” There are so many Sicilies that we would never finish to count them. There is the green Sicily of the carob tree, the white of  salt flats, the yellow of sulfur , the blonde of honey, and the purple one of  lava. There is  the “babba” Sicily, mild till to look silly Sicily …” (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 found itself nominated as a province, maybe by chance or by whim. But the ragusano doesn’t get offended, he has a wandering farmer eye, as well as a farmer of that gentry, just looking sleepy, which has understood that one should never settle for a title or for belongings, but it is necessary to capitalize them, like the history of its territory did before. Here history is told by the stones, if you stop a moment to learn their language, from the Duomo di San Giorgio, lace and Ibla living room, a bastion and symbol of rebirth, to the all of 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 a soft beauty,  from white sheets, still warm from the bodies they have wrapped in, overlooking the golden hills surrounding  the city, now interrupted here and there by the green patches of carob trees, from deep valleys furrowed by the streams that, during  the fresh summer nights,  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 take him along the old road that crosses the Alti 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 Etnean center  to  with the Ragusa area. A road  passing 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 looked after and clean, where life flows placid and sleepy and people stay until late talking with friends, like if the square 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 let my guest try …the irresistible ravioli with ricotta and cinnamon, able to give a meaning to any distracted palate.

Here all the churches are often opened, 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.

While keep going to my journey finding out about the province, after have left Monterosso I found myself wondering about an important decision: right or left?

Without any politic pretending, I would explain to my traveler that both roads lead to Ragusa, but the choice must be taken instinctively. 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, takes its name after the  the feudal lord who in the thirteenth century had it as a  feud, the Earl of Modica Manfredi Chiaramonte.

But back to taste, since our trip is almost reaching lunch time,  the center has a rich culinary tradition that goes from the typical products of the rural tradition to a rich choice meat menu, served in small restaurants or small local farms-houses in the center .

After lunch, virtue of necessity, you can take a digestive walking to  the historical center with its many historic churches and its small museum

The other way, the left one, would have taken us to the  small town of Giarratana, the presepe city, since its historic center, called Cuozzu , comes alive with life, colours, sounds and flavors during the Christmas season while, during the year, it hosts a trail of historic house museums about 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 leaving at quite small distance 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.

Going on, within , a few kilometers, suddenly, I would find myself on a creek 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 essences nurseries, after a wide turn, finally Ibla, the first inhabitated town of Ragusa, almost a city itself, important part  of the open-air set of Il Commissario Montalbano.

Ibla - ph. TuriSicilia

Ibla

The dome of the cathedral overlooks the roofs of the surrounding houses, its wide façade backdrop plays as backstage of the square, which can be reached after a maze of impressive and magnificent palaces.

Here the Conversation Club, an elegant meeting place of Ragusa gentry  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.

circolo di conversazione -ph. Ignazio Mannarano

Circolo di conversazione -ph. Ignazio Mannarano

Then again, being led by the wonder of an elegant architecture, sometimes excessive and lashing, as in Cosentini Palace, with its speaking baroque, where from starts one of the ancient road, which connects the old living quarters to the modern one of Ragusa Superiore.

But the narrow streets too, 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 to a sunny square and to the massive staircase of of the Purgatory Church staircase, or to  the colors and shapes of the Arab-Norman of the Itria Church, with a dome, in shape and colours, reminding of  a minaret. In each 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.

Giardini Iblei - ph. Turi Sicily

Giardini Iblei – ph. Turi Sicily

Then there are the ventilated Giardini Iblei, born to give prestige and decoration to the city, when, at the time, the beauty was the sense of community sharing. The elegant gardens of Ibla keep  the ancient charm of the Belle Epoque, where the appearance of ladies with small 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 Arezzos’, today Castle Donnafugata, which will come to life early in the Costume Museum of its ancient inhabitants.

Castello di Donnafufata - Ph. I. Mannarano

Castello di Donnafufata – Ph. I. Mannarano

The province of Ragusa is varied, its highlands, with green pastures in winter, scattered with 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 location of the famous Commissioner’s house  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 which has, also, the advantage of a wonderful overlooking to the sea.

On the same stunning coastline the Forest Reserve Club, bordered by forests of Aleppo pines and Mediterranean bush. warm  crystal  waters and lush vegetation of the essences of the woods, get you as by chance to the shore, through high dunes of fine sand.

The other two historic towns UNESCO heritage and the Commissioner Montalbano, Modica and Scicli.

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 surrounding valleys on spectacular staircases as the one of the Church of San Pietro and even more the  St. George’s one, with its 250 steps! On top of which, after taking breath again, it is possible to admire a terrific view of the city through the shore. Here too the churches are numerous and rich, a fantastic open-air book, the typical gastronomic specialties range from the main course  to the sweet liqueurs, getting chocholate as well, which, often, combines both, in the famous impanatigghi,  sweet made of meat and chocolate

The climate is temperate and the inhabitants are warm and  cheerful. It’s a city that invites  to “take time”, to get in the shops working cocoa, according to the same ancient recipe lasted for centuries, showing it at its best in ancient cupboards, with lacies of pizzo.  It means it would not be possible to go out without having tasted, while having a good chat, all the flavored coffee or chilli pepper chocolates, cinnamon blancmange, the pistachio liqueur and Modica freshly roasted coffee! Inebriated by this apotheosis of flavors and fragrances, you make up with the universe and friend the owner, greeting as old friends.

Two other cities quite populous provinces of Ragusa, where I would not miss to take my visitor, are Comiso and Vittoria, the first site of a new airport, the second famous for its vegetables. Both are worth a visit. Victoria, with its grid pattern, and the latest of the provinces, founded in 1607. Rebuilt, like the others, after the great earthquake, has become rich between the end of 800’s and with the urban boom of the ’70’s and 80’s in the last century.

Here I would begin my itinerary with a walk in the seaside village of Scoglitti, the clear sky on a calm sea often  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 the Liberty City, Via Cavour and Piazza del Popolo, with its theater, an extraordinary jewel of neoclassical art, dedicated to the founder of the city: Vittoria Colonna. Maybe to see an operetta; surrounded  by  an atmosphere from the past, in  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. Over recent years, in June, the city resounds of the notes of a jazz  candidate to the  International Festival and its beautiful white stone monuments, Piazza San Giovanni, the castle and the ex power station buildings, open to exhibitions and tastings of all kinds. A good glass of Cerasuolo di Vittoria to call it at night…..

Then I would go to the nearby Comiso, for its beautiful late-baroque churches, rich in not at least works of art, San Biagio, Santa Maria delle Stelle, Piazza Fonte Diana, beneath  which, to witness the continuity of its history, have been found the mosaics of the Terme Romane. Comiso, is worth a visit to learn about the places of a worthy representative of the “Solitudine” Gesualdo Bufalino,  who we started our journey with.