Seeing Modica in Catarina

On Thursday afternoon, we left Ragusa to visit the nearby hill town of Modica. OAT had arranged for us to tour the town in vintage Fiat 500 cars. Our car was a 1972 model who the owner lovingly called Catarina. In its 47 years, Catarina has traveled about 450,000 miles and has never been in an accident. It is on its third engine which gets about 40 miles per gallon. The owner said he is not a mechanic, but built the engine himself from an instruction book. It is apparently easy to get parts and find mechanics who can work on these vintage cars. Susan is pictured with one of Catarina’s friends.. There were seven in our fleet.

Following is a video which illustrates rather nicely what it is like riding in a tiny Fiat 500 through the very narrow streets of Modica. We went on streets so narrow the driver said only a Fiat 500 could squeeze through. I Have never added a video to a blog before, so I hope someone will let me know if it works for them.

Our first stop in Modica was the Cathedral of San Pietro, which marks the dividing line between the lower town and the upper town.Our next stop was at an overlook at the top of the upper town.Along the narrow streets we drove by caves in the cliffs occupied primarily by immigrants. The caves have their openings enclosed by cement and conventional doors. One of these doors was open and the caves appeared to be about the size of a large bathroom.We also visited the Cathedral of San Giorgio in the upper town. It was designed by the same architect as the Ragusa cathedral.We finally got to what Modica is most famous for: chocolate. They do not add any fat or milk to their chocolate, but they make it in flavors such as orange, cinnamon, and spicy pepper. They had samples of each flavor for us to try. The chocolate had a very different texture from our chocolate which I found very appealing. Rick Steves says since there is no fat added, it is practically a health food. Works for me!!! Following our chocolate tasting, we had dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Friday, we had the traditional OAT experience, “A Day in the Life”, where we spend the day seeing how a local family lives.Today we visited the family of Enrique who owns and manages Gli Aromi in a rural area about 45 minutes from Ragusa. Aromi is Italian for herbs and his business consists of selling herb plants in Sicily and Italy, selling packaged herbs around the world, and using his herb farm for destination weddings, outdoor concerts, and anything else he can come up with. He was the one who approached OAT to visit his farm. He started out by Googling best tour companies in Sicily. OAT visited his farm four times before sending the first group there last month.

His wife, Rita, is on the right. She was born in Brooklyn and came to his farm to get some coriander. They fell in love and were married last year. She was a chef in a Michelin recommended restaurant, but quit to help with event hosting on the farm. His sister-in-law, on the left, is his bookkeeper.This is the amphitheater he made for musical events. They had five events in the last year from a classical music concert to a black and white movie with two violinists playing the movie score. The amphitheater overlooks the Mediterranean and the sunset. You have to admire his determination to make a living out of this. His next plan is to build some apartment units on the property. He said that the internet is what enables him to make a living by giving him a way to promote and sell his different products.This is an Asian flower he had growing in one of his greenhouses.This man is starting new lavender plants from cuttings.Rita is showing us how to make fried sage leaves. They were part of our lunch and were quite good. Susan is thinking of making fried spinach leaves.Another unusual treat was fried eggs prepared on the barbecue with capers scattered over them. I learned today that a caper is not a berry, but is a flower bud. It was an interesting Day in the Life with a good lunch included.

5 thoughts on “Seeing Modica in Catarina”

  1. I was relieved to hear Catarina’s owner — and not you or Susan — behind the wheel, navigating those “calli” (alleys) they call streets. What a super OAT idea, to arrange a fleet of Fiats!

  2. I’m sorry I didn’t come on this trip with you, as we’d discussed over dinner one night in the World Café!

  3. Enjoyed the video. Works great. Really gives us an idea of how the streets are. Felt we’d be lost without a guide. Great idea by OAT.

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