One of the most fascinating towns in Sicily, Ragusa has caused many a visitor’s jaw to drop as they first set eyes on the lower part of the town. Inherently Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, Noto, Modica, Scicli and Catania, were razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily.
It sits atop a very pleasant hill set amid the rocky peaks’ northwest of Modica. The town has two faces, the historic downhill Ragusa ibla and modern Ragusa superiore sitting on the top of the hill. Many of the scenes from the series “Montalbano” were filmed in and around Ragusa Ibla's beautiful Piazza Duomo.
The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica. UNESCO Heritage and worldwide renowned for its Baroque architecture Ragusa Ibla was rocked by an earthquak in 1693. Ragusa Ibla artists realized wonderful palaces and churches, built with the local stone after the earthquak. These include:
- The Basilica di San Giorgio, 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.
- “Giardino lbleo". The Hyblean Gardens offer some fantastic views of the town.
- Chiesa di Maria delle Scale (St. Mary of the Stairs) lies between Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla. It was not totally destroyed by the 1693 earthquake as can be seen from the Gothic Catalan-style arches in the right aisle. As its name might suggest, the church is reached via 242 steps, though the reward at the top is worth it. If you are a fan of the hit Italian detective series Inspector Montalbano, you may recognise the view from the Church of Maria delle Scale from the panoramic shots of Ragusa Ibla that set the scene for a great deal of the episodes.
- Cosentini Palace with facade full of incredible sculptures located under the balconies.
- Church of the Purgatory dedicated to all saints and the souls in purgatory.
Ragusa superior is the new town, where efficiency has pragmatically taken over the place of the church bourgeoisie in the name of transformation. This city has a fair share of architectural delights such as the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, previously situated under the walls of the Mediaeval castle, was rebuilt twice, as the first version was deemed unsuitable.