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Modica, Sicily – what’s so special about this town… other than it’s our surname?
Modica is old – in fact, extremely old. But there is a charm about this town with homes all in a creamy yellow color. They seem to fade one into the other with no distinctive markings. Walking through the main part of town there are small shops on both sides of the street. There is a slight aroma of citrus in the air. The streets are busy with cars and Aps, those three-wheeled little trucks that have such a distinctive sound.
The Town of Modica
This town is divided into two distinctive parts: Modica Alta (upper and much older) and Modica Bassa (lower area). Modica is known for its spectacular Baroque architecture and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other seven towns in the southeastern end of Sicily known as Val di Noto.
Little Italy: Italian Essentials
Discovering and walking through this town, you are taken back in time. What is quite obvious about Modica is that it’s spread throughout the valley and mountains. The people here are friendly and speak very little English. Residents of Modica have witnessed several disastrous earthquakes in 1542, 1613, and also in 1693 which struck the entire Val di Noto area.
A Funny True Story
When Gary and I visited this town, because it is our surname, we wanted to bring back souvenirs for the family. As we walked into town along the main street, we came across a small mom and pop store with lots of trinkets in the window. We stepped inside to take a closer look.
Immediately we headed over to the coffee cup, shot glasses, and t-shirts we saw along the sidewall of the store. We started to discuss how many items we needed and for which family member. After all, how often do you receive a gift with your name on it? Well, for some of our children it’s now their maiden name but it’s still special.
As we started to gather our items, the store owner asked us from behind the register if we needed any help. At least that’s what we thought he said. When we told him our surname or cognome is “Modica,” he got all excited. You could see by his expression he was not expecting us to reveal this tidbit of information to him. Then, he began yelling into the back storeroom. Out comes what we expect was his wife. She is now all enthusiastic and they bantered back in forth speaking very fast Italian.
Next thing you know, out from the back room reappears the husband with quite a few boxes. He begins blowing off the dust and taking out other items for us to see. We spent about 45-minutes in this store. We assumed they closed for the day after our large purchase. It was quite comical and most of all – memorable.
Cathedral (Duomo) San Giorgio
The Duomo sits high upon one of the tallest points and when lit at night, it can be seen from anywhere in town. The church is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It had to be rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693. This massive church has five aisles and twenty-two Corinthian columns and is a true beauty – a must-see if you go.
DID YOU KNOW?
A popular Sicilian detective television show, Inspector Montalbano, has filmed here in Modica. Famous backdrops have included the Church of San Giorgio and the facade of Palazzo Polara.
The Island of Sicily and the Food
Sicily is very famous for its beautiful, crystal clear turquoise waters, Mount Etna, historic and gorgeous architecture, and the beautiful, scenic countryside. Sicily is also known for its cuisine. Red sauce rules here in a big way. Sicilian food has had an influence over the years by those that lived here. The Greeks and Africans all brought with them various spices and ways of cooking.
Local products are bountiful, especially citrus. Other items you will find are creamy ricotta, honey, almonds, but the highlight of Modica is its local, dark, and crumbly chocolate. We make this chocolate from time to time, not as the Aztecs did but you can find out more about Modica chocolate and how to make it here.
Kathryn OcchipintiDecember 7, 2020 at 2:49 pm
Nice story! People in Ragusa get excited when they hear my surname, since apparently it is the home of the “Occhipinti” name. They all say they are probably my cousin!
imodicaDecember 7, 2020 at 3:03 pm
Ahh, didn’t know about your last name and Ragusa! Small world, maybe we’re cousins! Thanks for the comment Kathryn!