Modica chocolate festival in Sicily: Indulge in all things chocolate

by Apr 1, 2024Italy

Chocomodica Chocolate Festival Frenzy

Sicily may be renown for baroque architecture, beaches, and the Mount Etna volcano, but if you venture there in December you’ll discover it’s famous for chocolate too. Chocomodica is an amazing chocolate festival for chocolate lovers that is held in the historic town of Modica. We’re giving a bonus recipe, too.

With our plans to visit Sicily, I envisioned a hike up the Mount Etna volcano, baroque villages with winding streets, fortresses atop hills, thimbles of espresso to toss back like medicine, and wine, lots of great wine. Little did I realize that one small town, Modica, is known as the “City of Chocolate” – which it celebrates in grand fashion at the Chocomodica chocolate festival in December. And it so happened we were going to be there then!

If you are a chocolate lover, then the Chocomodica chocolate festival must be on your to-do list. It celebrates Modica-style chocolate, a specialty chocolate unique to Modica, Sicily.

Chocomodica Chocolate Festival Sicily Sampling

For four days, the streets are filled with booths selling, making, and explaining chocolate – and you can sample your way around town, filling your belly with sweet and savory chocolate delights. The town hall and shops have chocolate-making demos, chocolate-carving demonstrations, and cooking demonstrations – and you get to wander through the halls or watch a cooking demo. But you don’t just watch, you get samples of cookies, chocolates, cakes, and even savory dishes.

I don’t think I have ever eaten so much chocolate in one evening. And dare I say it is heaven for any chocolate lover. Yes, you can buy all the chocolate you want, too.

Chocomodica Chocolate Festival Modica

Modica chocolate is different than what many might think of as chocolate like that found in Europe. Modica chocolate is so special that the European Union has given it a certification called PGI, or Protected Geographical Indication, which protects it to keep imitators from absconding with it. Yup, this chocolate is protected! Like Roquefort cheese or Champagne, Lübecker Marzipan, Newcastle Brown Ale, and an array of French cheeses.

What makes the Modica chocolate taste sensation so special?

Modica-style chocolate began during Sicily’s domination by the Spaniards which lasted about 500 years. Rather than being heated and mixed with butter or milk or other creamy products, it uses a “cold-working process” and uses only cocoa and sugar. The cold process means the crystals do not melt, and the chocolate maintains a slightly crispy texture. There is no so-called “conching” of the chocolate, a kneading process that makes it smoother; rather, the Modica process just grinds together cocoa and sugar.

Chocomodica Chocolate Festival Booths

Modica chocolate also is mixed with a mind-boggling array of flavors, such as fennel and prickly pear.  And you can only buy authentic “Cioccolato di Modica PGI” from manufacturers in Modica. Be forewarned in advance, though, that cheaper Modica chocolate just doesn’t have the beautiful “wow” experience that higher end Modica chocolate does. Yes, we tried some inexpensive chocolate bars and found them to be overly sweet and so disappointing after the love we immediately developed with Modica chocolate sampled at the Chocomodica chocolate festival.

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Now, about that Chocomodica chocolate lovers’ festival….

Modica chocolate was first granted EU-protected status in 2017, but the town has been holding the festival since 2005. Held the first part of December, the festival doesn’t attact a lot of non-Italian tourists. There aren’t even a lot of non-Sicilian tourists. Meaning for those travelers looking for something truly off-the-beaten-path, Modica’s Chocomodica – and Sicily’s beautiful baroque villages in general – is a great destination. Weather in Sicily is comfortable with average highs in the 60s and average lows only down into the 50s – perhaps making Sicily a great place to end a winter German Christmas markets tour.

I highly recommend staying in Modica so you can take a couple of days to visit the Chocolate Museum, the cathedrals, wander city streets, and take walks to high views over the valley where old Modica city center is nestled.

Modica Old Town

Then you can relax – for example, with a stay at a great historic B&B called Gioietta Hospitality that we loved – tour at leisure, stroll the arts-and-crafts street vendors, drive to other great baroque villages like Ragusa or Scicli, then be right back in town to walk around the best chocolate festival, especially as darkness falls and the streets glitter with lights and hum with activity.

One of my highlights was taking in a cooking demo by Chef Emiliano hosted by the Principi Grimaldi professional educational institution in Modica. But we had to find it first – after succumbing to a lot more chocolate, poor us.

We were guided into a former convent dating back to the 13th century, the Convent of Carmen on Matteotti Plaza. There, we worked through the bustle in a grand courtyard, distracted by several amazing chocolate-carving demonstrations. Once inside, we spied lights and a real beehive of activity at the end of the hall.

Chocomodica Chocolate Festival Sicily Chocolate Carving

Chocolate-carver Elisa Corallo creates art big and small – @elisacoralloart

That’s where the real chocolate-infused frenzy began as we queued to follow along some tables as samples of chocolate and chocolate goodies appeared on plates for us to help ourselves. Hands reached from everywhere to grab chocolate goodies. Other students from the school were pulling fresh items out of an oven and offering them to us from platters. Take what you want! Behind the tables and booths in the hall were students from the local cooking school and their chefs making all this chocolate right in front of us to see.

Chocomodica Chocolate Cake Sampling

Then we were taken by the elbow into a small side room, more of an alcove with stone walls, where a few rows of not more than 40 or 50 seats allowed people to sit and watch Chef Emiliano’s cooking demonstrations.

As a hobby chef always looking for inspiration, I was indeed inspired by Chef Emiliano’s use of Modica chocolate in a savory fish dish! Modica chocolate chips combined seamlessly with the tenderness of a mahi-mahi filet, the sharp bite of arugula leaves, and other condiments that were in fact so simple.

The Chocomodica chocolate festival can leave a chocoholic satiated, but also inspired – I certainly was! And visiting the baroque city of Modica just made the visit all the more rewarding.

Want to make your own Modica chocolate fish dinner? Chef Emiliano explained the dish to Therese, who massaged the list of ingredients to create the recipe. And he has graciously allowed us to pass it on exclusively to our HI Travel Tales Subscriber Club members.

 

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