The Chocolate City

Modica, Italy

Christian McLaughlin

During my time in the service I got to see some amazing places and one of the most beautiful places I have ever gotten to the privilege to see with my own eyes was a small town in the southern region of the island of Sicily. The town of Modica was on my radar ever since I had visited Italy for the second time back in 2016 on a small detachment. This was my first time visiting the island of Sicily, walking into the small base exchange and seeing the wall of “Ciaccolato di Modica”. Now keep in mind, I am an avid lover of chocolate and this type of chocolate appealed to me. So I snagged a bar and took it with me to my room. I was not prepared for the flavor journey I was about to experience as my teeth sank into the crispy dark aromatic bar. The chocolate tasted so raw and earthy (but in a good way). The solid sugar crystals added a nice crispy grainy texture to the symphony happening in my mouth. This was officially deemed my favorite chocolate and all I can remember thinking was, where is this Modica place that they make this is? It would be another year and a half before I ever got the opportunity to be back in Sicily again.

I managed to make my way back to Sicily again for a second time at the end of the year in 2017. After the new year when I had some time freed up and I managed to have a long weekend (meaning 2 days off in a row) i decided to rent a car and take the trip from Sigonella all the way down to Modica only stopping briefly in Syracuse along the way for breakfast (and nostalgia purposes).

Arriving to Modica

Modica is a small town located in the southern portion of the island of Sicily in the Ragusa providence. A few things you will notice when you first come here is that there are a lot of hills and valleys. I took the E45 from Catania (after a short stop to Syracuse first. What brought me to drive so far to see this small town? The chocolate. Yes, known in Italy as “Cioccolato de Modica”, this chocolate has a unique flavor profile which derives from a cooking process known as “cold pressing”. The chocolate comes in all kinds of favors, the local favorite being pasticcio but my personal favorite being orange. The ONLY ingredients for this chocolate are cocoa beans and pure cane sugar. This chocolate is made is so different from any other chocolate I have ever seen, unprocessed, rich in antioxidants and is even VEGAN! How this chocolate is produced is by

Walking around the bend, and down the street I came up to a roundabout that intersected Piazza Principle di Napoli and Corso Umberto I. I opted to go north on Corso Umberto seeing that this seemed to be the direction that led me to the more interesting looking sights. I passed by the various outdoor cafes and approached he steps of the Chiesa di San Pietro (Church of St Peter). I opted to not go into the church since they were currently having mass and even though I was raised Roman Catholic and it would have been perfectly fine, I figured my “sight seeing” priorities warranted that I observe the majesty of the building from the outside. After all, there is no shortage of churches in Italy and every one of them is gorgeous in their own way.

Chocolate from the New World

Exploring the City

By this point I was itching to start exploring the city. I could see so many different places high up I wanted to make my way to but navigating this city isnt as easy as drawing a line from point A to B and walking the straight line. The streets zig zag, the allies are narrow and before you know it you are 100 feet over and 20 feet above where you were trying to go to. With very little destination in mind, I just figured I would walk in the general direction of something interesting and simply appreciate the things I saw along the way.

Chiesa de San Giorgio

Chiesa de San Giorgio is one of the city’s most attractive sites to see. It sits elevated above the town and only took a short climb up to get to. This church was absolutely gorgeous, although most catholic churches in Italy are historically appealing, the baroque architecture of San Giorgio was especially appealing. It sat gorgeously towering above the buildings surrounding it and the steps up to the front led to some spectacular sights. Inside the church was a sight to see for sure. The dome was captivating and seeing the beauty of the church organ was heartwarming to a musician like myself.

After visiting the gorgeous San Giorgio, I decided that I would find somewhere to grab a quick drink and maybe a delicious snack to munch on as I continued to make my way around the town. By this time of the day, it was already “siesta” which is a time in the day where Italians close down their businesses and go home to spend time with their families, eat lunch and rest. There are not many (if any) places open so if you haven’t eaten by this time you are kind of SOL. Luckly, Modica is somewhat of a tourist destination which means there were still a few places open, however if this was a small Italian town, there would quite literally be nothing open (I ran into this problem on my first trip to Naples in 2016).

Torretta dell’Orologio and Castello dei Conti

There was one place I had not been able to make my way to yet that was getting to me and that was the Castello dei Conti which sat perched on top of the middle of Modica along with the Torretta dell’Orologio which is the large clock tower sitting towards the ledge. I started to make my way up. To be honest, the castle and clock tower (as beautiful and historic as they were) were sort of a disappointment to me as they felt a little bit underwhelming once I finally made it to the top, but was not underwhelming was the STUNNING view. All the way up here, I was able to see Modica like I could only see in the pictures online. Here is where I sat, for hours while the sun set and I slowly saw the city fall into darkness and the gorgeous amber lights that lit up the streets and alleys come to life in the night. This is a moment I am only able to relive today in my dreams.

While I was observing the city, I noticed another spot higher to the north that interested me. I wanted to take one last look at the city of Modica in the night from here, and So I began my journey through the dark amber lit alleys. I could hear families together in their homes winding down from the day, cats coming out to scavenge for food and the crisp Sicilian winter air begin to chill the night. I was not disappointed with my final view of the city before I was off for the night. While there is so much more to the story (late night tacos, a local festival, and some more amazing photos) I feel like here is the perfect place to end my story of the amazing time I had in one of the most beautiful and my favorite Sicilian city, Modica.

Author: Christian McLaughlin

Christian is an information security expert working as a security engineer, researcher and penetration tester. He served his country proudly as a sailor in the US Navy for 7 1/2 years before transitioning out into the private infosec field. When not working, he enjoys practicing music, playing video games, or just learning more about computers and technology.