10 Things to Do in Modica, Southern Sicily
We are obsessed with Sicily! It is our favorite place in Europe! One of the things we love the most about the island is how under the radar it still is. While Syracuse and Ragusa receive large numbers of tourists, Modica remains Southern Sicily’s hidden gem.
Modica, Catania, Ragusa, Noto, and four other cities are known as the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. UNESCO included them in its List of World Heritage Sites. You won’t see better Italian baroque anywhere in the world!
As you can imagine, there are plenty of things to see and do in Modica. The city has a beautiful upper town with a castle and historic churches. The lower town, with its museums and palaces, is equally grand. Another reason why you should visit this splendid city is its world-famous chocolate.
Where to Stay in Modica
Modica Alta (The Upper Town)
In Modica, you can find accommodation for all tastes and budgets. Our favorite hotel in Modica Alta is the Palazzo Failla Hotel. You can’t beat its location, next to the baroque Santa Teresa d’Avila Church. The rooms are plush and extra comfy. Go for the Junior Suite, and you’ll never want to leave.
Another great option in Modica Alta is the San Giorgio Modica Hotel. The elegant property is in front of the San Giorgio Cathedral. The best rooms come with a balcony and direct views of the cathedral.
If you want to stay in a private apartment, we suggest Edel Modica. It’s another historic building right in the middle of the Upper Town. All of their spacious rooms come with a private bathroom. There is a beautiful terrace with a garden, two hot tubs, and views over the entire city.
Modica Bassa (The Lower Town)
Modica Bassa, or the Lower Town, is south of the Upper Town, along Corso Umberto I Street. In Modica Bassa you won’t find many hotels. We strongly recommend Le Magnolie Hotel, a 19th-Century building. The hotel is great value for money. We loved the views from the rooftop terrace.
Our favorite accommodation in Modica Bassa is directly on Corso Umberto I Street. The Palazzo Il Cavaliere B&B De Charme is a recently refurbished 18th-Century palace. We were lucky to stay in a room overlooking San Giorgio Cathedral. We loved every moment of our stay.
If you are traveling with friends, we have a suggestion for you: Modica for Family – Rooms and Apartments. As its name says, their large rooms can accommodate up to four people. All of the fully equipped apartments come with a balcony. The best have views.
How to Get to Modica
Buses and Trains
The easiest way to reach Modica is by flying to Catania Airport. A morning bus connects Catania city with Modica every day. It stops at Catania Airport on the way, and the journey takes 2 hours. If you arrive a little bit later, take a bus to Ragusa and a local bus from there.
If you are coming from Syracuse, you can also take a train. Trains are a bit dated but offer a more scenic journey. Besides, they are quicker. Buses from Syracuse take close to 3 hours, while trains take one hour less. All trains stop in Noto and Scicli on their way to Modica.
If you are coming from other parts of Sicily, you have to take a bus or drive. A couple of buses connect Palermo and Modica. They usually take around 4.5 hours. If you are coming from Agrigento, change buses in Gela or take a train from there.
As you can see, it’s not easy to reach Modica from Catania. If you are coming from Syracuse there are frequent trains. However, the last time we visited, the train back to Syracuse didn’t show up. Eventually, there was a replacement bus that took ages to go back.
We always use public transport when we can, but the one in Sicily is a mess. Therefore, if you want to go to Modica without a problem, go on an organized tour. If you like the TV Series Inspector Montalbano, you will love this tour. It takes you through the locations featured in the series, including Modica.
Another popular tour takes you from Catania to three baroque jewels: Noto, Modica, and Ragusa. You won’t have much time in any of the three beautiful cities, but you’ll get an idea of what Sicilian baroque towns are all about.
Things to Do in Modica
Get Lost in the Streets of Modica
Among the best thing to see and do in Modica, getting lost in its Old Town is a must. Modica’s Upper Town lies on the slopes of a hill between Corso Umberto I and Marchesa Tedeschi Streets. It’s a labyrinth of curvy cobbled streets. Search for viewpoints over the city and beyond. Our favorite is the one called Belvedere Pizzo.
