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.
Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, Noto, Modica, Scicli and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily.
Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now Ragusa ‘Superiore’, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now Ragusa Ibla.
The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica.
While the upper part has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below that really draws visitors.
Whether you approach it from Modica to the south or from Ragusa Superiore, the sight of the jumble of houses, churches and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking.
Although seemingly Mediaeval from a distance, once you enter the town’s heart, the Baroque logic of its plan becomes more obvious.
The town is part of the Val di Noto Unesco Heritage site and 18 of its buildings are protected by UNESCO patronage.