MODICA, A “SPLIT POMEGRANATE” (CIT. GESUALDO BUFALINO)
Duomo di San Giorgio
Cioccolato di Modica
Chiesa di San Pietro
Located in the south of the Iblei Mountains, Modica has been compared by the Ragusa writer Gesualdo Bufalino to a "split pomegranate" because of its unique layout. The city is spread along the sides of four hills (Itria, Gigante, Monserrato, Pizzo), which frame the narrow valley in which until the early twentieth century, the Moticano river and its tributaries Janni Mauro and Pozzo dei Pruni flowed. These rivers have been covered by the floods, becoming the main road axes.
The city is divided into Modica Alta, developed around the high cliff of the Castle, and Modica Bassa, built along the river bed. The two areas are connected to each other by a series of characteristic staircases that, today, offer an evocative itinerary to discover the town center, but that was originally used by its inhabitants to reach the river in the valley below.
For centuries (from 1296 to 1816), Modica was the capital of an ancient County, considered one of the most important fiefdoms of Southern Italy, with its own laws and currency, whose territory extended to the gates of Palermo in the Middle Ages. The Chiaramonte, the Cabrera and the Henriquez, very influential families in Sicily and at the court of Spain, were the lords.
Rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 on the same site as the ancient city, Modica is one of the most significant examples of late Baroque architecture and, thanks to its open-air masterpieces, in 2002 it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In the Upper Town you can admire: the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, which stands out for its theatricality; the Castle of the Counts, seat of the political and administrative power of the ancient County, whose remains are a polygonal tower of the XIV century and the prisons; the Clock Tower, Unesco heritage, built at the beginning of the eighteenth century on the remains of a watchtower, with its clock still working from 1725 (from here it is possible to look out and enjoy a spectacular view of Modica Bassa); the Cathedral of San Giorgio, rebuilt after the earthquakes of 1613 and 1693, which enchants with its spectacular majesty, accentuated by the wide elliptical staircase with 254 steps.
In the heart of the Lower City, along Corso Umberto I (the promenade street), there are prestigious late Baroque architectures such as the Church of San Pietro, considered as the second Mother Church of Modica, preceded by a staircase animated by the statues of Twelve Apostles; elegant eighteenth-nineteenth-century buildings, such as Palazzo Tedeschi, with the characteristic shelves supporting the balconies, which are carved with mermaids, flutists, putti and old men, and the Garibaldi Theater. The Palace of Culture (an ancient monastery of 1626) houses the Archaeological Civic Museum, with artifacts that tell the life in the Hyblaean territory from prehistoric times (of great value the bronze statuette of Hercules of Cafeo dating back to the III century BC), and the Chocolate Museum, symbol and pride of Modica that has wisely been able to preserve the ancient Aztec recipe imported by the Spaniards.
Modica boasts a rich repertoire of gastronomic specialties, the result of the contamination of the different cultures that have dominated it. It is the birthplace of the Nobel Prize for Literature Salvatore Quasimodo (to visit his birth house situated in Via Posterla), and it is a city to be discovered, walking through its picturesque medieval streets, dotted with old shops. A fascinating city which offers a nativity scene to be admired sitting on the scenic steps of its historic center.