Even in the rain, Ragusa Ibla, Sicily’s UNESCO world heritage site, is beautiful. We visited on a rainy afternoon, without high hopes. There was little information in our guide book, and from the few months we had been staying in Marina di Ragusa we had heard very few good things about it. People seemed to much prefer the more famous Syracuse, so we didn’t hold high expectations for our visit here and in fact, it was only the rain that forced us here in the first place! It turned out to be one of our favourite spots, even after two months of living Sicily, and we are thrilled that the rain led us here.
We discovered there are two sides to Ragusa. Ragusa Superiore, the modern day Ragusa full of shops and businesses, and Ragusa Ibla, the old town. The modern town was built higher up the mountain after an earthquake destroyed most of the old town in 1693. It was rebuilt and the two towns merged to become the provincial capital in 1927.
Ragusa Ibla is set in the hillside. It is a mass of beautiful stone houses and baroque churches and we are not exaggerating in saying we could have wondered the fascinating alleyways here for hours, each one full of character and charm.
A little history in Ragusa Ibla
If it’s history you like then there are several impressive churches and museums. Chiesa del Purgatorio is one of the only churches to have survived the earthquake of 1693. Chiesa di Maria delle Scale (St. Mary of the Stairs) also partially survived and if you climb the 242 steps you will be rewarded with panoramic views. The same views that were used many times in the hit Italian detective series, ‘Inspector Montalbano’.
The Basilica di San Giorgio was 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.
Top Tip: If you leave wanting more history then it would be remiss of me not to mention Sicily’s incredible Valley of the Temples. Only a few hours drive from Ragusa and full of ancient wonder, this historical site will not disappoint.
Time to relax
If you’re feet have had enough of sightseeing then The Piazza Duomo, overlooked by the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio, makes for a beautiful spot to nurse a coffee (or something a little stronger!) Or grab a cold drink from a local newsagents and head to the Giardino lbleo. The Hyblean Gardens are an unexpected corner of peace and tranquillity and they also offer some beautiful views.
Ragusa Ibla is full of boutique shops and souvenirs. You could spend an afternoon pottering around the little alley ways and exploring what the shops have to offer. Mixed in among the shops there are numerous cafes and restaurants offering a range of food and snacks for a variety of prices. Given the weather when we visited we opted for hot chocolate and pastries and we weren’t disappointed. The hot chocolate in Sicily is more like a melted chocolate bar! So it’s a must try for those with a sweet tooth! Check out Salumeria Barocca for some traditional Italian food or Monsu for something a little more extravagant.
Need to knows
Top Tip: Avoid wearing shorts and strappy tops if you want to visit the churches here.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Ragusa Ibla is to drive, much like most of Sicily. There is plenty of parking in Ragusa Superior, just follow the parking signs. From there Ragusa Ibla is a pleasant walk and it will mean you don’t miss the stunning view down to the old town.
How long to spend there
You could easily spend a day here if you are happy just pottering around the windy back streets. But if you have more to see then a morning or afternoon gives you plenty of time to take in the main sights and get a feel for this beautiful town.
Ragusa Ibla for kids
There are lots for children here so don’t hesitate visiting as a family. Ragusa Ibla’s gardens have a large play park that should amuse kids for an hour or two. There is also a mini sightseeing ‘train’ that you can catch from the main square and some interesting museums to visit.
What to bring
The usuals like suncream (or a raincoat in our case!) A water bottle and sun hat.
Money for parking (or an ice cream or three!)
Good walking shoes are a must. Most of the streets are cobble stones so avoid heels at all costs!