Set amidst the rocky peaks northwest of Modica, Ragusa is a town of two faces. Sitting on the top of the hill is Ragusa Superiore, a busy workaday town with sensible grid-pattern streets and all the trappings of a modern provincial capital, while etched into the hillside further down is Ragusa Ibla.
With its steeply stacked medieval centre and spectacular baroque cathedral, Modica is one of southern Sicily's most atmospheric towns. But unlike some of the other Unesco-listed cities in the area, it doesn't package its treasures into a single easy-to-see street or central piazza: rather, they are spread around the town and take some discovering.
Few people make it up to Palazzolo Acreide, but those who do find a charming, laidback town with a wealth of baroque architecture and some of the area's finest (and least publicised) ancient ruins. The original medieval town was abandoned after the 1693 earthquake, after which a new Palazzolo was built in the shadow of the Greek settlement of Akrai.
The Noto Coast
Noto's coastal satellite is Lido di Noto, a typical beach town of holiday villas and resort hotels that's practically deserted for 10 months of the year. Further down, at Sicily's southeastern point, the cape offers little in the way of excitement, but its electric colours, laidback atmosphere and relative lack of development make it a relaxing stopoff.
The area around Syracuse is not always especially attractive, particularly north of town where the coast is blighted by ugly oil refineries and heavy industry, but there are a few sights that reward exploration. Seven kilometres west of town in the outlying quarter of Epipolae is the Castello Eurialo, the stronghold of Syracuse's Greek defensive works.
Valle Dell'Anapo & Around
For some beautifully wild and unspoilt countryside, take the SS124 northwest from Syracuse towards Palazzolo Acreide. After about 36km, turn off right towards Ferla. The signposted road plunges steeply to the floor of the Valle dell'Anapo (Anapo Valley), a deep limestone gorge.
Stretching for some 13km between Modica and Ispica, the Cava d'Ispica is a verdant gorge studded with thousands of natural caves and grottoes. Evidence of human habitation dates to about 2000 BC, and over the millennia the caves have served as Neolithic tombs, early Christian catacombs and medieval dwellings. A number of rock churches also survive from the Byzantine period.