Ragusa – Modica – Scicli – Siracusa

Today I drove from Ragusa to Siracusa, with stops in Modica (which autocorrect insists should be Monica) and Scicli (which autocorrect threw up it hands in despair over, thankfully without trying to change it to anything else.)

The rental car company made my decision to make stops along the way easy. Its Siracusa location opens only for a few hours hours in the morning and then again in the afternoon from 4:00 to 7:00.

I could have made the morning slot without pushing myself too much. According to both Google Maps and Apple Maps, the drive from Ragusa to Siracusa without stops takes only about an hour and a half.

But I figured, Sicily is a big island. I’m seeing only a small fraction of it on this trip. Why not increase that fraction, even if only infinitesimally?

So, Modica and Scicli it was, with a bonus. Wait for it.

But first, a note on the name of the city I ended my day in. In English-language books, websites, and maps, I’ve seen it spelled both “Siracusa” and “Syracuse,” in roughly equal proportions.

Normally in this journal, when there are different English and local-language names for the place I visit, I use the English name, possibly putting the local one in parentheses on first use. I’m not sure I’ve been consistent about that, but that’s my intent.

However, because the English-speaking world seems divided on it, and because there are already too many Syracuses in the world, I decided to go with Siracusa.


Modica is a bustling city.

It offers a small, free parking lot just outside the central part of town. I drove to the lot, but all the spots were taken. Even a couple of spots that clearly weren’t meant as spots were taken.

There was no place available to park in the lot that wouldn’t force one or more people to wait for me to get back if they wanted to leave. I thought that was a bad idea. Maybe it’s my Canadian politeness showing its face.

I drove around the lot a few times, but no one looked like they were in their car or heading to their car. Parking in the lot did not seem to be an option if I wanted to get to the car rental location today, or this decade.

I think visitors to or residents in Modica figure that when they find a spot in that lot, the parking god smiled upon them. They probably fear that said god would be angered if they vacated the spot that He, She, or It bestowed upon them. So they abandon their cars and buy new ones. I might be wrong about that.

Almost all of the streets in Modica have pay-parking along them. I drove around for a while searching for an vacant one. I didn’t time how long it took me to find a spot. Let’s just say that I’m older now.

But eventually the parking god smiled upon me. Not only did He, She or It provide me with a parking spot, but He, She or It bestowed a rare angled spot upon me. Most street spots involve parallel parking. I guess the parking god didn’t want me to back up traffic for an hour or two while I manoeuvred into a spot. There may be people in the world who are worse parallel parkers than I am. But I don’t think so.

The City

A view of Modica from the Cathedral of San Giorgio
A view of Modica from the Cathedral of San Giorgio

Like Ragusa, the earthquake of 1693 devastated Modica and it had to be largely rebuilt after that. But I’m sure they learned their lesson and built fortified buildings that would be more earthquake resistant. I said, I’m sure they built the buildings more earthquake resistant. I said, I’m sure they made the buildings more earthquake resistant. (To be honest, I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve adopted it as a mantra.)

Modica is a beautiful city. It climbs up the sides of two opposing hills. One of the hills, the one with the Cathedral of San Giorgio on it (see below), curves, almost forming a horseshoe shape with the other hill. But not quite. A narrow valley forms a deep gap between them.

There is a third hill on the far end of the city from the top of the almost-horseshoe. Modica does not ascend up that hill very far. The upper portion is almost sheer cliff. However, there are some buildings on the lower portion of the hill.

The main street of Modica is fairly horizontal, running at the bottom of the narrow valley between the two opposing hills. Another relatively horizontal street runs at the same level, but perpendicular to that one, below the third hill. Most of the other streets are either tiered along one of the hills, climb one of them, or a bit of both.

In Modica, I wandered around, visited a few sights, ate a simple lunch, and bought some chocolate. The sights included:

Cathedral of San Pietro

Exterior of the Cathedral of San Pietro
Exterior of the Cathedral of San Pietro

The Cathedral of San Pietro is in the lower portion of the city. It’s big, attractive, and sits atop a wide set of stairs.

The interior of the cathedral displays lots of gold, red, and blue, among other colours. In addition to the paintings on the walls, there are a number of small paintings on the ceiling, each inside one of a series of circles and hexagons.

While I was there, choral music played on a speaker system in the cathedral. A soloist with a lovely voice dominated much of the singing.

Interior of the Cathedral of San Pietro
Interior of the Cathedral of San Pietro

Cathedral of San Giorgio

Exterior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio
Exterior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio

If one cathedral is good, two are better, right? Right or not, Modica has two.

The Cathedral of San Giorgio is in Modica Alta, the upper portion of Modica. It sits high up on the curved hill. And again, this cathedral is atop a wide set of stairs.

The design of the Cathedral of San Giorgia in Modica Similar is similar to the design of the Cathedral of San Giorgio in Ragusa Ibla. That’s not surprising because the same architect, Rosario Gagliardi, designed both. I guess if you have a good design, you stick with it. Economies of scale are important for architects too, I suppose.

Interior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio
Interior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio

I don’t know much about this sort of stuff, but aren’t there other saints than San Giorgio (Saint George)? Wouldn’t Rosario have been smarter to hedge his bets and design cathedrals for a number of different saints? Then, if one doesn’t pay out, maybe another one will. Some people just have no common sense. I mean, some people in addition to me, that is.

The cathedral has lots of crystal or maybe glass chandeliers that these days hold electric fake candles.

A big, beautifully decorated organ sits high up on one side of the central aisle, about halfway down the church.

