Ragusa - Baroque Town, UNESCO World Heritage site - Sicilyincoming

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Sicily Guide > Ragusa province



Ragusa is right at the heart of the “land of the carob, the olive and honey” wonderfully described by Gesualdo Bufalino, sweetly revealing, before our eyes, silent and tranquil scenarios, uniform flatness broken by the limpid geometries of low walls which trace out non-existent labyrinths. It stretches out white and grey on a long and narrow rock spur between two deep and steep valleys. A third valley, almost an isthmus, separates the two nuclei of the town: Ibla, to the east, the oldest part, with an irregular and picturesque layout, rich in splendid Baroque edifices, and upper Ragusa, to the west, with a modern look, extending towards the south, spanning the Santa Domenica quarry with three bold bridges. Thus is it seen from a distance, with the clear eye of the visitor. Ibla, the ancient Hyblea Heraia of the Siculi, who dominated the valley of the Irminio, was colonised by the Greeks of Syracuse and over the centuries shared the fate of the whole of Sicily, going through the dominions of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Angevins and the Spanish. Totally destroyed by the terrible earthquake of 1693, it rose up again, extending to the west and being decorated with fine Baroque monuments, which you come across practically everywhere.
A visit to Ragusa takes one day.

Ragusa Superiore
Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista

It was completed in 1970. The imposing and massive structure of the construction presents a rich façade with three portals: central one is surrounded by two pairs of sculpted columns, which support broken gables and on the side of it, the statues of San Giovanni Battista on the left, and San Giovanni Evangelista on the right, while in the centre there is a big cavity with the statue of Immaculata. There is a high bell tower on the left finished as spire. The Church has its interior as Latin cross at three naves, decorated by precious stucco works. Two levels of columns, very massive, divide the naves, made by tar stone with Corinthians capitals. The cartouches on the top of the columns are very valuable and sculpted on limestone, and the artistic stucco works on chalk, which support it. The magnificent and monumental organ, work of the Serassi masters, is inside the temple together with various art works. The pavement is very characteristic, in pitchstone with inserts of white limestone.

Church of Santa Maria delle Scale

This Church connecting upper Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla. It was initiated in the Norman period and reconstructed by Chiaramonti’s, and later rebuilt again after earthquake. It preserves, from the primitive church dated around 14th century, the right aisle or nave which resisted to the earthquake, with four chapels with Gothic-Catalan and Renaissance arches. The structure at three naves and next to them various chapels of rich decoration and made in different times. The actual entrance takes to the left nave: in front of the entrance there is the Gothic flowered portal, delimitated by high pinnacles with angels with swords and a Madonna with the child on the arch key, and a very rare polychrome decoration of the supporting columns. Another portal with an arch introduces the chapel of the Transaction where it is possible to admire a big ball, a polychrome up-relief in terracotta that represents the “Transito Della Vergine”. The Baptismal font is very characteristic, with a monumental chalice shape, in pitchstone and dated 1557.

Museo Archeologico Ibleo

The museum illustrates the archaeology and the old history of the territory of Ragusa province, from the Neolithic to the late ancient times. The arrangement is organized by chronological criteria and topographical areas and is characterized by real reconstruction of small parts of excavations. These rooms (necropolis, brick-kilns and mosaic floorings) explain visitors how the exhibited objects were used.
The museum is divided in six sections:
Section 1 - The prehistoric sites
Section 2 - The Greeks in the province (Camarina)
Section 3 - Ancient and classical Siculian settlements (Monte Casasia, Licodia Eubea, Castiglione, Hibla)
Section 4 -  Hellenistic settlements (Scornavacche)
Section 5 - Late-Roman settlement (Kaukana)
Section 6 - Collections and acquisitions

Location: Via Natalelli, 0932 622963
Opening hours: daily from 9:00 to 13:30 pm & from 15:30 to 19:30
Ticket:  full price - 4,00 €; Reduced price -  2,00 €

