Modica, Sicily – how to spend an afternoon (or morning!) visiting the town, the best things to do, where to park, what to eat, and what to do near Modica.
I won’t lie. I don’t visit Modica to see its churches or explore the town center. I come for the chocolate! I love Modica’s unique chocolate, but it wasn’t always that way. I visited the town many times for work and crinkled my nose at the grainy chocolate bars. Now, I appreciate the purity of the chocolate, the quality of the additional ingredients, and the unique flavors.
But, Modica is more than its chocolate, and if you come for half a day, you’ll want to take a peek around town. After all, it’s one of the gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Val di Noto cities. Like the others, it was destroyed in the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in Sicilian baroque style.
Modica is split into two parts – upper Modica (Modica Alta)and lower Modica (Modica Bassa). Upper Modica is the oldest part of town and has the part of town with small, narrow medieval streets, beautiful views, and memorable churches. However, there’s still plenty to see and do in lower Modica. Our visit spends time in both parts of Modica.
Let’s look at how you can spend a few hours in Modica…
Helpful Tip: Coming to Modica in July or August? It can be hot! Instead of visiting in the afternoon, you can visit in the early evening… Arrive in Modica around 6:00pm to begin your visit. Shops are open until 8:30pm in the summer months.
You may want to read about Visiting Modica with Kids.
Modica, Sicily – Where is It?
Modica is in southeastern Sicily, in the well-off Val di Noto (Noto Valley).
How to Get to Modica for Your Visit
Drive to Modica
It’s easily reached by car from:
- Ragusa – 15 kilometers (25 minutes)
- Scicli – 10 kilometers (15 minutes)
- Syracuse – 70 kilometers (60 minutes)
- Catania Airport – 120 kilometers (90 minutes)
Don’t stress about driving in Modica! The main roads through town are wide and easy to follow and at the time of writing (February 2023) there are no ZTLs except for a tiny one in Modica bassa around Piazza Matteotti (and there’s a big ZTL sign at the entrance). For this visit to Modica, you don’t need to stress about ZTLs – drive into town and find a parking spot (white is free and blue is paid) and enjoy your visit!
Take the Bus to Modica
You can take the bus to Modica using the AST (Azienda Siciliana Trasporti) bus network.
Take the Train to Modica
Check the schedule for trains to Modica on Trenitalia. Read more about Train Travel in Italy.
How to Spend an Afternoon in Modica
Arrive in Upper Modica
The easiest way to get to Modica is by car, but you can also take the train or bus. You’ll walk 10-15 minutes to get to the center of town.
Stroll Corso Umberto I
Check out the small shops, cafes, churches, and small piazzas in Modica on the ‘main drag.’
Have Something to Eat
If you haven’t had lunch yet, stop for a meal in town. We loved the simple ‘fish & chips’ to go from Putia del Coppo (Corso Umberto I, 197), especially the fried sardines. If you want to sit down, Osteria dei Sapori Perduti (Corso Umberto 1, 230) has simple, delicious Sicilian dishes, and you can eat indoors or on the terrace. In the mood for a picnic? Grab supplies at the Coop grocery store on Piazzale Falcone e Borsellino, 614 and dine in the green (but wild) Parco S. Giuseppe U Timpuni.
Good To Know: If you decide to stay for dinner, Fattoria delle Torri (Vico Napoletano) and Accursio Ristorante (Via Clemente Grimaldi, 41) are excellent options.
Sample Modica’s Chocolate at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto
Yes, there are multiple chocolate shops in town, but don’t miss Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. It’s a family-run chocolate shop that’s been producing Modican chocolate since 1880 (and I’ve been a loyal customer since 2004).
This isn’t your typical chocolate. Modica’s chocolate is cold-pressed, so the sugar doesn’t melt into the cocoa. When you bit into Modican chocolate, you can feel the graininess of the sugar. Admittedly, I didn’t like it when I first tried it in my 20s, but now I love the consistency and pure chocolate taste (that’s not covered with milk and preservatives).
The shop adds additional ingredients like vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, sea salt, and even peperoncino. And there are also pastries for sale, like to-die-for almond cookies and the unique ‘mpanatigghi e nucatoli cookies (they have meat inside!).
