Sunny Sicily is always a wonderful travel destination. The Sicilian people are welcoming, the food is delicious and there are so many fascinating sights to explore. One destination is the town of Ragusa Ibla. Chock full of beautiful Baroque buildings and stunning views, elegant gardens and mouthwatering food you’ll find much to charm you in Ragusa Ibla.
Two Unique Cities in One
Ragusa is truly a tale of two cities. Once a proud ancient city which can be traced back to the second millennium BC, the city of Ragusa grew in population due to its location to a nearby port. Like the rest of Sicily the influence of Arab and Greek culture was strong. In 1693 Ragusa and surrounding towns experienced a devastating earthquake in which they lost thousands of residents.
Rebuilding took place soon after with two distinct locations as the remaining residents disagreed on where to rebuild after the catastrophe. A new, more modern Ragusa Superiore sprung up in an area that appealed to the wealthier, aristocratic citizens. The remaining population opted to rebuild on the site of the original town and that became Ragusa Ibla.
The two towns reunited in about 1927 but they remain unique and quite different from one another. While Ragusa Superiore is not without grand architecture, it is far more modern. This “second city” boasts streets that are grid-like and easy to navigate, bustling businesses and a work-a-day lifestyle. The rich history, slower pace and authentic character of the original town is what draws visitors to Ragusa Ibla.
Architecture that Impresses
The first thing visitors notice about Ragusa Ibla is the gorgeous Baroque architecture. Palaces, churches and all manner of buildings showcase the flowering baroque style of the 17th and 18th centuries. It stands to reason as most of the buildings were constructed after the earthquake of 1693. Local stone was utilized in the construction of these magnificent buildings which are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and have been since 2002.
There is no shortage of churches on either side of Ragusa, but Ragusa Ibla offers the more opulent examples of Baroque period churches. On an ambling avenue that connects Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla you’ll find stairs which lead, officially, to the Ibla side and the church of Santa Maria Delle Scale, or “St. Mary of the Stairs”. Before continuing to the church be sure to take in the view from the stairs.
Originally erected in the early 15th century and destroyed during the earthquake, the current church is a beautiful representation of period architecture. Salvaged from the wreckage of 1693’s earthquake was the original bell tower, now covered with local Caltagirone ceramic tile, and the impressive Gothic portal.
The Basilica di San Giorgio was built in 1738. A neoclassical dome was added to the church in 1820. You can easily find the church from anywhere in Ragusa Ibla as the impressive dome can be seen from all points of the city. And the facade of the basilica is considered one of the finest examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture, It is the main reason the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you could spend days on the churches of Ibla alone there is one more that’s worth touring. The Chiesa del Purgatorio, or Church of The Souls of Purgatory, is one of the only churches to have survived the 1693 earthquake. Obviously another example of Baroque architecture to admire, and a sturdy one at that.
Visiting Ragusa is included in our Best of Sicily tour.