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Golden Day Forty-Four: Follow Katia Amore In Modica

December 2, 2010

We’re sticking around southeastern Sicily–home to those dreamy towns that showcase the Sicilian Baroque. Years ago, I was lucky to ride a bike into Modica, get wowed by the architecture and taste the town’s famous chocolate. The visit was all too brief. Which is why I am so grateful to have found Katia Amore online through her Love Sicily website and blog, which is full of great info about the area and mouth-watering recipes.

Katia was born in Modica and grew up amidst  a family of great cooks. After years of working in the UK as a university researcher in ethnic relations, she returned with her husband to her homeland and transformed her grandparent’s villa into a Cooking School,  where she teaches using recipes from the notebooks of her nonna. Her highly praised week long programs in the spring and fall give travelers the experience of hands on classes, the chance to meet local food artisans and immerse themselves in the nature and culture of Modica.

And now Katia generously gives her advice to us  for a Golden Day in Modica:

8am We start with breakfast at Caffè del Teatro. This bar is a few steps away  from my cooking school and I always like to stop there after a busy session in the kitchen.  Stefano prepares a hot cup of Modica’s chocolate or an espresso served with pasta amara, a bitter and rough piece of 100% cocoa. This is just the right kind of energy needed before heading up the 254 steps to the  Saint George cathedral in Modica Alta.
9am Saint George cathedral is a masterpiece of Sicilian baroque architecture with its wonderfully decorated five naves and its amazing golden facade. Built during the 18th century as part of the reconstruction of the whole area which had been devastated by a terrible earthquake in 1693, the Duomo is now  Modica’s landmark .

10am We go back to Modica Bassa, taking our time to enjoy the breathtaking view of the city as we go down the steps towards Corso Garibaldi and reach  Saint Peter Cathedral in Modica Bassa. Another amazing example of Sicilian baroque architecture, the church has an interesting stairway characterised  by the imposing statues of thetwelve Apostles, known by the locals as “santuna” (the big saints).

10.30am Waving goodbye to the “santuna”, we walk into a small alley, just opposite the church, to pay respect to a sanctuary of Modica’s gastronomy, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. We are welcomed by the warm
smile of Beatrice or Anisa ready to unveil all the secrets of the local traditional chocolate and offer a taste of the many other wonderful delicacies they make at the dolceria.

11.00am A stroll along Corso Umberto I is a great opportunity for shopping or to stop at the Civic Museum Belgiorno or the  Palazzo Grimaldi gallery. If you love books, Libreria del Corso at n. 139 offers a great selection of books dedicated to Sicily or written by Sicilian authors. We continue walking along the Corso till Piazza Matteotti and reach Via Vittorio Veneto.

12.30pm Time for an aperitif! we go to the aptly named Caffe Venezia since, after all, Modica was also known as the Venice of the south. A name acquired when rivers crossed the centre of Modica Bassa.
This is the perfect chance to get a great aperitivo straight from the hands of Marcello Ciaceri, one of Modica’s best barmen, try a Sicilian spumante or locally brewed unfiltered and unpasteurised pilsner or ale beer.
1:30 pmWe are still in the centre of Modica, but in an area that is rarely discovered by  tourists. This gives us a great chance to go for lunch at a trattoria mostly used by locals, La RusticanaThe “fave con i lolli”, fava beans soup with home-made pasta, or ravioli with ricotta and pork sauce offer a true taste of the local cuisine.

3pm Time to take a break and enjoy the “filinona”, the Sicilian version of a siesta.

4.30pm We wake up and go straight into Bar Ciacera for a Spumone al Caffè or a Pezzo duro (a hard slice of ice-cream), a great way to kick off the afternoon.

5.30pm  A walk under the Ponti i Pulera, Modica’s small portici, takes us to the church of Santa Maria di Betlemme where we can admire a Traditional Terracotta Nativity Scene made in 1882.

6pm To  build up our appetite, we start going up the steps towards the clock tower of the medival Castello dei Conti. We  reach Via Posterla and  pass by the house of famous Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968)  or Museo Campailla [1668 – 1740], poet, philosopher and doctor who discovered a revolutionary treatment for syphilis.

8pm Via Posterla is in a strategic position when it comes to choosing a restaurant for dinner. We can decide to keep going up towards Modica
Alta, for one of  Chef Accursio Craparo’s tasting menus at Michelin star restaurant La Gazza Ladra or stay in via Posterla and enjoy a great view of Modica and an elegant dinner at restaurant Torre d’Oriente. Finally, one can also join most of the locals in Via Grimaldi for a great pizza made with local buffalo mozzarella at La Contea.

After dinner, do not miss the chance to go for a final stroll along Corso Umberto I or go up to the belvedere for an amazing photo opportunity of Modica by night.

As far as where to sleep, Katia recommends her Holiday House, Sipario Su Modica, a renovated 1930’s villa with 3 bedrooms, a large kitchen and living room and sweeping views of Modica, which she rents out by the week when cooking classes are not in session.

For more luxurious digs, Katia suggests the Palazzo Failla or the Grana Barocco, an eco-friendly hotel which also has a beautiful spa.

Grazie Katia–You have me yearning to return to Modica!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 10:19 pm

    I was just in Modica for my anniversary and thought it was simply decadent. We only had a few short hours there, and your post makes me want to go back even more. Thank goodness it’s so close by! (I’m living in Catania.) I hear they also have a chocolate festival, do you happen to know when that is?

    • December 9, 2010 4:20 pm

      Hi Haley,

      thanks for the comment. The chocolate festival Chocobarocco just ended yesterday. It started on the 3d of December and went on for 5 days. Every year they tend to change date, so the best thing is to keep checking Modica related websites or blogs.
      Hope you will make it next year.

      Katia

  2. December 7, 2010 10:15 pm

    Ciao Susan and Katia,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful tips about Modica. Some of them very new to me though I live in Ibla, almost next door. Locals took me to La Rusticana for fava bean soup and it was great! (The place makes you feel like you’re eating in someone’s kitchen and prices can’t be beat.) Katia, I hope our paths cross someday soon.

    • December 9, 2010 4:22 pm

      Thanks Jann, I agree that we should meet someday soon in Ibla or Modica.

      Loved your Ragusa golden day and your photos.

      Katia

  3. December 2, 2010 9:39 pm

    Thank you for the great info – I can’t wait to go to Sicily.

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