Modica Alta features historic churches and an imposing castle. But that’s not all. The Museo Casa Natale Salvatore Quasimodo is dedicated to Modica’s most famous poet, the winner of the Nobel Prize. The nearby Cave Church of San Nicolo Inferiore is a 12th-Century church discovered in 1987.
Once you are done with Modica Alta, stroll along Modica Bassa’s main street, Corso Umberto I. The city’s most impressive baroque palaces are here. The city’s theater, Teatro Garibaldi, and the best cafes and restaurants are here too. If you have time, climb the two hills east and west of it: Collina della Giacanta and Collina dell’Itria.
Visit San Giorgio Church
San Giorgio is not only Modica Alta’s Cathedral, but also its most impressive church. Actually, the access to the church is stunning too. To get there, you need to climb up a large staircase surrounded by flowers. The views from the square in front of the Cathedral are simply breathtaking.
Though we don’t know for sure how old the cathedral is, the first record of a building on the current site is from 1150. Nevertheless, the church was almost completely destroyed by three great earthquakes in 1542, 1613, and 1693. The one we see today is mostly a 17th and 18th-Century reconstruction.
You’ll easily recognize the San Giorgio Cathedral by its tall round bell tower. The interior is exceptionally opulent. It has five naves and 22 pillars adorned with Corinthian capitals. Don’t miss the imposing organ and richly decorated silver altar. The statue of Saint George, part of the Cathedral’s interior, is carried around town during the Saint’s festivities.
Visit San Pietro Church
Just like San Girogio is Modica Alta’s Cathedral, San Pietro is the Cathedral of Modica Bassa. The massive church is on Corso Umberto I. You can’t miss its imposing façade and the large staircase adorned with statues of the Twelfth Apostles.
The first church on the site dates back to 1396 when Sicily was part of Aragon. Like most of the city, the historic earthquakes of the 16th and 17th centuries destroyed it. The current structure is from the 18th Century and represents one of the best examples of Sicilian baroque.
The church interior has three naves. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception from 1620 is the only part that survived the last earthquake. Pay attention to the impressive altar with the polychromatic icon of the Immaculate Conception and the statues of Saint Peter and Paul.
Explore the Other Historic Churches of Modica
As you can imagine, churches are Modica’s main attractions. Other than the two cathedrals, there are other baroque churches that are worth your time. Santa Maria del Gesù is Modica’s oldest church. It survived the earthquakes almost intact. The late 15th-Century church has a beautiful late-Gothic cloister.
San Giovanni Evangelista is another church on top of a large staircase. Since it’s on the highest peak of Modica Alta, the views from the entrance plaza will take your breath away. Though the original one dates to the mid-12th Century, the current building is mostly from the late 18th Century.
If you walk along Corso Umberto I towards the Train Station, you’ll spot a large square on your left. The largest building on the square is the Carmine Church and Convent. Stop by Museo delle Tradizioni Gli Arnesi di Una Volta. Don’t be surprised by its Gothic appearance. It also survived the last earthquake.
Relax in Castello dei Conti
Castello dei Conti or Castle of the Counts of Modica is our favorite place in the city. Since there are no parks in the area, this is the best place to stop for a moment and relax. You access the castle through a ramp at Corso Francesco Crispi and enter a large courtyard where the museum is.
The first thing you should do upon entering the castle is to walk from the courtyard to the panoramic terrace on the south. The early 18th-Century Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) is here. Take your time and enjoy the best views of Modica Alta and Bassa.
After you’re done with the views, go back to the small museum inside the castle. Since it’s under the castle, most tourists skip the last section. You have to exit the museum on the opposite side, take the stairs and a path leading to the Caves of Modica. You’ll most likely be alone in this extraordinary place!
Visit a Palace or Two
The city has more than incredible churches. Modica stands out for its palaces. Fortunately, you can enter some of them. The Palazzo San Domenico used to be the Convent of the next-door Dominican Church. Since 1869, it is Modica’s City Hall. The old skulls in wall niches are from when it was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition.
