After a relaxing two days in the Sicilian countryside, it was time to move on. Our lovely hosts at Kapuhala dropped us off at nearby Rosolini station for the just over an hour train journey to Ragusa, a UNESCO town, where we were to spend the last few nights of our Sicilian adventure.
Where Is Ragusa?
Ragusa is located in southern Sicily. This charming old town is built on a wide limestone hill between two deep valleys, Cava San Domenica and Cava Santa Leonardo.
Following the devastating earthquake of 1693, Ragusa was split into two. On top of the hill lies Ragusa Superiore, the new town, a busy provincial capital with small patches of gorgeous Baroque architecture and a massive cathedral. But dare I say it, quite a large part of the ‘new’ city is a little soulless like many modern towns.
Most visitors, however, come to Ragusa to see Ragusa Ibla, the picturesque historic centre with its lovely old buildings, stone houses, Baroque palaces, churches and piazzas.
Where To Find The Best Viewpoint Of Ragusa
It was when we first started planning our trip to Sicily that we came across a photo of Ragusa on an advert for Virtu Ferries (that’s how we travelled from Malta), and we knew we had to visit. You see, advertising does work.
We based ourselves in Ragusa Superior near the top of the staircase where the best viewpoint of Ragusa Ibla is, and from where the photo we saw was taken. Actually, the view the whole way down the 242 steps to the old city is fabulous, and it’s a must-do on any visit to Ragusa.
Getting Lost In The Streets Of Ragusa Ibla
One of our favourite things to do in any city we visit is to go on a walking tour and explore all the back streets and lanes and see where we end up. Ragusa Ibla is perfect for that. There are some fabulous character-filled lanes, stunning views, local life, numerous churches and squares to see. And somehow whichever way you turn, eventually you’ll end up in the main square, the Piazza Duomo.
Piazza Duomo and the Duomo di San Giorgio
The Piazza Duomo is the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee or something a little more substantial, and people watch. Here you will find many bars and cafes, a few tourist shops selling local wines, olive oils and cheeses. The cheeses are amazingly good, and they will vacuum pack them for you if you want to take them back home.
Overlooking the square is the imposing Cathedral of St George built in the mid-1700s. Fans of the Italian TV series Inspector Montalbano may recognise the church as it appears in the opening credits.
Street Art Around Ragusa
Wandering around the streets, we came across some interesting pieces of street art. Here’s a couple of our favourites.
Giardino Ibleo – Park in Ragusa Ibla
At the far end of Ragusa Ibla is one of the town’s oldest parks – the Giardino Ibleo. It’s a lovely park to relax, take a stroll, munch on a panino, and also has gorgeous views of the countryside. To enter the park, you pass through a gothic-Catalan doorway. It’s free to visit and open every day from 08:00 to 20:00.
Chiesa di San Vincenzo Ferreri, Ragusa Ibla
Close to the park, we came across this church. It’s quite a plain-looking church, and the doors were locked so we couldn’t even take a peek inside, but what drew our attention was the sundial.
Why does this church, built in 1509 and rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693, have what appears to be a 24-hour sundial? We were sure there was a simple explanation, but if you asked the locals, you got shrugs, (probably because they couldn’t understand my Italian) and Google wasn’t very helpful either.
Side Trip To Modica
A forty-minute drive or a twenty-minute train ride from Ragusa will bring you to another picturesque Baroque town, Modica. Packed with churches and ancient palaces and more steps, it’s another great place to get a full workout as you explore the maze of narrow streets.
We walked up to the top of the town to admire the view, but it was so windy that day, it took your breath away, and I feared we would be blown into the valley below. Fortunately, all that Sicilian food we had been consuming prevented that from happening.
But it wasn’t just the Baroque architecture we came to see in Modica; there was another reason – Chocolate!
Once upon a time, Sicily was part of the Spanish Kingdom, and it was the Conquistadors who brought cocoa and the Aztec methods of chocolate making to Modica. Chocolate is available in hundreds of fab and weird sounding flavours – I was in chocolate heaven.
There’s even a chocolate museum with a huge chocolate map of Italy and its islands. There was even a chocolate Malta on the map!
Recommended Restaurants In Ragusa Ibla
Ragusa is an excellent town for foodies. Here are some of our favourites from our three-night stay.
That’s A Moro
Just around the corner from the main piazza. This restaurant has a lovely outdoor dining area. Get there early to get a table; it’s very popular. It has a great selection of pasta and good wine.
We spotted this rooftop restaurant as we were walking down towards Ragusa Ibla, although it was a little bit tricky to find in the maze of streets. However, it’s a pleasant spot for lunch with its sweeping views across Ragusa.
Trattoria Agli Archi
Located at the bottom of the stairs. We enjoyed a delicious leisurely last lunch here. We kept grazing through the yummy antipasto dishes.
For ice cream, head to Gelati DiVini in the main piazza. We had seen many locals eating ice cream in a brioche bun during our time in Sicily. The idea of ice cream and bread still seems a bit odd, but you have to try it, and we did. Umm, yummy but still a bit odd.
Recommended Restaurants In Ragusa Superiore
Having explored Ragusa Ibla all day, and climbed back up the stairs, the thought of exercise again in the evening was too much, so we opted for somewhere a bit closer to our guesthouse instead.
There are some great restaurants very close to the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista. The restaurants here are less touristy and more for locals. We like that.
Trattoria da Luigi
The owner speaks excellent English and very keen to explain all the dishes to you. Lovely home-cooked food.
A trendy Sicilian bistro with fab food. There is an outside deck which is an excellent spot for people watching as this restaurant is on the street packed with bars and restaurants. However, chain smokers sat next to us, so we quickly moved inside.
Where To Stay In Ragusa – Superiore or Ibla?
Even though you will probably spend most of your time in Ragusa Ibla, consider staying in one of the guest houses near the top of the stairs in Ragusa Superiore. You’ll have that fabulous view of the old city right on your doorstep.
Plus staying in Ragusa Superiore will be more easily accessible with a car (better for parking too) or if you are arriving with public transport. There’s a significant number of local restaurants near the cathedral and being less touristy, your euro goes a little bit further.
Don’t think you could face the stairs every day? It’s actually not as bad as it looks and the view from every step on the way down is fantastic. It’s about a twenty-minute stroll from Ragusa Superiore to Ragusa Ibla. There is a local bus which runs up and down the hill which only costs a euro. Be sure to get on the right bus though; we didn’t.
How To Get To Ragusa
Nearest airports are Catania Airport or Comiso Airport. Comiso Airport is actually the closest, but only a few budget flights operate from there at the moment, so you’re more likely to arrive at Catania Airport.
Top Tip – If travelling by public transport, don’t plan to travel on a Sunday as no buses and no trains are running. However, you get more taxi for your buck here than in Taormina.
Have you ever visited Ragusa and any of its neighbouring towns? We’d love to hear your tales. Tell us in the comments below.