Sicily has suffered more than its fair share of earthquakes over the years, but for the south eastern corner of the island it is the devastating tremor of 1693 which has created a legacy that today is the region’s greatest draw for visitors. With several towns almost entirely destroyed, a major rebuilding programme was initiated using the most modern designs of the day. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries that meant baroque, with all its extravagant, excessive flamboyance. Today the churches and civic buildings of the region are a joy to explore, and the towns of Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli have been collectively inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, by virtue of being such impressive examples of late Baroque architecture.
On our recent trip to Sicily we spent three nights at the delightful Agriturismo Il Granaio just outside Modica. There’s a pool, a spa and a restaurant serving traditional home-cooked dishes, and it’s easy enough to pass a few days relaxing and enjoying the surrounding countryside views. But we were there to explore, and the property is ideal to use as a base for driving to the Baroque cities; we talked to fellow guests who also made a day trip to Syracuse, around an hour’s drive away. From Il Granaio we made trips to Modica and Ragusa, having arrived via a stop in Noto. Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect to see in these three cities.