A double dose of baroque in Ragusa Ibla and Ragusa Superiore


Villas in Sicily near Ragusa >>

ScicliOne of the most fascinating towns in Sicily, Ragusa has caused many a visitor’s jaw to drop as they first set eyes on the lower part of the town. Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, Noto, Modica, Scicli and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily.

Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now Ragusa Ibla. The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica.

While the upper part has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below that really draws visitors. Whether you approach it from Modica to the south or from Ragusa Superiore, the sight of the jumble of houses, churches and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking. Although seemingly Mediaeval from a distance, once you enter the town’s heart, the Baroque logic of its plan becomes more obvious.

The town is part of the Val di Noto UNESCO Heritage site and 18 of its buildings are protected by UNESCO patronage.

It would be excessive to list them all here, but a few gems to look at are listed below. The best thing to do is just to walk, and admire man’s resilience in the face of natural disaster.

In Ragusa Ibla 

- the Basilica di San Giorgio, built in 1738 by Rosario Gagliardo. It lies at the top of some 200 steps and has an impressive neoclassical dome that was added in 1820.
 - “Giardino lbleo". The Hyblean Gardens offer some fantastic views of the town.
 - the Chiesa di Maria delle Scale (St. Mary of the Stairs) lies between Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla. It was not totally destroyed by the 1693 earthquake as can be seen from the Gothic Catalan-style arches in the right aisle. As its name might suggest, the church is reached via 242 steps, though the reward at the top is worth it. If you are a fan of the hit Italian detective series Inspector Montalbano, you may recognise the view from the Church of Maria delle Scale from the panoramic shots of Ragusa Ibla that set the scene for a great deal of the episodes. Many of the scenes from the series were filmed in and around Ragusa Ibla's beautiful Piazza Duomo: see our 'On the trail of Inspector Montalbano' page for more details.

In Ragusa Superiore

The Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, previously situated under the walls of the Mediaeval castle, was rebuilt twice, as the first version was deemed unsuitable. The version that you will see today was built in 1718 in an archetypal, extravagant Sicilian Baroque style.

Villas in Sicily near Ragusa >>


Good Thinking

The restaurant "Duomo", in Via Capitano Bocchierei, 31, is double Michelin-starred and considered one of the very best restaurants in Italy, while La Locanda di Don Serafino and La Fenice both have 1 Michelin Star... Is Ragusa the gourmet capital of Sicily?


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