Scicli and Modica: the best scenography of Sicily.


After visiting Noto, the so-called capital of the Baroque style I drove just few kilometres, along the Valley and ended up at two cities that really surprised me: Scicli and Modica.

The reason why I included Scicli was not its artistic and acrhitectural value but the fact that it is one of the sets of the most successful TV show in the history of the Italian Television: Montalbano. It is a series of detective stories taken from the books written by a very beloved Italian writer called Andrea Camilleri, who was from Sicily and died in 2019 at the age of 94 after writing dozens of Montalbano stories.

The tv show is very successful and it has been translated into several languages because of the quality of the stories and the incredibly good cast that brought to life the personality of each character exactly as Camilleri wrote them in his books, all of which are best sellers.

Scicli is the place where the Police Station scenes are filmed, thus I wanted to see it. However what impressed me much upon my arrival was incredibly nice atmosphere of the place and it appearance: the easiest way for me to describe it is the Nativity Scene. You probably know that at Christmas time in Italy we do not only decorate trees in our houses but we also build a nativity scene with houses and characters such as the eastern kings, the sheppards and many more…Scicli looks exactly like one of those little villages we build every year at Christmas time.

A little alley in Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Panoramic view of Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Together with Noto and Modica, Scicli is part of the Val di Noto area, protected by Unesco for the value of its Baroque Heritage. In fact, here also you can find valuable sample of this architectural ad decorative style, which I didn’t expect and pleasantly was surprised by.

Baroque archtecture in Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Baroque balconies in Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Scicli is topped by a rocky hill, whose top is well visible from a distance due to an unfinished and abandoned baroque Church named after St. Matthew. To reach it you have to climb several steps. Although is a bit fatiguing, especially under the scortching sun of Sicily, the ascent provides nice views and some iconic Italian photo opportunities:

The Iconic Vespa. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Fishing nets used as a wall decoration. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Once on top of the hill I got 2 views: the first one inside the abandoned Curch of St. Matthew and the second one over the old town of Scicli:

The abandoned Church of St. Matthew. Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Panoramic view of Scicli. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

I had lunch in Scicli, in the main square then I moved to the last Unesco site of the Val di Noto: Modica. Previously famous for the high quality of its chocolate making tradition, Modica is nowadays attractive for many due to the incredibly beautiful scenography of its alleys and the breathtaking view of the Cathedral of St. George.

Do you know what the Syndrome of Stendhal is? If not, it is an illness that hits very sensitive people once before amazing works of art: you get out of breath, your heart start beating fast and in the end you faint. Modica can make you faint. Beautiful, amazing, incredible, breathtaking. If there was an Oscar for the best natural scenography it definitely should go to Modica!!!!

Roofs of Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Modica also looks like a nativity scenes to us, but once you take the short (and comfortable) ascent heading to the bottom of the monumental staircase of the Cathedral of St. George, you get to learn how to built a perfect, impressive and imposing scenography.

The monumental staircase of St. George. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
The belltower of St. George’s Cathedral. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Climb just few steps and you’ll get this amazing view over the whole Church.

Duomo di San Giorgio. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Duomo di San Giorgio. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

There was a wedding inside the Church thus I coulnd’t roam around freely. I only managed to take a nice picture of the wedding flowery decoration. In a distance you can see the huge baroque polyptyc.

Duomo di San Giorgio. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Out of the Church I got another great view over the opposite section of the village.

Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The hill opposite the Cathedral is called “Belvedere”. To get there you have to take your car because the way there is not short. There are very few parking lots available at the belvedere, which is actually a very small backstreet heading to some private houses. I have been pretty lucky and I found a slot immediately. Got off the car, walked along the alley and ended up on a small balcony ( I really mean a small one) where the most amazing view of Modica appeared before my eyes:

Panorama of Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Duomo di San Giorgio from the Belvedere. Modica. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Few things to know before going to Scicli and Modica:

  • Parking your car is very difficult in both cities, In peak season you may roam around for long before finding an empty slot. In Scicli I found that the area close to Piazza Italia and the Church of San Bartolomeo were less congested. In Modica I managed to find some empty parking slots along Via Garibaldi, but I believe it is not very common. You may park along Via Nazionale for free, in the moden city, and take a taxi if you are far from the old town or walk if you are close.
  • Where to eat: I had some very good eggplant rolls at “Antica Sicilia” located in Scicli, Piazza Italia, and they were delicious. My travelmates had arancini and pasta con le sarde and they were all very happy.
  • Chocolate: don’t forget that Modica is one the Italian Capital of Chocolate. If you want to try the best you must visit the shop of Bonajuto, located in a small backstreet opposite the Church of St. Peter. You may also try their Cannolo Siciliano and buy some chocolate bars.
  • Belvedere of Modica: if you parked in the modern city it might take you long to get back to your car, thus you may board “Trenino del Barocco” which is a sort of easy sightseeing on board a train-looking bus whihc also stops at the Belvedere. It departs in front of Duomo di San Pietro.
  • Where to sleep: I slept at a comfortable country house out of Modica, approximately 15 minutes by car, called Torre Don Virgilio. Rooms are good, there is a swimming pool and a great breakfast service.

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