This is the part of Sicily where the television series Inspector Montalbano was filmed. It is a beautiful region of dramatic limestone gorges, flower-filled meadows and long sandy beaches, peppered with evocative Baroque towns, all built after the region was devastated by an earthquake in 1693.
ModicaTaste the chocolate of Modica – made to an ancient Aztec recipe brought to Sicily by the Spanish. Many of Modica’s chocolate shops – including the historic Bonajuto — have samples to be tried, or head to the Caffe Dell’Arte for a cup of hot chocolate sprinkled with cinnamon, or, for the adventuruous foodie, an impanata (a pastry stuffed with minced meat flavoured with chocolate and cinnamon). Ragusa IblaTreat yourself to an evening strolling in Ragusa Ibla, wandering this most magical of Baroque townscapes as its limestone glows in the rays of the setting sun. Have dinner at one of its Michelin-starred restaurants, then have another wander, to see how beautiful the town is in lamp- and star-light. Inspector Montalbano LocationExplore the sights of Scicli that appear in the Inspector Montalbano TV series. Via Mormino Penna is a scenographer’s dream of a street, lined with exuberant and painstakingly restored Baroque churches and palazzi, including the Municipio with the sculptural staircase that features as the entrance to police HQ. The façade of Palazzo Beneventano where grinning grotesques with lolling tongues and bald heads are tucked under the balconies, also appears in the TV series, as does the voluptuously curvy Baroque church of San Bartolomeo stands embraced by the towering limestone gorge. ScicliDiscover some of the secrets of Scicli, guided by a local (call InfoPoint, Passatempo, tel 366 3033952) such as the historic pharmacy, discovered a few years ago to have retained its stock, untouched, since it closed in the 1970s, and the church of San Giovanni which houses the astonishing Cristo di Burgos, a painting of Christ wearing what appears to be a white calf-length dirndl skirt. See works by local and international contemporary artists – including the renowned Gruppo di Scicli – a Scicli’s Quam gallery. Punta Secca beachHead to the modest little seaside resort of Punta Secca, to see ‘Montalbano’s house’ (now a B&B), then drive to Sampieri, for a walk along the long duny sands to the dramatically ruined gothic brick factory – another Inspector Montalbano location. IspicaHead to Ispica to see elliptical Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, hidden within a scruffy labyrinth of modern houses, and the splendid Art Nouveau Palazzo Bruno di Belmonte, created by the Liberty architect, Ernesto Basile. Explore the ancient cave dwellings, catacombs and rock-cut churches of the Parco Archeologico della Forza, in the Cava d’Ispica gorge. See local wheat being ground to flour in a working watermill – at the Mulino ad Acqua – located in the Cava d’Ispica between Ispica and Modica. Chiaramonte GulfiDiscover the little baroque town of Chiaramonte Gulfi, a limestone labyrinth of twisting medieval streets, then head to the Cantina Gulfi vineyard, for tasting of local wines, with lunch.Explore the complex of neviere or ice-houses, above Chiaramonte, where snow from Etna used to be stored for making ice cream and granita during the summer months – guided tours are free – contact [email protected] or call +39 331 90 50 846.