The organ in the Cathedral of San Giorgio
The organ in the Cathedral of San Giorgio


Apparently, Modica is most famous for chocolate. The place is lousy with chocolate shops.

The tour book I’m using recommended a particular chocolate shop, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. It is, according to the book, the oldest and most famous in Modica. The author also said they offer samples to help you choose the chocolate you want to buy. They do. And I tried a few and bought some.

I bought one bar (chocolate with mandarine orange). I also bought a type of their chocolate, one with chili peppers, that they sell only in boxes of chocolate tablets, not bars. It came in small, medium, or large boxes. The small has only two tablets. Two hardly seems worth the bother, does it? I went with the medium box.

And before you judge me, of course I had to buy chocolate. For one thing, when in Modica, do as the Modicans, or whatever the proper name is, do. Or as the tourists in Modica do, whichever the case maybe.

For another thing, touring and living the good life is hard work. It requires a lot of energy. Chocolate provides energy. Ergo, I had to buy chocolate. It just stands to reason.

After buying my chocolate, I left Modica. But, surprisingly Modica wasn’t done with me. Wait for it.


The exterior of San Giovanni Evangelista church
The exterior of San Giovanni Evangelista church

The tour book I’m using recommended Scicli as a pretty town. It is, very much so. The tour book also said there aren’t many tourist attractions in Scicli. There aren’t as far as I could see.

Scicli is another town that was devastated by the 1693 earthquake and to be rebuilt. (Chanting: But I’m sure that they built the buildings more earthquake resistant. I said, I’m sure they built the buildings more earthquake resistant. I said, I’m sure they made the buildings more earthquake resistant.)

The town is surrounded by hills made of volcanic rock. They are too steep for the town build up on them, but high up on the top of one sits a big castle named Castelluccio. According to the tour book, that translates roughly to “big and broken down castle.” I couldn’t go up to it, so I can’t confirm or deny that description.

The interior of San Giovanni Evangelista church
The interior of San Giovanni Evangelista church

But, um, er. Being curious and skeptical, I wanted to check that translation. So I went to Google Translate to try to figure out how the author, or whomever he consulted, came up with it.

First, I tried “castellucio” as one word. I wasn’t expecting to find a translation of that. And I didn’t.

Then I tried, “castel” and “luccio” as two separate words. Still nothing.

Castello is castle. So I tried just “uccio” on its own. Google Translate told me that translates to “shit.” Its word, not mine. Okay. “Big and broken down” versus “shit.” I guess I get it.

Scicli's shopping street
Scicli’s shopping street

But, never mind that. Scicli has a nice little pedestrians-only shopping street, along with a number of other quaint streets. It also has a few old churches. I went into the only one I found open, the San Giovanni Evangelista church. It’s small and attractive, with blue dominating the interior decor.

A larger church, beside a big public square was supposed to be open in the afternoon from 3:00 according to my tour book. At 3:15, it still wasn’t. I pressed on.

The Sea, and Modica Again, Sort of

On the route from Scicli to Siracusa I caught a glimpse of the sea. Being a big fan of the sea, I turned off on a road in goodness knows what municipality. I proceeded in the direction of the sea, ignoring Apple Maps’ repeated commands to “proceed to the route.”

The road forced me to turn away from the sea. I tried a few more streets with the same result. Eventually, I gave up and proceeded along the short route Apple Maps gave me back to the original route. The sea zero, Apple Maps one.

The sea at Marina di Modica!
The sea at Marina di Modica!

I drove on. A little while later, I caught another glimpse of the sea. I turned off on a wide road that looked like it went directly to the sea. Apple Maps must have known it was a wide street with traffic islands in the middle of it because, rather than telling me to proceed to the route, it told me to make a u-turn at every intersection. I ignored it every time.

Eureka! My persistence was rewarded. The road ended at a public parking lot by the sea. A sign in the parking lot, had a lot of words on it. All of them were in Italian. Some words I nevertheless recognized were “Città di Modica” and “Marina di Modica.”

More of the sea at Marina di Modica!
More of the sea at Marina di Modica!

I looked at a map. Marina di Modica is quite a distance from Modica. I guess the city was not satisfied with being landlocked and seized a marina. That’s just my theory. It’s probably wrong. However, if that is accurate, remember, you read it here first. Tell your friends.

There are rocks suitable for clambering on between the parking lot and the sea. I scrambled over them to get as close to the sea as I could without triggering my fear of slipping in. (The fear of slipping on rocks by the sea and falling in is fear number 2,728 on the exhausting, but not exhaustive list of my fears.)

Starting from the parking area, a long promenade leads to a short pier, some benches, and a big beach. I sat on one of the benches, gazed as the blue-green water, and enjoyed listening to the gentle waves lapping against the shore.

Then, I left to ensure that, even if any major unexpected delays occurred on the route, I could still make it to the car rental location before it closed. Another reason for leaving when I did is I feared that if I experienced too much tranquility it would cause a rift to develop in the fabric of the universe. (Fear number 3,487.)

There were a few more glimpses of the sea as I got close to Siracusa, which is on the coast.


By the time I dropped off the car, got to my hotel and checked in, it was a little after 6:00 p.m. My hotel is part of a chain in which I have status in their loyalty program. That gets me a free welcome drink. I could have had it any day of my stay. But I had to celebrate surviving the driving, didn’t I?

The point is, I didn’t have time to do anything in Siracusa today. But I’m here for three nights, so we’ll see what happens. Stay tuned.


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