Ragusa Ibla
Church of San Giorgio

One of the maximum expressions of the sacred baroque architecture is the Church of San Giorgio of Ragusa Ibla, projected by the architect Rosario Gagliardi, from Noto, important personality of the artistic chain of that period. The superb and ambitious project of Gagliardi gives a peculiar scenery to the whole square itself, probably wanted in order to turn the structure to the sunrise, it allows to admire the cupola and the big and high stairs and contributes to add the upward effect of the central structure which makes the temple one of the greatest works of architecture of all times. The Church comes out from a project based on Basilica planning, at three naves, separated by robust but elegant pilasters of hard limestone, with a baseboard made in pitchstone. The neoclassic cupola, 43 meters high, was finished in 1820 by the master builder Carmelo Cutraro, who made it on the base of an incision that represented the cupola of the pantheon in Paris. In the sacristy, richly decorated with wooden cupboards, finely decorated, three statues from the decoration of the tribune in native stone representing San Giorgio on his horse, besides him Sant’Ippolito and San Mercurio, the statues are on base with some bas-relief representing episodes of the life of San Giorgio and the twelve Apostles. Everything dated 1574, and it was previously in the old Church of San Giorgio and attributed to the one of the disciples of Gagini from Palermo.

Church of San Giuseppe

It forms together to the Church of San Giorgio, one of the most expressive works of the Sicilian baroque. It is part of the same architectonic complex of the Monastery of Benedettine and the old Palace of the City Hall. The interior has an oval shape, richly formed: on the central altar a painting of the Sacred Family painted by Matteo Battaglia from Ragusa in 1775, a fresco on the top a representing the Glory of San Benedetto painted in 1793; the pavement extremely elegant made by white limestone and black pitch stone forming an artistic drawing alternated by polychrome tiles.

Ibleo Garden

Located in the oldest part of Ragusa, in a majestic architectural setting including three old churches, this garden was built in 1858 on the initiative of some local nobility. It stands on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Irminio's valley, at the east of the town and approximately 385 m above sea level. Palms, Lebanon cedars, Judas trees and Italian cypresses are the most towering plants in the garden. In the centre of the garden stands a monument  sculpture for the Great War. Inside it contains churches, such as the Church of San Giacomo and Church of Cappuccini. Near the garden there are also the archaeological excavations of Ragusa Ibla. Ibleo Garden represents one of the main Mediterranean gardens in South-Eastern  Sicily.

Location: Piazza Giambattista Odierna

Surface area: 15,800 sq m

Opening hours: Monday - Sunday from 10:00 to 5:00
Ticket: free entrance


Ragusa: Baroque Town, UNESCO World Heritage site
Area: 442,6 km²
Elevation: 502 m  
Population: 73 843
Population name: Ragusani
Dialling code: 0932
Zip Code: 97100
Geographic Location: South-Eastern Sicily
Saint Patron: San Giovanni Battista and San Giorgio


- Last week of May: Feast of San Giorgio in Ragusa Ibla

Feast day of San Giorgio, celebrated on the last Sunday in May, Ibla is decorated with fantastic light creations that span its narrow streets. San Giorgio is dramatically carried down the steps of the Duomo, through the curving streets and in and out of the many churches.

- August 29th: Feast of San Giovanni Battista in Ragusa Superiore

The inhabitants of Ragusa (ragusani) have always had a special devotion to St. John that is expressed in many different ways, but mainly through the feast-day that celebrate the martyrdom of Zacharias and Elizabeth’s Son on 29th of August.The feast day an enormous crowd gather to celebrate the Mass in the Cathedral and take part to the procession. At midnight on the Ponte S. Vito everybody can enjoy a magnificent fireworks display.


- Scacce - folded pastry filled with tomatoes, aubergines, ricotta cheese and sausage or broad beans

- Caciocavallo ragusano -  local cheese
- Hyblean Mounts honey


By car: from Catania airport / follow signs Siracusa E45 - SS114, drive A18 motorway to Siracusa / Gela - Avola - Noto – Rosolini. Rosolini "last gate" follow the signs for Ispica, in  Ispica following the signs for Ragusa.

By train: links with all the major Italian cities (sometimes necessary to change trains)

Train station – Piazza del Popolo

By bus: from Palermo (INTERBUS), from Catania (ETNA TRASPORTI), from Syracuse (AST), from Messina (SAIS) daily links

Terminal Ragusa – Via Zama

INTERBUS - 095 530396; 0931 66710
ETNA TRASPORTI -  0932 623440; 095 532716
AST – 840 000323
SAIS -  0932 623440; 0935 524111

By plane: the nearest airport is “Fontanarossa” in Catania (100km)


Location: Piazza San Giovanni
Info: 0932 676635
Opening hours: Moday - Friday from 9:00 to 19:00; Saturday from 9:00 to 14:00; Sunday closed


Special Thank you for the text to the Ragusa Tourism Office

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