“Sicilies are too many, you never stop to count them. There is the green Sicily of the carob tree, the white of the salt flats, the yellow sulfur one, the blonde from the honey, the purple lava. There is Sicily ”babba”, which is mild, up to sound silly…”(G. Bufalino).
This last definition for the Sicilians, almost by antonomasia, is referred to the province of Ragusa. Perhaps because, at a certain moment in its history, it was the province almost by chance or on a whim. But the ragusano doesn’t get offended, has the long eye of the farmer and then the farmer of that nobility, seemingly sleepy, who realized that the title should not be content and either the things that you have to exploit , and that’s what made history of its territory. Here history is told by the stones, if you stop a moment to learn their language, the Duomo di San Giorgio, lace and Ibla living room, a bastion and symbol of rebirth, all the baroque of the “two” Ragusa.
They tell about the tremendous effort of the people, the pride and the victory on the disaster of the 1693 earthquake, with their yellow stone, bold and seductive, which is golden in the blinding sun of Sicily, silhouetted in the blue cobalt sky.
This city seduces and enchants, preserves an ancient candor and beauty springs from white sheets, still warm from meats that have been wrapped in, overlooking the golden hills that surround the city, now interrupted here and there by the green patches of carob trees, from deep valleys furrowed by the streams that in the fresh nights in summer, scented by Mediterranean plants, recall the chatter of the waters with the croaking of frogs that resonate up to the salons of the great sandstone palaces.
If in a spring day a traveler asked me to visit this wonderful part of the Val di Noto,
I would bring along the old road that crosses the high Iblei, the last strip of the province of Catania Vizzini, state town of ancient foundation, the home of the illustrious realist writer Giovanni Verga, perched and scenic, that traditions, architecture and culture, is similar to the territory of Ragusa, then take the old road that connected the center of Etna with the Ragusa area. Road through valleys and turns, ascending on Iblee hills and meets beautiful green forests, rich in streams and farms, cliffs and caves with suggestive names, like the hollow of Volaci, ancient rock tombs, like the Saints caves and Coins, source of ancient legends of rich trusses.
Then I recommend a break in the lovely Monterosso Almo, yet in the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy, a town that has so impressed Tornatore enough to settle its “Man of the Stars“.
The heart of the small center is a beautiful square cured and clean, where life flows placid and sleepy and people stay until late talking with friends, like that was the extension of the entrance house, where the loudest noise is given by the bells the Church of San Giovanni, with its distinctive bell tower facade, and the swallows.
guided by the aroma of coffee and freshly baked pastries, I would stop at one of the small downtown bar to enjoy my guest …
the irresistible ravioli with ricotta and cinnamon, capable of giving meaning to any distracted palate.
Here all the churches are often open, I remember with particular affection, the Addolorata Church, little jewel declared a national monument, set in a small square, guarding a district crystallized in the last three hundred years.
Continuing my journey to discover the province, after Monterosso I’d already find myself having to make an important decision, right or left?
Without pretense of a political nature, I would explain to my traveler that both roads lead to Ragusa, but the choice must be taken istinctively. On the right in fact the main road branches off to the city of Chiaramonte Gulfi, called Balcony of Italy for its perched position. The town, of ancient origin, owes its name to the feudal lord who in the thirteenth century had a feud, the Earl of Modica Manfredi Chiaramonte.
But back to taste, as our trip is almost over the middle, the center has a rich culinary tradition that goes from the typical products of the rural tradition of rich choice meat menu, served in small restaurants or small local farms-houses in the center .
After lunch, a virtue of necessity, you can take a digestive walk in the historical center with its many historic churches and its small museum.
The other way, the left instead would take us in the small town of Giarratana, the quaint old town called Cuozzu comes to life, colors, sounds and flavors during the Christmas season while in the rest of the year it hosts a trail of historic house museums of rural life.
The town is so small that in a couple of minutes you are already out. Here I would stop at a bakery to inebriate me with the scent of bread and homemade cakes, and then, strengthened, I’d carry on the entrance of Forest Park Calaforno, true foreshadowing of Eden, with its forest of plane trees and pines , rivers, streams and waterfalls, mills and even a picnic area.
Continuing, a few kilometers, I suddenly find myself on a bridge, between the blue of the sky and the one of … the lake! Here a characteristic plagued called Santa Rosalia Lake, from a small country church that is near, gave the pretext for some people to turn small country houses and farms into small farms or restaurants, so even this option would not let me in dry palate!
Through small gorges, ancient sly villas and lush Mediterranean plants nurseries and behold, after a wide curve, finally Ibla, the first town of Ragusa, almost a city in itself, an important part of the open-air set of Il Commissario Montalbano.
The dome of the cathedral towers on the roofs of the houses around, its wide façade backdrop for the square which can be reached after a maze of impressive and magnificent palaces.
