegetables and fruit of the season.

It is fortified by its position over a huge rock on two gorges where two streams Ianni Mauro and Pozzo dei Pruni (which do not exist any more today) joined into the Moticano river on the slopes of the Monti Iblei, dominating the whole Val di Noto. Modica was also the native town of philosopher Tommaso Campanella, and of 20th-century poet Salvatore Quasimodo, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1959. Also famous is the unforgettable Modican chocolate, still prepared with an ancient traditional technique.

Info

  • Altitude: 400 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 50,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 97010 or 97015
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0932

History

Thanks to its strategic potential as a natural fortress, it was a settlement of the Sicani, and later of the Siculi. These populations lived in natural grottos, and in 1878 the German archeologist von Andrian found in Cava Lazzaro a number of remarkable items, now in the Berlin Museum.

It seems it was occupied by the Romans, and in 845 AD by the Arabs who called it Mudiqah, then in the 11th century was conquered by Norman Roger of Hauteville, who introduced the worship of St. George. At that time the COunty of Modica was established, with Gualtieri as first count. The County became powerful and rich under the Aragonese occupation (14th to 17th century) with great lords such as the Mosca, Chiaramonte and Cabrera. In 1693 it was largely destroyed by an earthquake, and reconstructed almost completely in the Baroque style, which pervades all the palaces and monuments, while the oldest part is rich of small alleys and streets, sided by ancient artisans' shops.

What to see

  • The 15th-century church of Santa Maria di Betlemme, renovated many times with additions from different periods of Sicilian history, from Norman times to the Renaissance.
  • The 130-m tall Ponte Guerrieri, one of the highest bridges in Europe, connecting the lower part (Modica Bassa) and the higher, more ancient part, Modica Alta.
  • The church of Madonna delle Grazie, who according to the tradition liberated the town from a plague in 1709, with a splendidly decorated facade, three naves and a dome. In the main altar is a statue in slate stone of the Virgin Mary.
  • The Baroque church of San Giorgio, in a dominating position at the top of a flight of steps, with a spectacular facade, hosting inside a 16th-century painting by Girolamo Alibrandi; on the floor of the transept there is a meridian (sun-clock).

Events

  • On Easter morning, "A Maronna Vasa Vasa", a procession with the statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary, in search of each other in the alleys of the town: when they meet, Mary's black robe falls and a flight of doves rises in the sky, then her statue is carried running towards the Son's.
  • In August the "Giostra dei Chiaramonte", a historical re-enactment to celebrate the foundation of the County of Modica, a joust of knights representing the eight Quarters of the town, in honor of the Madonna delle Grazie.

Where to stay