Made up of the provinces of Siracusa and Ragusa, the SE of Sicily is regarded as ‘the Greek bit’. It is certainly culturally different to the rest of the island, especially the Ragusano and the area of Modica which is still regarded as ‘the island within the island’.
What to expect:
Towns – the Baroque towns of the Val di Noto are all pretty lovely, each distinct from the others and with their own style. Other towns tend to be pretty modern and without much character, though there are exceptions. You won’t find a classic village in the area. Historically villages were defenceless against the incursions from the coast, and a fortified ‘masseria’ was the norm. The county of Modica is unusual in that the locals still live in the country and commute to work, whereas in many other parts of the island, the country house is only for the odd weekend and the olive harvest.
Sea: Almost uniformly enticing. There is an uncontaminated coastline from Siracusa south to Pachino and along to Scoglitti. You can park the car almost anywhere and walk onto a sandy beach. The beach season for locals is June to the end of August, even though the weather can be lovely through to November and occasionally beyond. The sea is always slightly warmer on the east coast than on the south.
Countryside: It varies hugely from place to place. The area around Noto is rolling hills and lemon groves, around Modica and Ragusa it is more severe with moors and gorges, olives and carob trees. Driving around will help you fine the place that feels like home.
Most of the area is now well known from the Montalbano tv series. His house on the sea is at Punta Secca, the UNESCO street of Via Mormina Penna in Scicli is where he works, and location are used from the entire area, but above all Ragusa, Scicli and Modica.
Food: is almost universally fantastic, largely at kilometre zero, and always fresh. Whether its sweet or savoury each town has its own speciality that’s worth trying.