Sicily part 2: Noto, Ragusa, ModicaBy Filippo BartolottaThe road from Catania to Siracusa is a pretty easy and straight one with a lovely countryside and the sea always opening to the left with inspiring greatness. I guess the entrance in Siracusa is a bit unusual, with an impressive cemetery sourrounded by beautiful vegetation and a few hundred yards away by a funeral company:)! Be prepared, because Sicily is very often a blend of the uttermost beauty and the least appealing scenarios.Anyway, by now on the 9th of February, iteuros 18,5C! My contact told me to park at the Marina. I follow the instructions and wait for Francesco by the sea.He is a little late as the major of town delayed him a wee bit!Francesco is a young, my age:), Siracusan who lived for 15 years in Milano.He decided it was the right time to go back to Sicily, Today he is busy restauring an historical building, which will become a stunning venue and also a super elegant Suite, the Queen of Sicilyeuros bedroom! The rooms are decoratedwith a late Sicilian barocco which reminds a lot of a more generous liberty style in drawings and design.The Piazza del Duomo in Siracusa has got an enormous power and a dynymic spin to it. Iteuros a rettangular/oval kind of square with the Duomo (described earlier on) at the centre of the square. The various building aroung the oval are made of very diffrent kind of stones with different colours but all going towards a dessert Sarah light brown.This square alone, together with a walk on the lungomare (waterfront) is worth the trip.Here the Aretusa stream is getting on the sea and all around it you can find gorgeous papyrus plant and hundred years old ficus.
Siracusa is packed with history. Starting from the Greek temples, i.e. the Apollo one in Ortigia (the biggest in Sicily); going to the Roman influence from the 212 a.C. -the Amphiteatreis a good benchmarck-; to the Arabs (arrived in 878) -who transformed the Duomo in Mosque and built a very twisting road system; to the Bizantines and then the Normans in the XI and XII century they put the old churches in use, like S. Lucia al Sepolcro (where by the way I have seen one of the most outstanding Caravaggio ever: euroThe Burial of Santa Luciaeuro, photo www.carasantalucia.it).
Sicily is also one of the most imporant places on earth for the jewish heritage. An although most traces have been eurodeletedeuro throughout the centuries, today a marvellous jewish bath, the mikvah, can still be visited.Of course after all these dominations, Siracuse, like the rest of the isalnd, was dominated by the Spanish for many centuries starting with the Aragonesi in the 1282, then after a little French dominationis time again with the Spanish in 1513, then the Borbons in 1734 till mid 19th century. Here you can travel in time in just a few square miles.And if you feel overwhelmed by its artistic beauty, just hope on the car and hit the road to Capo Passero, at the very bottom and of Italy, with a romantic and yummy stop in Marzamemi, an ancient tuna fish harbour. Marzamemi is very seductive, but it also very relaxing and less imposing then the various Baroque towns. A very romantic lunch at Trattoria La Caloma will set in your heart forever. Alternatively one can spend a colorful morning browsing around the Food Market.Here, you will come across some very beautiful corners and above all good productsand sweet and open friendly people.AccomodationsThe freshly refurbished Hotel Agila is a lovely four stars right on the Ortigia Island facing the sea. Iteuros a small hotel built in an old structure, run by very sweet and helpfull people. The common areas are very tiny, but in Siracusa you woneurot be spending much time indoor!There is a five star Hotel called Des Etranger. It is a little old style, but it has a two, three major pluses:the greatest terrace in Siracusa to have an aperitivo or breakfast looking at the two seaviews of Ortigia and a very elegant Sicilian liberty style suite.DiningRegina Lucia, in Piazza Duomo, a stylish, mainly fish restaurant run by a team of young and very passionate people. Very fresh, simple although creative cuisine with a superb wine list with a great Champagne selection and a very broad spectrum of the best Italian wine scene. Also some older vintages. This restaurnat is in a 13th century white sand volted building with with a lava floor!Trattoria La ZagaraIn a little Siracusan alley this place is a traditional trattoria jammed with love and passion, starting from the Sicilian embrodery as centre table, loads of colours, different tables, chairs and cuttleries make this place a very perfumed bohemian alternative.NotoA few miles away from Siracusa Noto is the capital of Sicilian Baroque. A small village surrounded with the eurosand-stoneeuro looking glare which contrasts with the beautiful green ficus. If you get here off season, like I did, you will be pretty much on your own, walking about this amazing buildings, grabbing a coff and a pastry listening to the singing sicilian dialect of the groups of old man sitting on the benches in the little squares. In Noto there is also one of the most praised Sicilian chef Corrado Assenza owner of the historical Caff Sicilia. The bar was closed so I couldneurot try his famous cassatella (a ricotta and almond paste little and extremely caloric cake guarnished with candied fruit) or granita. After bounzing at Caff Sicilia, my sugar levels were deeply down :), so that I had to have a fix, hence my next stop to Modica: capital of Chocolate and Baroque in Sicily.This city is the southern most interesting chocolate place in Europe. Modica together with Torino and the euroTuscan chocolate valleyeurois the place to be if you love this amazing human food invention. Here the speciality is a unique style made with the most ancient recepie invented by the Atzec. The pure cocoa is blended with sugar, vanilla and cinammon -without any added cocoa butter- to form a solid mass which sweetly melts down in your palate.From 1880 there is one Chocolate shope that has been mastering this recepie and implenting it year after year: the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. Franco Ruta and his son Pierpaolo are still running the show in the most artisanal way possible.Their workshop is a tiny room with a few workers helping in the production.The day I was there they were slicing off orange peels.Everything is authentic there. I didneurot announce my visit, as I very often do in order to see the real thing.The Rutas are very humble but very proud of thier produtcs.One apparently impossible combination is the Panatiglio, a little raviolo filled with pork meat and chocolte, which is so, so delicate!Next to it they were makeing some carrub flour biscuit and red hot chilly chocolate.Beware: do not stop in Modica without pay a visit to Bonajuto or you will regret it forever.Innocenzo Pluchino has been working for many years with the Rutas. Today he has moved forward with his own company, Ciomod, producing a more creative and stylish version of Modica chocolate. His kind manners, creativity and passion are irresistable for a further indulging in town.After such a buzy and tiring day an old classic Sicilian Palazzo is the perfect place to rest.On top of Modica and its baroque Saint George Cathedral, Palazzo Faulla stands out with itselegant andnobile siluette. Mr and Miss Failla are the owners of this splendid Palazzo and they are always there for each and every guest with loving care.You can tell they are not just cashing in the beauty of the Palazzo and its authentic antique forniture. They have just invested in their Gazza Ladra restaurant with one of the youngest and most Italian accalimed chefs: Accursio Craparo.Accursio doesneurot fidle with ingredients or funny recepies, he is very fond of fresh produce, traditional recepies and modern interpretation. His wife is the very reserved and pleasant host who gets a helping hand with the very thrilling wine list by the young, cheerful and knowladgable sommelier.