Guide to Modica
Welcome to loveSicily's brief guide to Modica. Modica holds a special place in our hearts as it is where our cookery school is located.
We can rent out the house in which our cookery courses take place as a holiday home - if you are interested in spending some time in Modica exploring South-East Sicily have a look at our Modica Holiday Home.
The city of 100 bells and 100 churches, Modica is a wonderful destination that charms visitors with its architecture, food, culture and sense of authenticity. Lying on a gorge formed by four hills in the south of the Iblei Mountains it is divided into Modica Alta (Upper Modica), whose amber colored buildings clamber up on the rocks, and Modica Bassa (Lower Modica), at the bottom of the valley. A maze of narrow streets and steps joins the two parts.
Modica was once considered the Venice of the South for the many bridges that crossed over the rivers Ianni Mauro and Pozzo dei Pruni that once flew down the valley. At the beginning of the century, following a terrible flood that took place in 1902, the rivers were covered up and today where once flew the water stands Corso Umberto, the main street and historic centre of the town. Over the years, the town has also developed on other areas: Modica Sorda, Monserrato, Idria, etc.
The city is full of history. Its first name was Motyca and there is evidence that it was already inhabited during prehistoric times, then dominated by the Greeks, the Romans and Byzantium. It became an important agricultural and commercial centre during the Arab domination that lasted for two centuries (from 844-5 to 1091). During Norman rule it obtained the title of County of Modica and was then dominated by the French Anjous followed by the Aragon from Spain. At the end of the 13th century the Chiaramonte family begun to govern the county thus opening a century of economic prosperity and cultural revival. They were followed by the Cabrera and the Henriquez.
In 1693, the city was devastated by the earthquake which destroyed the whole area and then rebuilt in the same location in Baroque architecture.In fact, Baroque is the predominant style with the interesting church of St. Peter, the splendid church of St. George and the several Palazzi that can be found both in Modica Alta e Modica Bassa.
In Modica Alta, the splendid Cathedral of San Giorgio is one of the most important religious monuments of Sicily. The exterior of the church is characterised by an amazing flight of 250 steps which form the shape of a chalice and a beautiful façade which rises through three levels to a single bell-tower. The interior, with its magnificent nave and double aisles, is enriched by stuccoes and gildings decorations, and paintings, such as the Events of the Gospel and of the life of Saint George (1513), by Girolamo Aliprandi, considered to be the "Raphael of Sicily".
In Modica Bassa, the Cathedral of San Pietro, was initially built in the 14th century and then rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake. The exterior has steps surmounted by big statues of the twelve apostles called by the local "I Santuna".
Important festivities are San Giorgio and San Pietro and the cheerful procession of Easter Sunday known as "A Maronna Vasa Vasa", when a special statue of the Lady moves the arms to bless Christ resurrected and the many Modicani crowding the streets of the city for the occasion.
The outskirts of Modica offer many opportunities to visit the traditional Masserie (Typical local Farms). Cava Ispica with the latomie and interesting and Marina di Modica where many Modicani have their second house to spend their summer near the beach.
The city is renowned for its rich culinary tradition offering an amazing variety of seasonal dishes that follow different traditions and are the amazing result of the local re-interpretation of the legacy of the various dominations, especially the Arab and Spanish ones. Sweet and savoury dishes, summer and winter food are on offer for a real taste of the county. Among the most famous products and dishes: the Cioccolato Modicano, i Mpanatigghi, i scacci, u pani i casa, u maccu etc etc.