Take one disastrous earthquake, add in the creativity and exuberant genius of late Baroque architecture to the reconstruction, pour over the charm of the rose-hued carved limestone facades shining honeyed gold at sunset, and mix in the spice of the unexpected taste of chocolate crafted just like the Aztecs.
These are the very special ingredients of my Choco-barocco experience during a day trip to Scicli and Modica.
1693 from the tragedy to re-birth
In 1693, a devastating earthquake—one of the most powerful that had ever struck Italy—destroyed the Noto Valley on Sicily. To rebuild required the efforts of all the region’s inhabitants, not only the aristocracy and clergy but also architects and master stonemasons. Together, they transformed the area into the largest construction site of 18th century Europe and gave rise to a masterpiece: Sicily’s Late Baroque architecture.
Eight of the towns in the area are now included as Unesco’s World Heritage Sites: Scicli, Modica, Ragusa, Noto, Caltagirone, Militello, Val di Catania, Catania and Palazzolo
Scicli (pronounced shi-kli)
Set at a natural crossroad of canyons (and only 8 km from the beach) Scicli is a small off-the-beaten-track town with one of the most intriguing remnants of Sicily’s Baroque period: Palazzo Benventano. The palace’s walls host an array of eccentric, moustachioed faces embroidered on the stones.
For another beautiful example of Baroque architecture, take a stroll down Mormino Penna Street. Notorious for being the set for the tv movie Commissario Montalbano, stopping by the fictional police state on Mormino Penna is a must for fans of the show
For a taste of Sicily, pop into Pasticceria Basile on viale I° Maggio for a traditional Sicilian family pastry from a warmly welcoming staff.
Another culinary indulgence can be found at Pura Follia, home to one of the best pizzas ever at a reasonable price. (Reservations needed)
Chocolate Magic Makes a Stop at Modica!
The city of Modica is Baroque churches and palaces with wrought-iron balconies perched on a hill. Most importantly, it is the home of the singular chocolate prepared using the original Aztec technique brought to Sicily by the Spaniards in the 16th century.
As it has been for hundreds of years, the cocoa beans are worked at a low temperature so the sugar mixed in does not melt, resulting in the unique grainy texture this chocolate is so famous for. With each bite, you taste pure chocolate with no added cocoa butter, soy lecithin or other food additives. This method of cold-working the beans preserves more nutrients and more flavor.
For those needing an excuse to indulge—because one chocolate is never enough—eating 10 grams of Modica chocolate is reported to improve vascular function and make artieries more elastic. This is in addition to dark chocolate’s well-known antihypertensive properties. So no need to feel guilty!
Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Sicily’s oldest and most famous chocolate factory, is not to be missed. With its old fashioned ambience, you can experience Modica chocolate as if you had stepped into ancient Mexico. Savour the cinnamon, vanilla and chili chocolate in true Aztec style or be tempted by more exotic flavor combinations such as rosemary, white pepper, cardamom, salt and orange. Another speciality offered by this magic place is the cannoli made with fresh ricotta and pistachios. They are simply awesome.
After your visit to Antica Dolceria Bonajuti you can stop into nearby Osteria dei Sapori Perduti for a quick lunch of Sicilian specialities. Try the Scacce, thin layers of a pizza-like dough filled with many different combinations (simply with tomato sauce, or with onions, spinach, or cheese) or the Caponata with eggplant, bell peppers, tomatos, onions, olives, capers, pine nuts, basil, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
From Scicli to Marina di Ragusa 16 km/10ml – From Scicli to Modica 10km/6,5 ml
Pasticceria Basile Viale I Maggio, 3, 97018 Scicli, Sicilia, Italia (Closed on Thursday)
Pizzeria Pura Follia Piazza Busacca snc, 97018 Scicli, Sicily, Italy +39 339 8476585
From Modica to Marina di Ragusa 34km/21,6 ml
Antica Dolceria Bonajuto Corso Umberto I 159 Modica http://www.bonajuto.it/en/
Osteria dei Sapori Perduti Corso Umberto I, 228, 97015 Modica RG tel +39 0932 944247
Where to stay; click here
Written by Luisa Castiglioni
Edited by Amay Smith
All Rights Reserved
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