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Ragusa is located in the south-eastern part of Sicily to the west of Syracuse, and is a provincial capital and an architectural wonder.
Ragusa has been carved on a wide limestone hill and is, along with seven other Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In common with many towns in Sicily Ragusa has its roots in antiquity.
The town has been altered from what it looked like originally when a considerable portion was destroyed in an earthquake in 1693. The rebuilding added a lot of new structures to the town, and the pattern of the rebuilding has divided the town into two parts. The older part is called the Ragusa Ibla while the newer part is known as the Ragusa Superiore. You can get excellent views of the old town from the higher parts of Ragusa Superiore.
However, the rebuilding has not reduced the importance of the town a bit. In fact, it is the baroque rebuilding that took place immediately following the earthquake that makes Ragusa so special. Wandering through the ancient strrets and alleys and discovering churches, palaces and pretty squares (piazzas) is a huge treat in Ragusa.
Most of the baroque buildings can be found in Ragusa Ibla. The Basilica of San Giorgio is one of the highlights. It sits on the edge of a sloping piazza and is a typical example of late baroque architecture. Its most distinctive feature is its dome which is over 40 meters high and supported by 16 columns.
In Piazza Polo you will find the church of Saint Joseph which is also built in the lovely Baroque style. Near here there is also a garden, the Ibleo garden with both Italian and English style gardens. The gardens are lovely and have great views over the surrounding hills and valleys.
Other important landmarks of Ragusa, which are found in the Ragusa Ibisa, are the Church of the Souls of the Purgatory, which could be an attraction for Knights Templar fanatics, the church of Sant’Antonio and the Hybean Garden, which offers a good view of the town.
There are also a number of beautiful palaces with charming Baroque features.
Ragusa Superiore is also worth exploring and not just for the views over Ragusa Ibla. The division of the town in two parts gave rise to the building of two cathedrals and in Ragusa Superiore you will find the Cathedral of San Giovanni Baptista.
In the Ragusa Superiore the archaeological museum is an important tourist attraction. Built on a narrow street connecting the upper city with the lower one is the interesting church of Santa Maria delle Scale, which was partially destroyed during the 1693 earthquake. One half of the church is rebuilt in the Baroque architecture style, while the older Gothic half has been kept in tact.
Ragusa is a key location in the filming of a popular Italian detective series called Commissario Montalbano. You may well see this on television as you are travelling around Sicily.
Places to Visit Nearby
Closer to Ragusa is an interesting neo-gothic castle, the Castello di Donnafugata, an attractive castle built of white stone. You can visit the interior of the chateau for an insight into life for the Sicilian nobility.
Apart from that, Ragusa can always offer you easy access to the spectacular sandy beaches of the southern coast.The Marina di Ragusa is a popular seaside resort and the fishing village of Punta Secca is also popular. Punta Secca and the Donnafugata castle are also locations for the Montalbano detective series.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.