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Sicily, south by southeast

THE GEOGRAPHY OF SICILY


Explore all villas in the southeast of Sicily >>

The southeastern tip of Sicily is home to mile after mile of largely unspoilt sandy beaches and a series of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Syracuse, once the most powerful metropolis in Magna Graecia, has retained its ability to awe, while the towns of the Noto Valley, comprising Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Scicli and Caltagirone, are of immense architectural importance, shining examples of Sicilian Baroque extravagance and Rococo invention. Together they form the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Val di Noto. Heading west along the south coast is Agrigento with its magnificent Valley of the Temples, while pushing in land the stunning mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina should not be missed.


Nature, food and wine

Some of the best beaches in Sicily are to be found south of Syracuse, at the Vendicari Nature Reserve and around the point on the south coast, where seemingly endless stretches of sand follow the coast through Pozzallo, Marina di Modica, Sampieri, Donnalucata, Marina di Ragusa and Punta Secca. The area around Portopalo di Capo Passero and Pachino on the southeasternmost tip is one of the largest areas for production of cherry tomatoes.

Inland, the Hyblean mountains provide a spectacle of rugged beauty with low stone walls and steep gorges such as those at the Cassibile and Pantalica (which together with Syracuse form another UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the rolling plains to the centre still grow the wheat that gave the area the nickname "the granary of Rome".

The cheese is particularly good around Ragusa (try Ragusano DOP), while Modica is famed for its cioccolato al peperoncino (chilli chocolate). The Cerasuolo di Vittoria and Nero D'Avola wines produced in the area are of excellent quality, while the historic fishing villages of Portopalo di Capo Passero and Marzamemi continue their traditions of preparing and packaging seafood delicacies, such as dried tuna roe salamis.

The southeast of Sicily boasts an exciting restaurant scene that encompasses everything from authentic trattoria to world class eateries. Ragusa accounts for four of Sicily's 15 Michelin-starred restaurants and Modica one (as of 2017).  


History and Monuments

Following its defeat of Athens in 413 BC, Syracuse became arguably the most important city in the western world and was home to many a great Greek, not least the great mathematician and scientist, Archimedes. Under the Romans, Syracuse continued to be the most important city on the island.

Syracuse, with its stunning archaeological site and the lovely island of Ortygia, and the towns of the Noto Valley are at last starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

In 1693 a massive earthquake destroyed vast areas of the southeast including Syracuse and the smaller centres of Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Caltagirone and Scicli, killing around five percent of the population of Sicily in the process. The 18th century rebuilding of these towns is a delight for anyone who finds perfection in baroque architecture. Syracuse, with its stunning archaeological site and the lovely island of Ortygia, and the towns of the Noto Valley are at last starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Meanwhile, the spectacular 5th century AD mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina and the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento are world class monuments, both UNESCO Heritage Sites in their own right.

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