A catastrophic earthquake badly damaged most of the towns in southeastern Sicily, in 1693 (Modica, Ragusa and Noto were destroyed) ,prompting a massive reconstruction effort. Fortunately, the results were spectacular. These towns became magnificent showcases of 17th-century urban planning, and the final flowering of the highly decorative late baroque style of European architecture. This group of town in south-eastern Sicily -Caltagirone, Palazzolo, Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Ragusa and Scicli- represents the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe.
The ancient Ibla, is built over three hills separated by a deep valley. It, too, consists of two centres, one rebuilt on the old medieval layout and the other, Upper Ragusa, newly built after 1693. It contains nine major churches and seven major palazzi, all Baroque. Ragusa Ibla was founded on the site of ancient Sikel town Hybla Herea, of which remains have been found, such as rectangular burial niches in the Gonfalone valley, along the road to Modica. The architectural masterpieces built after the earthquake have earned him the nomination as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The tour of the town starts with the Basilica of San Giorgio, an impressive specimen of Sicilian baroque. The Castello di Donnafugata, situated in proximity to Santa Croce Camerina, about 20km from Ragusa is a major attraction for tourists. Thanks to its scenery, it was the setting of many films. It derives its name from an Arab place-name meaning ‘Fountain of Health’, hence the Sicilian “Ronnafuata”.
Marzamemi is a maritime village, part of which is the town of Pachino, which is about 3 km away. The village has developed around the landing, which later became fishing port, and has developed thanks to the latter activity, widely practiced even today. Marzamemi is also equipped with a tuna, among the most important in Sicily. The Marzamemi's Tuna dates back to the time of the domination of the Arabs in Sicily. Marzamemi is characterized by a unique landscape where the tradition is linked to modernity, while preserving the magic landscape that surrounds it. Summer in this little village is simply paradise.
Of ancient origins, the city of Modica was the capital of an ancient and powerful county whose territory in the Middle Age, extending even to the gates of Palermo. The city was a thriving commercial and agricultural center where communities of Jews, Arab, Normans and Spaniards lived together peacefully until 400. The Norman devoted to St. George, established the cult of this Saint who is now Modica’s patron saint.
Modica is one of the most lovely cities in all Sicily and it is depicted in several different ways: it is the “one-hundred churches town”, after the historian and writer F.L. Belgiorno’s count, It is the birth-place of Salvatore Quasimodo, a 20th century writer and 1959’s Nobel Prize, and of Tommaso Campailla, an 18th century scientist and philosopher. It is the town of the famous bridge, among the tallest in Europe (300m), overlooking the whole City and joining the new and the old Modicas. It is the city of the Castle, whose remnants consist of a 18th century tower and a more recent clock, both symbolically representing it. It is the town of the Baroque and of the County, both testifying to its glorious past.
The stately Cathedral of San Giorgio is one of the most important and impressing religious monuments in all Sicily.
Scicli is the smallest and most chilled of the region’s four main Baroque cities. In a valley close to the coast, its main street is a Unesco World Heritage site and its unobtrusive Palazzo Beneventano was described by British art historian Anthony Blunt as 'Sicily’s most beautiful Baroque palace'. It is surrounded by three hills (Croce Hill – S. Matteo Hill – Monserrato Hill) and by limestone rocks that seem to protect it. The view can be admired from the S.Matteo Hill or the Croce Hill, especially at sunset, is very impressive and there is a feeling of dominating all over the town without any effort.
The current town, rebuilt after the earthquake on the left bank of River Asinaro, was planned on a grid system by Giovanni Battista Landolina. Noto is on two levels, an upper part on the plateau and a lower, newer part on the slope below. The latter accommodates the buildings of the nobility and the religious complexes of the 18th century, the topography, town plan and architecture combining to create a spectacular 'Baroque stage set'. The beautiful antique town is entered by the Porta Reale and from there we follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele along which we can admire numerous 18th century beautiful palaces of incredible architectural value.
Set in the early Nineties, Montalbano’s story begins in the remote mountains of central Sicily. Andrea Camilleri, who was 69 when he began writing his bestselling Inspector Montalbano novels in 1994, talked of the fascinating diversity of the island race. Much of the series is filmed in the province of Ragusa, in spite of the places described in his novels by Andrea Camilleri is the transposition of localities in the area of Agrigento. The building of the police station is the municipality of Scicli and the room of the superintendent Luca Bonetti is really an office, specifically that of the mayor of Scicli. Other sequences were filmed in the street of Ragusa Ibla, Modica, the castle of Donnafugata, the port of Donnalucata, in the countryside of Ragusa and other sites in the south-eastern Sicily.