Inside the shop, you can sample chocolates (don’t be shy – the staff are happy to let you try what you’d like) and you can purchase bars or other treats at the same time.
Helpful Tip: The shop is tiny and can get very crowded. Peek in, and if it’s busy, try again later. The line (or rather, mob) does move fairly quickly. Also, there’s a video display of chocolate making and there are glass display cases with historic info on chocolate making, which make the time fly by.
Good To Know: You can book a 30-minute tour (which includes a tasting of the torroni, a chocolate drink, and the ‘mpanatigghi cookies), but it must be reserved in advance via the website.
Take the Trenino Around Town
After chowing down on chocolate, you probably feel like walking, but first take the trenino (little train) around town to get an overview of Modica alta. There are a couple of little trains that depart from Modica bassa at Corso Umberto I near the Town Hall (between Antica Dolceria Bonajuto and the traffic circle with the WW2 monument). We rode the green train (trenino barocco) which also has little trains in other area towns like Ragusa, Scicli, and Palazzolo Acreide.
It’s only about 5€ and you get a nice ride up into the upper part of Modica alta. It’s helpful on a hot summer day and you get some gorgeous views of town without sweating through your clothing. If you want to, you can always walk back up on your own.
Good To Know: While there is an ‘audio tour’ played through the speakers, don’t take the train expecting to learn a lot about Modica. It’s difficult to hear the info. Take the ride to get an overview of town.
Check Out One or Two of Modica’s Churches
Modica is known as the paese di cento chiese, or the town of 100 churches. To clarify, there were at one time 95 churches in Modica and its surroundings. For an area with a population of around 50,000, this was quite a lot of churches! While there are no longer 95 churches in the area, there are quite a few gems worth visiting. Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘church person,’ stop into one or two of Modica’s chiese and see what the all of the fuss is about.
If you don’t feel like walking back up to Modica alta, you can visit:
- Chiesa di San Pietro Apostolo (Church of St. Peter the Apostle) – gorgeous interior; statues of the 12 apostles line the dramatic stairway to the church
- Chiesa Rupestre di San Nicolò Inferiore (Cave Church of St. Nicholas) – tiny church carved into a cave; was only rediscovered in the 80’s by a young boy; the church is probably from the 12th century
- Duomo di San Giorgio (Cathedral of St. George) – considered Modica’s most impressive church; at the beginning of Modica alta if you’re walking from Modica bassa; you can walk the 250 steps from Corso Umberto up to the cathedral
- Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista (Church of St. James the Evangelist) – my favorite church in Modica – not for its interior, but for resting on the steps in front, underneath the shade of the trees; pizzeria at the bottom of steps with outdoor terrace is perfect for a drink and rest
And that’s it! A whirlwind, but satisfying visit of Modica. At this point, you can leave Modica and head to your next destination, or stick around and explore town a bit more:
More Things to Do in Modica
Want to see more? Here are some fun things to do in Modica if you’d like to spend a little more time in town.
Trace Montalbano’s Footsteps
Along with nearby Scicli, Modica was a location for Inspector Montalbano television series (a little bit like Italian Columbo) – you’ll recognize Palazzo Polara and the Church of San Giorgio.
See a Performance at Teatro Garibaldi
If you’re visiting during the season, see a ballet, opera, or other performance at the small theater.
Museo della Memoria
My boys and father were disappointed that this was closed during our visit. After reading so much about World War II in Sicily, they were excited to check out the museum’s artifacts and learn more about the battles that took place on the island. It’s definitely on our list for our next trip to Modica.
Castello dei Conti
You’ll need to use your imagination, as the ruins of the castle aren’t incredible. Instead, come up for the views of Modica.
If you happen to be in town when Modica’s Chocomodica chocolate festival is running (early December in 2023), don’t miss the chance to participate in workshops, watch presentations, play games, and learn about the history and process of making Modica’s special chocolate. Fun for kids and adults.
Things to Do Near Modica
Before or after your visit to Modica, you can:
- Swim in the sea at Sampieri
- Explore the town of Scicli
- Visit Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla
- Check out the castle of Donnafugata
- Sample incredible olive oil at Villa Zottopera
- Have a seafood meal in Marzamemi
- See the Museo Cava Ispica (Cave Water Mill Museum)
I hope you enjoy your short visit to Modica!