Ragusa is a two souls city: the modern city and the ancient Ibla, its Baroque lounge.
This duality came after the famous 1693 earthquake, when the Ragusans adopted the 2 x 1 formula, maybe because they could not agree on the reconstruction plans. We are kidding, of course, although if you want to analyse it deep down there is some truth in it.
RAGUSA SUPERIORE is the new town, where efficiency has pragmatically taken over the place from the church bourgeoisie in the name of transformation.
But almost as if the tradition wanted to compensate for the renovations, the history of these places is told here through the MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO REGIONALE IBLEO.
The museum occupies the first floor of the Palazzo Mediterraneo on via Natalelli. There are sections devoted to the prehistoric period, Camarina, Sicilian archaic and classical dwellings, Hellenistic centres, and late Roman settlements. The stele dedicated to the Castiglione Warrior is very interesting and valuable; it is exhibited in the section of Sicilian dwellings.
It commemorates the soldier Pirrinoi who probably was a lookout for Castiglione on the Iblei Mountains, in order to protect Camarina city around the sixth century. D.C. It is a bas relief on a single sheet of local limestone, depicting an armed warrior on horseback. The importance of this find lies in the incision in Greek characters in a Doric dialect, about an indigenous character. This is why in 2003 it was sent to Berlin to be exhibited in the prestigious Pergamon Museum.
Another interesting location is the beautiful CATHEDRAL SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA, which rises imposingly on the intersection of two main streets of Ragusa, Via Roma and Corso Italia.
Its construction started on 1694 and its large roof terrace looks onto Piazza San Giovanni. The broad and lively façade is flanked by a massive bell tower topped with a spire, recently renovated. The interior has three naves, and the nineteenth-century chapels are decorated with fine stucco.
RAGUSA INFERIORE OR IBLA The reconstruction works put a lot of attention to this part of the city with the result of creating a one-of-a-kind place, thanks to the artist’s inspiration which, in the flowering baroque style, realized wonderful palaces and churches, built with the local stone. The architectural masterpieces built after the earthquake, together with all those of Noto Valley, since 2002 belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Going on Corso Italia, we reach Corso Mazzini that combines Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Inferiore or Ibla on a tortuous path. You can access Ragusa Inferiore either via one of the three bridges (Old Bridge or Capuchin Bridge, New Bridge and John XXIII Bridge) or by descending a staircase hundreds of steps long, but how can you give up the latter, which is so picturesque and so inviting?
Here, at the beginning of our route, on the boundary between the two town centres, there is the CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELLE SCALE, built between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and rebuilt after 1693; inside, there are still elements of the old structure: the three Catalan Gothic portals on the right nave, and, in the last chapel of this same nave, another portal in the refined and elegant Renaissance style.
Walking down to Ibla, we get to Piazza della Repubblica, dominated by the Church of Purgatorio, which has a beautiful Baroque portal on the facade. We love this city of 1000 churches more and more.
Going up on Salita Commendatore, here it is the Cosentini Palace and the Palazzo della Cancelleria (eighteenth century) typically BAROQUE and with exuberant forms.
As, here you can find the Church of Santa Maria dell’Idria, it looks majestic among the narrow alleys. It was founded by the Knights of Malta in the seventeenth century and it has an original bell tower, covered with Caltagirone ceramic tiles. Inside you can admire a canvas of San Giuliano, attributed to Mattia Preti.
Now either walking through the Via del Mercato or other neighbouring streets, we finally arrive in front of the Chiesa di San Giorgio, THE CATHEDRAL OF IBLA. It was built and designed by Rosario Gagliardi between 1739 and 1775. The beautiful scenic façade features juxtaposed and superimposed columns, and the central structure is jutting upward. The interior has three naves divided by strong pillars. There are three Vito D’Anna paintings of good quality. In the treasury, silver objects of great value are preserved.
Let’s have a nice granita admiring the Piazza Duomo and go down through the pedestrian zone, until we find the CIRCOLO DI CONVERSAZIONE. What better way to remember a time not so far in the past, without networks. From the outside, we peeked into a lounge and imagined how exciting this meeting place was in the past, where the erudite local bourgeoisie discussed with the ambition to get a solution for everything. [cit. Gesualdo Bufalino].
A little bit farther down, with a similar shape to the church of San Giorgio, although on a smaller scale, there is the church of San Giuseppe. Inside there is a silver statue of Saint Joseph, seventeenth century. The nearby church of Sant’Antonio, built in the Norman age, still has a Gothic portal on the facade; the sacristy’s portal is Baroque. Going to the left, we find the Church dell’Immacolata with another beautiful fourteenth century portal. While near the historic Byzantine walls, the Church del Signore Trovato awaits, rebuilt between the 18th and 19th centuries. A beautiful painting, the Madonna del Carmine by Vito D’Anna, can be admired in the Church of Santa Maria di Valverde. In Piazza G.B. Odierna, the facade of the church of San Giorgio Vecchio is very interesting, with its wonderful Gothic-Catalan portal, and a bas relief on the bezel, St. George slaying the dragon, with Aragonese eagles overhead.
But after losing count of the many churches viewed and visited, let’s rest in the beautiful IBLEO GARDEN, planted in the nineteenth century. It is nice and relaxing to walk inside and admire the stunning scenery.
DONNAFUGATA CASTLE Name comes from a legend about Princess Bianca of Navarra, imprisoned by Count Bernardo Cabrera in this castle, where the princess escaped through the tunnels that lead into the surrounding countryside, now a lush park of almost 8 hectares with large trees of Ficus, and other exotic species. It is said to have been built on the old structure of a thirteenth-century tower; part of the building, including the tower, date back to the mid-eighteenth century; but as a whole the building is due to the Baron Corrado Arezzo that made him realize a century after entering the main façade loggia with the elegant trefoil arches. In the main floor it has unique decor of the time a large monumental staircase stone-pitch.
Considerable the hall of coats of arms, with frescoes of noble insignia of the great Sicilian families, the hall of mirrors, the music room, the billiard room, with finally the unlikely bedroom Princess of Navarre. The rooms, the halls and the corridors are decorated with stucco and frescoes.
FOOD AND WINE Let’s start from pastieri, pasticcetti minced lamb and goat, seasoned with pepper, cheese and eggs, used in the area of Modica; we continue with the scacce, thin leaves of a flour dough, stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese or broccoli or tomato, eggplant, called impanate during Easter. We can taste the rabbit partuisa, chickpeas cooked with pork and macco, a past of beans. Don’t forget the caciocavallo, the typical cow’s milk cheese, molded into shapes of cuboid: the name comes from the particular location where he was placed for seasoning.
Always in Modica we taste the chocolate, the best for its particular and ancient workmanship. Then the affucaparrinu biscuits, the cakes with almonds, macaroons and the characteristic ‘mpanatiggi, with almonds, chocolate, beef and various spices.
Let’s taste a good wine: Cerasuolo of Vittoria, Ambrato of Comiso and Albanello. Discover more about Ragusa UNESCO Heritage audio tour izi.TRAVEL