Part 4 of a trip to Sicily (from Nov.-10 - 16th)
Part 1 - Catania (Nov, 9-10th)
Part 2 - Syracuse (Nov, 10-13th)
Part 3 - Noto & Modica (Nov. 14th)
Ragusa is about an hour drive from Syracua, which we sadly depart, but after the excursion to Noto and Modica (see previous posts), it was quite dark by the time
we reached our accommodation for the night there.
The landscape driving south had gradually changed to more mountainous and agricultural land, and much more verdant
Getting closer to town
Ragusa - A Hill-top Town - UNESCO World Heritage
Though Ragusa, in which the original plan was to stay for 2 nights, is a picturesque town, the place just didn't appeal to us, that much, and our stay was shorten to one night only.
A cloudy grey drizzly weather, and a misrepresented "Cave Concept" hotel, indeed spoiled for us the visiting experience there.
A southeastern town of Sicily, Raguza is built on a wide limestone 300 m hill between 2 deep valleys, Cava San Leonardo and Cava Santa Domenica, with about 75,000 inhabitants.
The ancient city, which its origins can be traced back to the 2nd millennium BC came into contact with nearby Greek colonies, and grew thanks to the nearby port of Camerina
Ragusa was occupied by the Arabs in 848 AD and remained under their rule until the 11th AD, when the Normans conquered it. Ragusa was selected as a county seat, and its first count was Geoffrey, son of Count Ruggero of Sicily.
In 1693, Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. After the catastrophe, the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from that time remain in the city, and make the visit worth it.
The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens moved out and built a new town on a different site, The new municipality was called "Ragusa Superiore" (Upper Ragusa)
While the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now known as Ragusa Ibla - ( "Hybla" means honey) ancient city (left on the map) "Ragusa Inferiore" (Lower Ragusa).
The 2 halves of the same city, are separated by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine crossed by 4 bridges, of which the oldest and most noteworthy is the 18 C Ponte Veccio dei Cappuccini.
Both cities remained separated until 1926, when they merged. and a flight of steep steps
which we climbed huffing and puffing, connects Ibla - the lower town, to the upper one.
We didn't explored Ragusa's upper part, and the few attractions it offers like:
Museo Archeologico Regionale Ibleo , situated inside the (the Antiquarium,) -
Palazzo Mediterraneo (Via Natalelli). Or the imposing Cathedral of St John the Baptist- (intersection Via Roma and Corso Italia)
We did walked up the stairs to Santa Lucia at top of superior Ragusa
Walking up the stairs
While the more modern upper part of Ragusa has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below, that really drew us as it has many other visitors.
The view from the upper town over Ragusa Ibla on its own separate hilltop is quite breathtaking
Ragusa Inferiore Ragusa Ibla
The sight of the maze of narrow streets, jumble of houses, many churches and elegant civic palazzi piled on top of each other, and clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking.
The ancient, Baroque-style Ibla. is composed of local stone, has the refined elegance that characterizes the late-baroque towns of Southern Sicily's towns, and like the others, (Noto, Modica and Scicli, visited as well) badly, impacted by the 1693 earthquake
All the architectural masterpieces in the streets from Corso Italia to Corso Mazzini built after the earthquake were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2002
The pleasant walk, despite the cloudy drizzly weather, from one end of the Ibla
at the foot of the stairs (leading to the the superior part), starting at Piazza Della Repubblica, up to Pizza Duomo - the highest hill top point (in the middle) and down to the other side, ending at the Giardin iIblei , is not more then 40 minutes.
Piazza Della Repubblica
This is a very small square and a bus stop, dominated by the Roman Catholic (1658) Chiesa del Purgatorio "Church of the Purgatory" with its beautiful Baroque portal
Additional buildings at the Piazza
Giardini Iblei ("foot of Ibla").
A green lung restful public gardens, half in Italian style and half in English style, with views over the valley of the Irminio. With three small medieval churches: St Jacob, St Agata, and St Vicenza which is an art space.
In the midst of third green attractive corner, there is a charming old convent turned into an hotel/restaurant
Located in in the heart of Ibla park, the Convent, built in 1610, represents a rare remarkable example of the architecture prior to the 1693 earthquake .
The first monks arrived in Ragusa in 1537. Initially they settled along the banks of San Leonardo stream, then they decided to go up the hill to better their position.
Inside its recently restored premises, it houses an Hotel, a enowned Cooking School, and an an indoors/outdoors Restaurant.
The views below from the top of the Park's hill
Commendatore hill, is also decorated with 2 impressive historical palaces in
Baroque style that shouldn't be missed.
*Palazzo Cosentini - Corso Mazzini, Tel: + 39 0932-676668/623
This most elegant building built by Baron Raffaele Cosentini and his son Giuseppe was probably completed in 1779
The three balconies of the noble floor are characterized by the rich decoration of the corbels with grotesque and deformed faces, in the first one on the left, surmounted by figures of musicians, in the central one, figures alluding to abundance and in the one on the right, characters of the people
* Palazzo Della Cancelleria. - Palace of the Chancellery
located along the aptly named Via delle Scale in the oldest part of the city.
Built by the Nicastro family in 1760 . The family was present in the town since 1577.
Although the Nicastro family was not among the main notables of the city and never held public office, they managed to become quite wealthy. It was only after the marriage of Filippo Nicastro to Baroness Giampiccolo that the family assumed a more visible role in the public life of Ragusa.
The palace was perched by the municipality in the second half of the 19thc and took the seat of the municipal Chancellery
A church was erected here in the 14th century in the former Jewish quarter of the "Cartellone", by the order of the Knights of Malta, The church was little damaged by the earthquake of 1693, and was not modified until the first half of the 18th-century to modernize the church in a baroque style. The facade, completed in 1740.
Magical Jewish phylacteries (amulets) engraved on small metal plates are on display at the Ragusa Archeological Museum in Santa Croce Camerina
In the Surrounding:
A white stone pseudo-Venetian-Gothic country villa located in the countryside. 15 kilometers from Ragusa and is among the most elegant castles in Sicily.
Although the origins of Donnafugata Castle can be traced to the 14th-c most of its current Neo-Classical and Neo-Gothic appearance belongs to the 19th
It is featured in some episodes of the series as the villa of Mafia boss Balduccio Sinagra.
Hotel we stayed in Ibla Ragusa
Historic Boutique Hotel
Via XI Fabbraio 15 +39 0932 220065
This small hotel which is located in Ibla near Piazza La della Rebubblica, is situated inside a 14th AD stone structure with small quaint rooms.
The Cave Concept
However, as we wished to have a much larger space, we were offered a Cave concept with a garden on the top, which was misrepresented as a "luxury suite",.. and which was located in another location, above the well known hotel's restaurant, to which a a high very steep uneven unsafe flight of satires lead.
After only one night (out of the 2 booked) we decided to depart, as beside the large room there was absolutely no "luxury" in the poorly and shabbily designed space, totally unjustified in name and grossly over priced (on the verge of a fraud).
The hotel's Michelin Star restaurant, also a Cave concept and named also:
Locanda Don Serafino , with which its food, we were not impressed either, was
though, designed and decorated so much more attractively, then the alleged
"Luxury Suite cave, we stayed in.
We were the only one who dined that
early eve, at the restaurant, being served by 5 very attentive young staff,
of whom 3 were originally from Argentina, and now perusing a better economic future, in this remote southern Sicilian town.
By By Ragusa
To be continued....