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Chocolate and its city: Modica

Where cocoa is processed as it was in Aztec times

Local flavors
Local flavors

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Where is


Corso Umberto I, 149, 97015 Modica RG, Italia (307m s.l.m.)


Modica is one of the eight 'Baroque towns' in southeastern Sicily included by UNESCO on the World Heritage List: razed to the ground by the 1693 earthquake, the town has risen again in the typical forms of eighteenth-century town planning and art; the emblematic image is the cathedral of San Giorgio, at the apex of a scenic flight of steps, with a bold tower façade exuberant with curvilinear decorations. Modica is also the city of Nobel laureate Salvatore Quasimodo, whose birthplace has become the centerpiece of a literary park.

The Chocolate Museum

Modica represents a kind of chocolate eldorado, still prepared according to a traditional Spanish technique, itself imported from Central America. It is a chocolate "of unparalleled flavor," as writer Leonardo Sciascia said, "so that to those who taste it it seems to have arrived at the archetype, at the absolute..." The Modica Chocolate Museum, set up inside the Palazzo dei Mercedari at the beginning of central Corso Umberto I, is dedicated to this unique production.

modica-lavorazione-cioccolatoDemonstration of traditional manufacturing at the Chocolate Museum of Modica

The recipe of the Aztecs

A landmark of local entrepreneurship is theAntica Dolceria Bonajuto, active since 1880, where cocoa is cold-processed, with cinnamon and vanilla, according to the traditional Aztec recipe imported by the Spanish. The result is a very distinctive chocolate: brown in color with gray highlights, crumbly and slightly grainy, somewhat astringent on the palate. The recommendation is to enjoy it with local wheat bread, as in the days when it was a popular food.

In the early 16th century it was the Spanish conquistadors, returning from the New World, who introduced chocolate to Europe. In its homeland, the product of cocoa bean processing was a stimulating food consumed by Aztec warriors before going into battle. The idea was to make it a widely distributed confectionery product, and so it was that under Spanish rule it was adopted by the city Modica, the only remaining custodian of that ancient manufacture.

modica-antica-dolceria-bonaiutoThe display case of Antica Dolceria Bonaiuto

Chocolate in the kitchen

Also a Modican specialty are the 'mpanatigghie, crescents of dough filled with meat and chocolate, which nobles once carried in their carriages as travel food. This is not the only example of Sicily's use of cocoa in savory cuisine: just travel to Enna to taste an amazing rabbit with chocolate.

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Recommended by
Francesco Soletti

Some people know it for the Baroque and discover chocolate... and some do vice versa, but the result is always the same.