Breakfast at the hotel and departure for Modica. Like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. It is divided into two parts, “higher” Modica and “lower” Modica, which are connected by numerous flights of steps. Palazzi and houses rise from the bottom of the gorge seemingly stacked one on top of the other. Magnificent churches, with their inspiring domes, bell towers, and intricate facades, punctuate the red-tiled roofs and one is struck by the uniform beauty of the whole. Modica has a long and varied history, complete with the usual toing and froing of successions of invaders, but nowadays the city is renowned worldwide for being the custodian of a 400-year tradition of Sicilian chocolate making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specializes in making granulous chocolate, often flavored with chili pepper, cinnamon, or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes. Chocolate shops abound and, for the real chocoholic, it is sometimes possible to watch the “chocolatiers” at work. Tasting Modica chocolate is a must and you will also learn how to make your own chocolate bar.
Late, you will be driven to Ragusa, one of the most fascinating towns in Sicily. Ragusa has caused many visitors’ jaws to drop as they first set eyes on the lower part of the town. Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbors, Noto, Modica, Scicli, and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily. Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now “Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now «Ragusa Ibla». The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica. While the upper part has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below that really draws visitors. Whether you approach it from Modica to the south or from Ragusa Superiore, the sight of the jumble of houses, churches, and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking. Although seemingly Mediaeval from a distance, once you enter the town’s heart, the Baroque logic of its plan becomes more obvious. Return to your hotel in Siracuse. Overnight.