Modica is "a country in the shape of a split pomegranate, near the sea but rural. Half narrow on a spur of rock, half scattered at his feet, with a lot of stairs between the two halves, to act as peacemakers, and clouds in the sky from one bell tower to another ". Thus Gesualdo Bufalino described Modica in Argo the blind, recalling a happy summer spent in the town of the Shire.
Modica founded by Hercules?
Hercules: a myth on the Iblei plateau
The city extends over the southern part of the Iblei Mountains, fifteen kilometers
further south of Ragusa. The city lies on a wide plateau and clings to rocky walls
of the quarries that cross it. According to an ancient legend, Modica was founded
by Hercules (Heracles for Greek mythology). In tenth labor, Hercules manages
to capture the red oxen of the giant Gerion. After the triumph in Spain, the hero
goes to Italy but the beasts he broguht with him as a trophy, were stolen while
he was in Sicily. Motia, a beautiful Greek woman,indicated him the places where
the beasts have been hidden. Out of his gratitude, Hercules founded three cities
exactly where he found the oxen, which were dedicated to the woman. The three
cities are Mozia near Marsala, Mozia near Agrigento and the Mozia
From the prehistoric Motya to the capital of the County
The charm of the myth cannot make us forget that the presence of human being in the territory of Modica, precedes the Greeks and the Romans and therefore their relative myths. If ever Hercules would have founded the city, he would have certainly found a settlement dating back to Sicilian prehistory. The presence of a storeroom of bronzes containing swords, spears and other objects found along the river, near the present railway station, testifies the presence of indigenous peoples since the Bronze Age. The documents tell us the presence of a city, Motyca, since the 3rd century BC. The population which initially was independent of Rome, will end up under the rule of the Empire two centuries later and then conquered by the Arabs in the 9th century AD. It was then reconquered by the Normans in the year 1000, and it became the capital of the County in 1296. Its lords, Chiaramonte, Cabrera and Henriquez-Cabrera, belonged to the most influential families of the island.
County of Modica and the earthquake of 1693
The County of Modica was one of the most important feudal states of the South. Its territory included all the municipalities that today are part of the province of Ragusa, plus the baronies of Alcamo and Calatafimi in the province of Trapani, and other cities scattered around the island. When feudalism was abolished at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Modica gradually lost its power over Ragusa, which in 1927 was elevated to a province. Like the other cities of the south-east of Sicily, it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 but it was re-born later according to the Baroque aesthetic. "Modica Alta", initially lying on the upper part of the "Altopiano della Pianta", stretched towards the bottom of the valley where "Modica Bassa" was then developed; the new district overlooked the banks of two rivers: "Pozzo dei Pruni" and "Janni Mauro". The two rivers, at the level of the Clock Tower, joined together in a single stream which is now covered: the "Moticano". From the bottom of the valley, the city climbs the hill which embraces it. The extraordinary urban layout of the late nineteenth century, with 17 bridges that used to cross the rivers and the streams, made the city so fascinating that was defined in the first edition of the "Treccani Encyclopedy" as the most unique city in Italy after Venice. Following the great flood of 1902, the "Moticano" was covered to avoid new floods. The city lost its fascinating bridges and mills but achieved a new important artery, called "Corso Umberto I". It is the main street of the city, which was developed around the most important district of the city.The design of the historic center is still enchanting: houses, baroque palaces, and fantastic churches chase each other on the hillsides.
Modica today: enchanting baroque city
The many viewpoints allow you to see all of its suggestive neighborhoods. The narrow alleys and steep staircases open up in front of beautiful monuments. In 2002, along with seven other cities in the "Val di Noto", it started to be considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Twenty kilometers from the city center we find "Marina di Modica" and "Maganuco". The first, is a popular seaside resort during summertime, while the second, is less traveled and is a favorite destination for those who love pristine beaches. Modica is also famous for its chocolate production. The cold processed "Modicano chocolate" is a typical sweet of the city. This tradition was inherited from the Spanish rulers in the sixteenth century. Initially handed down as a typical dessert of noble families, it has become very common in recent years and a sought-after product all over the world.