The Palazzo Degli Studi, on the other hand, was a Jesuit monastery and a school for the children of local aristocrats. The original building from 1630 survived the earthquake and became the Municipal Grammar school in 1862. Check out the attached Chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso.
The third palace you must visit also has an attached church. We are talking about the Palazzo Grimaldi and the Church of S. Cristoforo. The Grimaldi family had its private church! We believe it is the most beautiful neo-Renaissance palace in Modica. You’ll recognize it by the 14 balconies across two floors. The picture gallery inside will leave you speechless.
Have Lunch or a Dessert in a Place with the View
Like Ragusa, Modica is all about views and delicious food. You can combine both while having lunch or dessert in a place with epic views. Unfortunately, there are no restaurants or bars next to Modica Alta’s viewpoints. However, there are several fantastic joints in the city with views.
Our favorite restaurant in Modica is Accursio Radici. The restaurant is on the stairs that lead to San Pietro Cathedral. Be sure to grab a table with views of the cathedral. They prepare the best rabbit ragu in the city!
Rappa Enoteca is in the Upper Town, across the Palazzo Failla Hotel and the Santa Teresa d’Avila Church. They have a wide range of Sicilian wines. Their appetizers and craft beer are fantastic. It’s our favorite place to munch and drink with unforgettable views of Modica Alta.
Try the Famous Modica Chocolate
Modica is famous for its chocolate all across Sicily and the world! Modica Chocolate is made of cocoa and sugar mixed in a cold-working process. Apart from cocoa and butter, no other fat is added. Since the sugar is processed at low temperatures, it never dissolves. That’s why it tastes so good!
If you love chocolate, the first thing you should do is pay a visit to the lovely Modica Chocolate Museum. The museum is in the Palazzo della Cultura. It tells the history of chocolate in the city starting from pre-Columbian times. You’ll love the elaborate chocolate sculptures.
Once you are done with the museum, it’s time to taste some of that delicious chocolate. Our first recommendation goes to the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, next to the museum. Here you’ll find chocolate in many different flavors. If you want to have coffee and taste some delicious chocolate, go to Caffè dell’Arte nearby.
Enjoy the Street Art of Modica
When we talk about the street art of Modica we don’t refer to traditional graffiti or murals. In fact, we are talking about a unique initiative to embellish the streets of Modica. If you are in the city during the summer months, you shouldn’t miss this interesting project.
Since 2021, locals flock to the so-called Street of Imagination (Via dell’ Imaginario) in Modica Alta. Art collective Imagina takes over the Upper Town and turns it into an open-air museum! You’ll see art from all over Italy on streets, alleys, squares, and gardens. The entire city celebrates art!
In 2022, the topic was Alice in Wonderland. Falling underground, Alice must face a reality in which the rules of the normal world are turned upside down. Since it’s art, artists and viewers can let their imaginations fly! Don’t forget to check out the main art exhibit in San Nicolò de Erasmo Church.
Go on a Day Trip
If you love baroque architecture, you should visit the other beautiful towns in the area. Ragusa, 7 miles (12 km) north, and Scicli, 12 miles (20 km) south, are the closest options. But Noto, 23 miles (37 km) east, is another great choice. Whichever you visit, you won’t regret it.
To spend some time under the Sicilian sun, head directly to Marina di Modica. The lovely coastal town is on the main road that connects Modica with Syracuse and Catania. There is not much to see in the town, but the beach is splendid. Don’t forget to check the abandoned industrial palace nearby (Fornace Penna).
Archeology lovers should spend some time exploring the historic caves near Modica. The Archaeological area of Cava d’Ispica, 5 miles (8 km) from Modica, is the most famous one. Here you’ll find ancient cave dwellings and burial sites. Don’t miss the Water Mill in the Cave.
- New emergency rule bans fishermen from parts of Massachusetts Bay for 3 months
- What exactly is wind chill, and how is it calculated? Boston braces for arctic blast.
- Man sprints across Mass. highway to stop woman’s runaway car
- Three concerning trends keep sprouting up during the Bruins’ losing streak
- Body of 96-year-old woman found in Chicago garage freezer