The Baroque hill towns southwest of Siracusa are worth a visit and are close enough together to base out of one and day trip around. They were all heavily damaged in the 1693 earthquake and so rebuilding occurred around the same time, giving the main iconic buildings around the center a similar character. I stayed in Modica, in part because it was in the center of the three. It turned out to be a good choice as it had good eating and sleeping options.
From Siracusa, I took the bus to Noto, which took a little over an hour. Noto goes way back to the Romans and was modified on a grid pattern after the 1693 earthquake. Since then, it has become a honey-tinted UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bus station is close to the center and you are greeted by a 19th century archway.
The main cathedral is quite grand and dates from the early 18th century.
Noto’s a pleasant place to walk around with a pedestrianized main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and the main sites are the most centralized of the three towns.
You can get as much baroque architecture as you want much of the time.
Baroque 3D angels and other celestial phenomena.
Lunch was at the streetside Arancini Planet on Via Ducezio. You only need one.
Cafe Costanzo on Via Silvio Spaventa is a good place for a stop off and their ice cream is excellent.
I spent half a day in Noto which was about right. The tourist office (Info Point) on Corso Vittorio Emanuele 135 are very helpful and will keep your bag for you if you want to go walkabout.
Departing Noto for Modica, I took the train, which is walkable but located further from the town center.
Modica is situated across a large valley with the commercial center in the low ground to the south, around the intersection of Corso Umberto I and Via Marchesa Tedeschi, which is a busy street that makes for an interesting stroll.
The old town is reached heading up the northeast side of the valley off the main thoroughfare.
St George’s Cathedral is a waypoint on the upward walk, and it has the usual ornate interior that you see in Sicilian baroque churches.
The view from the heights of the old town are worth the walk – this is looking southerly towards Corso Umberto I.
The Pizzo Bel Vedere has a good overlook.
The Rappa Enoteca on Corso Santa Teresa 97/99 https://www.facebook.com/rappaenoteca/ is a great stopoff for wine or microbrews in the old town.
Ragusa is the largest of the three hill towns. Its main working center is Ragusa Superiore, much of which dates from post-earthquake construction. The old town – Ragusa Ibla, is located to the east over a saddle along the hill line. The rail and bus stand are located in the newer town to the south of the Ragusa Superiore, so it’s a decent walk to the old town. But worth it.
The old town is good for a wander punctuated by the usual church and palazzo stopoffs.
From time to time you come across brutalist fascist architecture, which isn’t necessarily surprising given that they governed the country from 1922 to 1943, although the regalia often remains.
The Delicatessen in drogheria on Via Archimede 32, in the new town https://www.facebook.com/DelicatessenRagusa is a good place for a panini and a microbrew.
Logistics and Tips
AST is the regional bus line that bets gets you between the southeast cities http://www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it Click on “Linee e Ori” to find the schedule.
Keep the train in mind if the bus schedules don’t work out – it was convenient Noto-Modica http://www.trenitalia.com. You can also buy your ticket online anytime if your smartphone is set up for Italy.
Unless you are fine with roaming costs, you can purchase a SimCard as long as your phone is 3G compatible and you are able to unlock it. I went with Telecom Italia Mobile – seek out a TIM store when you arrive in Italy. Mine was 20 euro for 30 days of wireless and voice, not unlimited but it was sufficient.
I stayed at the B&B Palazzo Il Cavalliere in Modica which was perfectly fine.palazzoilcavaliere.it
There are plenty of food choices in Modica, mainly in the new town – I recommend these places which covered local specialties very well:
Osteria dei Sapori http://www.osteriadeisaporiperduti.it
Trattoria Ristorante Il Girasole Di Colombo Corrado http://www.trattoriailgirasole.com