Ragusa is a picturesque town in the Noto Valley of southeastern Sicily, an area noted for its unique style of Baroque architecture that gives it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Following an earthquake in 1693, the town of Ragusa and 6 other towns of the Noto Valley were rebuilt in an ornate Baroque style.
Ragusa Ibla, the old town, is built on a hill between two valleys. After the earthquake, part of the town decided to build on the ridge across a ravine in the part known as Ragusa Superiore or the Upper Town, a more modern looking town with straighter streets such as Corso Italia and Via Roma, the main shopping street, lined with elegant buildings. San Giovanni Cathedral, built in Sicilian Baroque style in 1706, and the tall bell tower next to it are just off Corso Italia.
Also in the upper town is the Ibleo Archaeological Museum, off Via Roma, with prehistoric to late Roman artifacts from the area. Four bridges cross the ravine to connect the two parts of the town. From the edge of the upper town, and on the staircase leading down, there are spectacular views of Ragusa Ibla.
At the top of the stairs leading down to Ibla is the small and unusual Church of Santa Maria delle Scale, Saint Mary of the Steps. Originally built in Gothic style, half of the church was destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt in the Baroque style while the undamaged half retains its original style.
What to See in Ragusa Ibla
Narrow streets wind up the hill of Ragusa Ibla to the cathedral, Duomo di San Giorgio, the heart of the old town and one of 13 Baroque monuments in Ragusa Ibla that are listed in the UNESCO inscription. Statues of saints and decorated columns adorn the facade and a staircase with 250 steps leads to the entrance. The duomo sits on a large piazza with several cafes and shops. Stop for a gelato at Gelati Divini with unusual flavors including gelato made with wine. Next to the square is the museum that holds statues and other artifacts from the original Cathedral of San Giorgio.
Other churches to see in Ibla are Santa Maria dell’Idria built by the Knights of Malta, San Filippo Neri, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, San Giuseppe, Santa Maria del Gesu, San Francesco, and Chiesa Anime del Purgatorio. Wander through the lanes of Ragusa Ibla admiring the Baroque palazzi, many adorned with ornate balconies so be sure to look up as you walk along. During high season you can also explore the town on the little tourist train that departs from Piazza Duomo.
At the edge of Ibla is the Giardino Ibleo, a public park with pretty gardens. A bus stops near the park that connects Ibla to the upper town for those who don’t want to climb the steps. The park is a great place to take a stroll with the locals. Special events and musical performances are held in Ragusa during summer.
Calabria, the Other Italy says, “If you want to see a spectacular preview, watch the opening credits of the Montalbano Mystery series. There are sweeping overhead views of Ragusa.”
Where to Stay in Ragusa
Ragusa Ibla is a nice place to stay and has several good restaurant choices although there are more hotel choices in the upper town, some with parking making them convenient if you’re traveling by car. In Ibla there are several B&Bs and charming small hotels:
- Ibla Resort, a 5-minute walk from the cathedral and near a parking lot, has 8 rooms and a self-catering apartment and a terrace with views of the historic monuments and valley.
- San Giorgio Palace is a 4-star boutique hotel next to San Giorgio Cathedral.
In the upper town, La Dimora di Piazza Carmine is a small 3-star hotel about a 10 minute walk from the train station. Most rooms have a balcony with views of Ibla. Hotel Vittorio Veneto is a 3-star hotel by the cathedral.
Getting to Ragusa
Ragusa has a train and a bus station in the upper town, connected to Ibla by the local bus that stops near the park. The rail line runs from Siracusa on the coast. Catania Airport is the closest airport and buses run from it to Ragusa as well as to other Sicilian towns and cities. The best way to explore the area around Ragusa is by car but you can’t drive into Ibla. There are pay parking lots in Piazza Repubblica below Ibla and next to the park and several other parking areas where you may find free parking.
See Ragusa’s location and plan your trip with this Sicily Map and Travel Guide