You’d be forgiven for thinking that a torre (tower) should be tall.
Traveling around on the delightful back roads north of Modica, it’s easy to get confused by the unsigned roads. Should you ask a farmer for directions, you might be told to turn left at the
torre, and off you go looking for something tall on the horizon, and ending up quite lost. You needed to lower your gaze.
torri are grand country villas built in the 18th century by the aristocracy as a respite from the summer heat of the city, and a refined place to entertain guests. The torre part comes into play for the decorative crenelations on the top of the walls – often found on watchtowers or castles – and these architectural elements simply emphasize the imposing appearance of the villa. In other words, they scream to be noticed.
At the time that the
torri were built, Modica was still considered a contea (county), a seat of Counts, and there was a constant scramble to impress other members of the aristocracy. New arrivals who bought noble titles felt particularly compelled to build lavishly, both in town and in these stately villas. One can just imagine them moving from torre to torre as invited guests, then gossiping about the color scheme.
Some of these
torri are open during Modica’s summer music festival called Note di Notte (Night Notes) when concerts are held in these patrician villas, and you can pretend to be a Count or Contessa for an evening.
An expert on walking and culinary tours in many areas of Italy, with a special focus on Sicily, Anita Iaconangelo is the founder of
Italian Connection Tours and author of the blog Anita’s Italy. She is currently at work on a book entitled Savoring Sicily: A Culinary Quest.