Modica, the town of one hundred churches, is shaped like a split pomegranate.
Walking through the streets and paths in MODICA means reliving the origins of human civilization, from prehistoric times to the present. They are natural passages that first formed the basis of the first settlements.
We are in Modica, one of the most picturesque towns in Ragusa and Sicily. Like the other historical centers of the Val di Noto, where the particular urban configuration is combined with various phenomenon of human activities. The houses of the old town, which lean on each other, are often the extensions of the ancient caves once inhabited by the Sicils.
The urban pattern, perched on the sides of two valleys and a hill is a maze of houses, streets and long stairways. The churches usually do not overlook squares, but spectacular staircases.
The town is divided into various urban centres: Modica Alta, the historic centre along with ModicaBassa, ModicaSorda- a new neighborhood, Frigintini, the countryside, and Marina di Modica, the seaside.
From an identity point of view , it is characterized as an ancient archaeological and Medieval, late Gothic, Baroque town, decorated by beautiful farms and seacoasts.
SI-Moutique is headquartered in the “Case degli Avi” (The Forefathers’ Houses) in Modica Alta . It is an old fortified house transformed into a multifunctional cultural area, a tourist facility in the historic heart of the County of Modica, of the Consolo(presently Via Roma), the gateway to the old town near the two finest examples of Medieval art in Sicily, the Castle of the Counts and the Convent of Santa Maria del Gesu.
Modica Alta is a medieval village on the Cianta plateau, from which a set of houses along the Pizzo hill glides around. This part of town has the right of primogeniture, in regards to the rest of the ancient town since the 22nd century BC, during the ancient Bronze Age, the colle dell’Aquila (Eagle hill ) and in particular its slopes were inhabited by people who settled on the spur overlooking the rocky caves .
Modica Alta was a medieval village until the earthquake of 11 January 1693 when it was almost completely razed to the ground, preserving in situ in a splendid condition the fourteenth century Church of Santa Maria di Gesù, with its splendid Cloister and portal. architectural monuments of extraordinary beauty. The complex, in addition to being a finely crafted work of art, is one of the few precious testimonies before the earthquake, a tangible sign of the opulence and sumptuousness in Modica, the capital of the County.
The urban planning of the village was formed after the decree in 1597,which imposed a prohibition of building in the area between the church of San Giovanni Evangelista and the monastery of Santa Maria di Gesu, presumably for strategic and defensive reasons . It is said, in fact the existence of a very long tunnel, passodeiparrini, which seems toconnect the extreme areas of the Upper Town with the Castle of the Counts and Modica Bassa (the lower part of the town), has been transmitted by history.
The following construction of the niche of the Calvary, in the Consolo neighborhood, formed a crossroad towards Ragusa and Noto, a metaphorical boundary of the inhabited area.
The Consolo neighborhood, with the ancient fortified house, presently known as “Le Case degliAvi”(The Forefathers’ Houses), represents, in the neighborhood, a gateway to the old town and the Church of St. Antonio, with its hypogeum and underground altar which undoubtedly shows the antiquity of the place with important signs of the past.
Mons. Fortezza (9 to 15 May 1683) during his pastoral visit to Modica, includes the church among the urban churches and there are some listed altars that still exist today. This list also refers to the Church of the Consolazione, from which the Consolo draws its name.
Today, in this medieval urban pattern, are inserted the “Baroque Acropolis called by ElioVittorini, or the great temples of Christianity: the churches of St. Giovanni, St. Giorgio, Santa Teresa, San Teodoro, San Ciro, St. Martino and St. Joseph as well as the splendid noble buildings with superb facades , corbels, and grotesque masks.
Unfortunately, in Sicily, as elsewhere, the invasive urbanization and renovations of the last century have almost completely compromised the integrity of the territory and of the historical buildings.
Paradoxically, this integrity has been preserved residually in depopulated neighborhoods such as Modica Alta, especially in the more general context of urbanization of new areas and as a result of processes of abandonment and emigration.
Today a walk through the narrow streets of Modica one can discover glimpses of enchanted places, fixed in time, where life flows slowly, quietly and peacefully. You always can meet an elderly person busy preparing tomato sauces, “scacce”, canned, fried eggplant, peppers and “caponatine”.
One can even meet the “milkman” who distributes fresh milk, or the ice cream man who sells ice cream and granite.
Modica Bassa stretches to the bottom of two streams, Janni Mauro and Pozzo dei Pruni, to converge at the feet of the cliff forming a natural Y called Modica Bassa. Along the main street, Corso Umberto I, parlor of Modica, there are also many Baroque palaces with liberty facades and superb churches full of artistic treasures. The Cathedral of St. Peter, the Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem, the Church of the Carmine with its Convent, the Church of SS. Salvatore and St. Paul, the Church and the crypt of San Domenico in addition to the Basilica of S.Maria Grazie with its annexed Mercedari Palace . Finally, there are the 15th century small church of San Giacomo outside the walls and the 15th century Ospedale della Pietà, presently the Museum of Medicine “Tommaso Campailla”.
The ancient archaeological site of Modica is represented not only by the Quartiriccio Necropolis and the Santa Lucia neighborhood in the town center, but also by the area of Cava d’Ispica, a narrow valley about 15 kilometres , where thousands of caves are excavated, testifying the evolution of man through the ages, from the Eneolithic today. The morphology of the Cava is shaped as a throat, the limestone, an easily defendable location, close to the sea, have helped to make this wild and wonderful place one of the largest caves in Sicily. In the site, there are several types of houses that date back to the oldest Neolithic period , characterized by caves, to the pre-Greek era, the Classical period itself, the Byzantine chapels and oratories, Christian catacombs of the IV and V century and Medieval caves. In addition to being a historical archaeological attraction, the site is rich of typical iblea flora and fauna .
The beautiful countryside of Modica, with its fertile land and its natural landscapes, offers visitors incredible and unforgettable views,and farms full of healthy and genuine products. The countryside of Modica has a horizontal planning, with wide expanse of land bordered by lines, stone walls, creating a particular topography shaped web. These walls were built by an ancient technique, dry without mud so the rain water can run through them without damaging them. They also have the function of bordering the properties. Part of the landscape are carob trees.
About 15 kilometers from the town centre are the seaside towns of Marina di Modica and Maganuco, having wide strips of fine golden sand with cliffs sloping towards there, you can find beautiful dunes with plants such as the European sea rocket, beach grass, reeds andinula, useful as areas of rest for migratory birds. In the inner areas there are several examples of acacias. In these beaches, thanks to the special exposure and favorable wind conditions, surfing and windsurf are practiced.