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Posts Tagged ‘Modica’

Bikinis in the 3rd century. This we have to see!

Today we drive inland to see the Roman mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale just outside Piazza Armerina. From Modica it is about ninety minutes through orange and olive groves and open fields dotted with dry stone walls.

At Villa del Casale, tour buses congregate and we run the gauntlet of side show alley with it’s souvenir stalls, though we do stop to try the oranges being sold from the back of a van.

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There is a lot of restoration taking place and unfortunately a large number of rooms are closed. We are amazed by the size of the site and the near perfect condition of the mosaics.

Mosaics cover the floor of every room of the late 3rd century villa.They have been covered by mud as a result of a flood in the 12th century and not discovered until the 19th century. The major discoveries were made between 1950 and 1960.

The dining room mosaics feature mythological creatures whilst those in the long passage way show hunting scenes.

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The ‘ Hall of the Female Gymnasts in Bikinis’ is an amazing scene with ten gymnasts in different poses.

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On the way home we stop at Caltagirone, the ceramic centre of Sicily.
Il Locandiere at Via Luigi Sturzo, 55 is mentioned in Italy’s Slow Food guide, Osterie d’Italia, as the place to go and it is perfect for lunch. Specializing in fish, the mussels are stunning. Why do they taste so sweet compared to those in Australia?

If you are there on a Monday when Il Locandiere is closed, try La Piazzette, just round the corner in Via Vespri 20.

We explore the town.

The stairway leading to Santa Maria del Monte has it’s 142 steps covered in majolica tiles.

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Flowers decorate the steps to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy.

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Let’s do a cooking class!
I had prevously organised a cooking class for a group in Assisi and it was a disaster, so I was a little worried this would be the same.

Maurizio picked us up and, as we drove to his family’s home and B&B just outside Modica, we learnt he had spent a year in London perfecting his English. His parents, Maria and Giovanni, greeted us. They did not speak English but with Maurizio’s help and our small amount of Italian, we all understood each other.

Giovanni took us down to the garden to pick the vegetables and herbs needed for lunch.
Peas, larger than we had ever seen, were mixed in with flowers amongst the olive and lemon trees. Broad beans and artichokes grew amongst the herbs and wild fennel.
We ate as many as we picked!

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Maurizio amongst his herbs.

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Peas growing everywhere.

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Produce from the garden.

We started shelling the broad beans and peas which together with the artichokes, would be slowly cooked and then made into a timbale.

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Maurizio was in charge of teaching us to make the bread rolls as well as starting on the Modica chocolates.

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He had also made the pizzetta base the night before to give it extra time to rise, making a softer base. All we had to do was add the caramelized onion, homemade tomato sauce and anchovie and pecorino cheese.

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Pizzettas ready for the oven.

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The final result.

Maria then taught us how to make ricotta and wild fennel balls and black ink arancini with cuttlefish, peas and ricotta. Both were coated in very fine breadcrumbs before frying.

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Maria checking our efforts with the ricotta balls.

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Showing us how to make the arancini.

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Arancini ready to be fried.

Meanwhile, Giovanni was working on the pasta sauce.
Onions were slowly cooked in oil before the saffron, sardines and cooked fennel fronds were added. This was left to simmer for about 20 minutes. The pasta would later be cooked in the same water as was the fennel. Breadcrumbs and garlic were fried to put on top of the pasta.

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Once this was completed, he started preparing the fish.
Herbs were placed in the bottom of a dish and spatola fish fillets laid on top.
Very small gamberoni (shrimp) were placed on top of this before another layer of fish was placed over them.

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We finally sat down to enjoy the taste of our morning’s work

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Ricotta balls and arancini

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Pasta with Sicilian sardine sauce

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Baked fish and potatoes

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Lemon Jelly made by Maurizio.

A very relaxed day in the countryside with a lovely Italian family.

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Modicarte
Tel: +39 0932 751577
http://www.modicarte.it
Modicarte

Cost of the cooking class is 60E per person. You can choose either a meat or fish based menu.

