Ragusa is an enchanting town in
southeast Sicily with many Baroque monuments that give it UNESCO
World Heritage status. It's an unusual town, divided into two parts
- the Upper Town Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla. After the earthquake of
1693 destroyed most of the town, half the people decided to build on
the ridge above town and the other half renovated the old town.
Ibla, the lower town, is reached on foot by a series of stairways or
by bus or car on a winding downhill road. There's a large parking
lot at the bottom of the road. From the upper town there are
enchanting views of Ibla. Ragusa is in the Val di Noto of
southeastern Sicily about 90 kilometers from Catania. The sea part
of Ragusa is Marina di Ragusa, a well developed resort with beaches,
is on the coast about 20 kilometers from the town. Modica, another
UNESCO Baroque town, is about 8 kilometers to the south.
Ragusa Main Attractions:
Cathedral (Duomo) of San
Giorgio - This cathedral stands at the top of a monumental
staircase that has 250 steps. It was designed in 1738 by the
architect Rosario Gagliardi, while the imposing neoclassical dome
was built around 1820, a copy of the Pantheon in Paris.
Church of Santa Maria delle Scale - This church was
rebuilt after the earthquake in 1693 on top of the original
fourteenth century site. The Church of Santa Maria delle Scale
connects the more recent High Ragusa to the older Ragusa Ibla with a
picturesque staircase with 242 steps.
Church of Purgatory (Purgatorio) - This church was
finished shortly before the earthquake in 1693 and miraculously
survived without damage. Starting from the 18th century,
considerable renovations and extensions were carried out, that
created a new church, which was even more majestic than the first.
Church of Santa Maria dell’Itria - The original
church that was built in the 14th century was completely destroyed
by the earthquake. The church was later rebuilt and extended in pure
Baroque Sicilian style. The interior is very interesting. It has
five altars full of sculptures and carvings of flower garlands.
Church of Santa Maria del Gesù - The Convent and
the Church were built starting from 1639 using recycled materials
from the abandoned Castle of Ragusa. Unlike the Convent, the Church
was damaged by the earthquake and then almost completely rebuilt in
1700. The entire building was constructed on four floors and is 21
Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli - In the 18th
century, some Ragusa people found an antique picture of the Madonna
with her child just outside the city. This finding was immediately
interpreted as a miracle that was celebrated with the new church
dedicated to the Madonna of Miracles that all the citizens took part
in. Although it was left unfinished, the church is interesting,
especially due to its original style of a drawn-out octagonal shape.
Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata - This
ancient church was built in honor of San Francesco in the 14th
century. The church was partly damaged during the 1693 earthquake:
The remains of the original Church, such as the portal and the
bottom of the bell tower, were incorporated into the new structure
that was completed in record time in 1711.
Church of San Filippo Neri - The Church was built a
few years after Filippo Neri was made a saint (1622) and was
virtually undamaged by the earthquake. The building was renovated
around the second half of the 18th century: large windows were
opened up on the side façades and a vault was built to replace the
old wooden ceiling.
Church of San Giuseppe - The church was built
following the wishes of the Benedictine monks between 1756 and 1796.
The main façade, with its carvings and statues of various saints, is
worthy of note. Inside there are charming ebony, painted glass and
Church of San Giorgio - The first Church of San
Giorgio stood near the Ibleo Garden, but only the sumptuous door in
Gothic-Catalan style remained of the original building after the
earthquake in 1693. After the earthquake the Church was rebuilt in
another place according to the project of the architect Rosario
Gagliardi. The Church stands on top of a large staircase and has an
imposing “tower-like” façade.
Palazzo la Rocca -
This palace was built in 1765 on the wishes of Baron La Rocca who
set up his residence there. The façade has several balconies that
are held up by different sized brackets and some interesting
anthropomorphic figures. The rooms on the first floor contain some
authentic eighteenth-century furnishings.
Palazzo Bestini - This palace is famous for the
disturbing masks sculpted onto the principal façade: The head of a
deformed, ragged beggar, the head of a aristocratic Sicilian and the
head of a Oriental personage with a turban.
Palazzo Cosentini - The decorations on the balcony
brackets are particularly interesting: masks sculpted into the stone
representing deformed, grotesque faces, some of which hold horrid,
poisonous animals such as scorpions and snakes between their teeth.
Palazzo Sortino Trono - This palace was built in
1778 according to the wishes of Don Ignazio Sortino Trono, on the
foundations of some houses that previously belonged to the family
that had been destroyed by the earthquake in 1693.
Palazzo Zacco - The brackets that hold up the five
balconies on the side facade are interesting: a musician playing the
maracas and a disturbing mask that sneers at passers-by.
Palazzo Battaglia - This palace, located in Ragusa
Ibla, was built in 1724 and later expanded (1748). It became even
more majestic than the first architectural plan.