Ragusa Ibla and Iblei

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Ragusa, up and down the Iblei

It stretches along a hill chain that slowly degrades towards the sea, just twenty kilometres far. It’s Ragusa, a town with two faces: a modern one featured by wide streets and the old smaller one known as “Ibla” in the Baroque style, featured by sparkling narrow streets, stairways and irregular squares. The surrounding area is a striking stone route, there are long and short drywalls that separate the cultivations and the parcels of land where the baroque landmarks – towers, domes, façades stand out like a theatre in the warm afternoon light.

 A unique view is in front of your eyes when you reach the town and go through the narrow turns of Corso Mazzini: the harsh grey of its buildings is in contrast with the green of the surrounding countryside and it is revived by the colourful stains of the Baroque buildings’ façades and the majolica of the church of Santa Maria of Itria. A town to be slowly sipped, Ragusa has been one of the Unesco listed Baroque towns since 2002 – it is divided into two parts: the upper (supra) town – and the new upland town that was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 – and Ragusa “iusu” that means Ibla that was rebuilt on its own ruins. The two parts are connected by means of stairways and turning streets. The main monument of the upper town, on the hilltop, is with no doubt the huge cathedral of San Giovanni Battista while in the surroundings you can visit the archaeological Ibleo museum which hosts a number of collections of pre-historic remains and the mosaic floors that were found in Santa Croce Camerina. Charming tricks of light can also be seen at the Zacco palace, in the Baroque style, with a central balcony, the noble coat of arms, the little angels and the big masks, all made by the artists that exalted the art of the white stone carving. The castle of Donnafugata, around fifteen kilometres from Ragusa is a masterpiece and it is one of the main landmark of this area. Actually it is not a castle but it is a historical residence that deserves to be visited starting with its park. In the province of Ragusa the monumental and Baroque Scicli and Modica stand out, featured by pastel coloured houses that are lightened by the sun and are clung on the hillside that goes down from upper Modica to Lower Modica. It was enlisted in the Unesco’s heritage in 2002 and it keeps one of the most beautiful churches of Sicily, the church of San Giorgio: it is a masterpiece in the Rococo style and it is perched above 250 steps at the top of an amazing staircase and it keeps wonderful polychrome marble works inside. 

 A similar church is located in the lower Modica, it is the cathedral of St. Peter which dominates the area. The chalky upland of the Iblei is featured by plenty of land cuts produced by the rivers that are locally called “quarries”. The most spectacular one is the Ispica Quarry on the South- Eastern side since it is one of the most important site of the late-ancient, pre-classical Sicily: this site is surrounded by beautiful green gardens and bare chalky soil where you can see small Byzantine churches dating back to the Vth and VIth century B.C., the Christian cemeteries, the medieval villages, the rocky churches and the necropolis. In some caves a few remains of wall painting can still be seen, some cavemen shelters built as beehives or with overlapping floors. 

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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