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The cooking class was recommended by Luca Giannini from ‘Anime a Sud’
Luca has the most popular 2 bedroom apartment in Modica, so book early.
Another property, 50 metres from the Duomo, is due to open in 2012
http://www.animeasud.it
Anime a Sud

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Modica

First impressions were not the best!
We had gone around the roundabout five times and were still lost.

Finally, on the right road, we found our way to Casa Talia, our home in Modica for the next five nights.

After parking the car, there is a 200 metre walk to the entrance.
The door opens on to a terrace garden and Marco greets us.
Already we feel we are home.

Casa Talia is a small B & B of six rooms though renovations are under way to add another couple of rooms. The rooms all open on to a balcony or shared terrace.

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A beautiful breakfast is served each morning in the adjoining garden.

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Modica is built on two sides of a ravine where a river once flowed
We are facing Modica Alta. The view is stunning.

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Below us, the main street, Corso Umberto divides the town.
We are perfectly situated.
The walk down to Corso Umberto is easy but coming home will be a different story.

We pass memories of locally born poet, Salvatore Quasimodo and emerge opposite the Duomo San Pietro, Modica Bassa’s patron saint.
Palazzo’s line the street, most now being used as public offices

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We join the locals for lunch at Osteria dei Sapori Perduti.
The specialities include pasta with peas and ricotta and pasta con il macco, a dish made by cooking shelled broad beans and herbs slowly until they become a puree in which the pasta is then cooked.

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You can drive to the other side to explore Modica Alta but it is more interesting to walk.
Behind the baroque masterpiece, the Church of San Giorgio, the steps lead you higher and higher.

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Pass the well known Palazzo Failla with it’s Michelin star restaurant, Gazza Ladra before taking Vico Filarota which leads you through the small shoppping area to Piazza San Giovanni and the Church of Sal Giovanni Evangelista (closed for renovation). We are told there are over 100 churches in Modica

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Follow Via Pizzo to Piazza Principe di Piedmonte where an amazing view over the town awaits.

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Modica is famous for it’s chocolate.

You will find many chocolate shops on Corso Umberto
Antica Bonajuto and Don Puglesi are two of the most famous
All chocolate in Modica is made using the traditional Aztec method handed down by the Spanish. Still made without added fats, the cocoa, sugar and spice mixture is not tempered and the sugar crystals are preserved, giving Modican chocolate it’s unique taste.

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Delicious pastries are also produced in Modica including the famous, mpanatigghie which are made from a mixture of meat and chocolate.

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There is so much to do in this south eastern area of Sicily
Day trips to Noto, Ragusa, Piazza Armerina and Caltagirone are planned.
Our five days here will pass very quickly.

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Casa Talia
Via Exaudinos 1/9
Modica
Tel: +39 0932 752075
http://www.casatalia.it
Casa Talia

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Giorgio, Giorgio, Giorgio, the crowd shouted.
We were standing on the steps of the Duomo with a chanting crowd awaiting the arrival of the statue of San Giorgio, the patron saint of Modica.

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The Duomo before the crowds arrived

La Festa di San Giorgio is celebrated on the Sunday after April 23rd but this year, because of Easter, the day was changed to May 8th.
Inside the Duomo, San Giorgio was the centre of attention.

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Outside, the crowds waited, enjoying the party atmoshere. Bands played, the gelati truck did a roaring trade and the obligatory plastic toy vendors actually made a few sales.

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Around 5 pm the main doors opened and to the cheer of the crowd, San Giorgio appeared.

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As the chant grew louder, Giorgio was paraded back and forth on the top of the stairs and masses of coloured confetti were fired into the air.

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Eventually Giorgio made his way down the steps, carried by about 40 strong men dressed in red Tshirts, to parade around the streets of Modica.

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The procession continued until 11pm when Giorgio finally appeared back on the steps of the Duomo,where the crowd had regrouped.

Fireworks exploded above us as the reverberations were heard across the ravine.

Finally Giorgio was back home.

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