One of the most fascinating towns in Sicily, Ragusa is home to some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in all of Italy. Indeed, much of the Ragusa you will see today dates back to the 17th century as the ancient city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1693.
The town was rebuilt as a result of the earthquake and sits atop a very pleasant hill set amid the rocky peaks northwest of Modica. The town has two regions: the historic downhill Ragusa Ibla and the modern Ragusa Superiore, which sits on the top of the hill. Those who enjoy Italian TV will recognize Ragusa Ibla's beautiful Piazza Duomo, as many of the scenes from the detective series Il Commissario Montalbano were filmed in and around this pretty area.
While Ragusa Superiore is the perfect place to enjoy shopping or an al fresco espresso, Ragusa Ibla is for those seeking out Sicilian culture. This part of the town is a UNESCO Heritage Site and features sublime Baroque architecture, including:
- The Basilica di San Giorgio, built in 1738 by Rosario Gagliardo. It lies at the top of some 200 steps and has an impressive neoclassical dome that was added in 1820.
- “Giardino lbleo" (or The Hyblean Gardens), which offer some fantastic views of the town.
- Chiesa di Maria delle Scale (St Mary of the Stairs), which lies between Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla. It was not totally destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, as can be seen from the Gothic/Catalan-style arches in the right aisle. As its name might suggest, the church is reached by scaling 242 steps. While this may seem daunting, the reward at the top is worth it!
- Cosentini Palace with its facade full of incredible sculptures located under the balconies.
- The Church of the Purgatory, which is dedicated to all saints and souls in purgatory.