Here the Conversation Club, an elegant meeting of Ragusa nobility of the century, then, to the right of the cathedral, Palazzo Donnafugata, still owned by the famous Arezzo family, with its small nineteenth-century theater.
Then, still being led by the wonder of an elegant architecture, excessive traits and “biting” as in the case of the Cosentini Palace , with its baroque “speaking” which branches off one of the ancient routes that connect the old core to the most “modern” of Ragusa Superiore.
But also the narrow streets, low houses, the courtyards, the intricacies of deserted neighborhoods with the windows closed and the soapy water patches of fragrant basil and geranium pots outside the gates, inhabited by the sun and dust. There is the route of the steps, crossing the entire city, opens the breath of a sunny square and composed of the immensity of the Purgatory Church staircase, or the colors and shapes of the Arab-Norman of the Itria Church, with a dome shape and color vaguely reminiscent of a minaret. In every alley, never anonymous, you can find a small church or oratory, as the venerable Santa Petronilla, or a Gothic portal, last vestiges of the ancient Church of San Giorgio.
Then there are the airy Giardini Iblei, born to shine and decorum of the city, in the days when the beauty was the sense of community sharing. The elegant gardens of Ibla retain the old charm of the Belle Epoque, where the appearance of ladies with dazzling umbrellas would not raise a natural wonder in trompe l’oeil, like those that adorn the rooms of the luxurious and eclectic summer residence of Arezzo, today Castle Donnafugata, which will come to life early in the Costume Museum of its ancient inhabitants.
The province of Ragusa is varied, its highlands, with green pastures in winter, scattered deep carsic valleys, go to degrade up to be a wide coastline of beaches with crystal clear waters, its coasts are extended, seamless continuity, from Sampieri up to Scoglitti, from Donnalucata and Punta Secca, the home location of the famous Commissioner but also for Caucana, ancient port Sicilian-Greek, and Kamarina, an important colony of Syracuse, destroyed by the Arabs, surrounded by an important archaeological museum also it has the advantage of a wonderful overlooking the sea.
On the same stunning coastline the Forest Reserve Club, bordered by forests of Aleppo pines and Mediterranean bush. warm, clear waters and lush vegetation of the essences of the woods, the sea you come by chance, through high dunes of fine sand.
The ancient “Modica, noble city, opulent and populous, head of the ancient and very large county” city born around two rivers, the Janni Mauro and Pozzo dei Pruni, covered in the last century due to the frequent floods, climbs, almost clings on the valleys that surround, on spectacular staircases as that of the Church of San Pietro and even more the one of St. George, with its 250 steps! On top of which, after regaining breath, with splendid views of the city to the sea. Also here the churches are numerous and rich, a fantastic open-air book, the typical gastronomic specialties range from the first to the sweet liqueurs to the rich, going to the chocolate which often combines both, in the famous impanatigghi sweet meat and chocolate.
The climate is temperate and warm and jovial inhabitants. It’s a city that invites you to “buy time”, get in the shops working cocoa, according to a recipe remained the same over the centuries. It means not being able to get out without tasting it, between a chat and the other, all flavored chocolates to coffee or pepper, cinnamon blancmange, the pistachio liqueur and Modica freshly roasted coffee! Inebriated by this apotheosis of flavors and fragrances, you make your peace with the created universe, and friendship with the owner, greeting us like old friends.
Two other cities rather populous province of Ragusa, which would not neglect to accompany my visitor, are Comiso and Vittoria, the first site of a new airport, the second became famous for its vegetables. Both are worth a visit. Victoria, with its grid pattern, and the latest of the province, founded in 1607, reborn, like the others, after the great earthquake, has become rich between 800 and with the urban explosion of the ’70s and 80s of the last century.
Here would begin my itinerary with a walk in the marine village of Scoglitti, the clear sky on a sea often placid even in winter, to visit the archaeological museum, full of underwater treasures, which stands on a promontory of the ancient Greek-Roman colony.
In the evening, a return to the past in the heart of Liberty City, Via Cavour and Piazza del Popolo, with its theater, an extraordinary jewel of neoclassical art, dedicated to the founder of the city: Victory Column. Maybe see a operetta; dabbled in an atmosphere of ancient times, the place that inspired Emidio Greco in 2002 for the film version of The Council of Egypt taken from one of the most celebrated novels by Sciascia. For some years in June the city resounds of the notes of a jazz that is a candidate to International Festival and its beautiful white stone monuments, Piazza San Giovanni, the castle and the former electrical workshops, open to exhibitions and tastings of all kinds. A good glass of Cerasuolo di Vittoria to round off the evening…
Then I would go by the nearby Comiso, for its beautiful late-baroque churches, rich in works of art at all minors, San Biagio, Santa Maria delle Stelle, Piazza Fonte Diana, under which, to witness the continuity of its history, have been found the mosaics of the Roman Baths. Comiso, is worth a visit to learn about the places of a worthy representative of the “Suditudine” Gesualdo Bufalino, with whom we started our journey