Attractions in Ragusa

10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ragusa

In 1693, this entire area of ​​Sicily was destroyed by an earthquake and afterwards many towns were largely or completely rebuilt in the Baroque style. Eight of them, including Ragusa and nearby Modica, have been inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites as “representing the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe“. Rebuilt by the Normans after its destruction by the Arabs in the 11th and 12th centuries, Ragusa was so damaged in 1693 that a new city was built on a high plateau to the west. Many buildings in the old town have been repaired and rebuilt, so both towns show a noticeable Baroque influence that characterizes tourist sites today. Taking a step from the orderly grid of streets and avenues to the warren of corners and alleys of the old town is like being in two different cities.

1 Ragusa Ibla (Old Town)

Ragusa Ibla (Old Town)
 

The Old Town of Ragusa is considered to be the site of the original city of Hybla and later the Greek Hybla Heraia. Like the newer town above, this quiet neighborhood of narrow, crooked streets was largely rebuilt in the Baroque style after the 1693 earthquake. So you’ll see many examples of 18th-century architecture scattered among other buildings that survived from before the earthquake, and even some traces of old buildings. From Piazza della Repubblica a wide staircase leads to the Baroque church of Anime del Purgatorio. Nearby are two 18th century palazzi, Palazzo Cosentini and Palazzo Bertini.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ragusa

Read also: top tourist attractions in Sicily

2 Cathedral of San Giovanni

Cathedral of San Giovanni
Cathedral of San Giovanni
 

You will be surprised to discover that the duomo or cathedral is not in the Piazza del Duomo (where you see the church of San Giorgio), but in Piazza San Giovanni, named after the saint to whom the cathedral is dedicated. This square forms a terrace where the grounds fall away, and it is overshadowed by the imposing front of the cathedral and its tall bell tower, or campanile. The cathedral was built during much of the 17th century, with a facade in the typical southern Sicilian Baroque style, with statues and three portals. The chapels in the interior, which are in a Latin cross shape with a nave and two aisles, are decorated with ornate gilded Rococo stuccowork and have polychrome marble statues. The columns that divide the aisles are also decorated with gold. Behind the church is the beautiful Baroque parsonage.

Address: Piazza San Giovanni, Ragusa

3 San Giorgio

San Giorgio
San Giorgio
 

At one end of the Piazza del Duomo is the Church of San Giorgio, built between 1744 and 1775 to plans drawn up by Rosario Gagliardi; his designs are kept in the sacristy. It is one of his finest works and, like the church of San Giorgio in nearby Modica, a particularly fine example of Sicilian Baroque architecture. Standing majestically at the top of wide steps, the convex central portion of the façade has a main doorway flanked by three pillars on each side. The pillars continue to the floor above, from which the richly sculpted bell tower soars into the sky. The high tambour dome above the crossing (where the transept passes the nave) was not added until 1820. Look into the triple-aisled interior for an 18th-century altarpiece by Vito d’Anna, The glory of St. Nicolas.

Address: Piazza del Duomo, Ragusa

4 Modica

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Modica

Like Ragusa, just 15 kilometers away, Modica was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in the Sicilian Baroque style. Like Ragusa, it has a split personality, with an upper and lower city. The high point is the 18th century Church of San Giorgio, which dominates the upper town and is approached by a flight of 250 steps. The facade with its five doors is topped by a tall central tower, which further emphasizes the height of the building. The architect, Rosario Gagliardi, used materials salvaged after the earthquake from an earlier building on the site, including the altar repainted in High Renaissance style by Bernardino Niger in 1573. Major attractions in the lower town include the Chiesa del Carmine with its 15th-century Gothic rose window; the opulent baroque San Pietro; and the Palazzo de Levafrom about 1400, with a Norman doorway.

5 Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria

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Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria

One of the most beautiful sights in Ragusa is the blue domed bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria dell’Itria. Under the cobalt blue dome is an octagonal drum with eight panels in polychrome terracotta decorated with rococo-style floral designs. Floral designs are also carved into the portals and are repeated in the oldest of the interior’s five altars in the side aisles, where garlands of flowers and fruit decorate the spiral columns. The church, which stands in the city’s old Jewish quarter, was founded in the 14th century by the Knights of Malta.

Address: Piazza della Repubblica, Ragusa

6 Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio

Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio
Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio
 

Like that of the cathedral and the church of San Giorgio, the baroque facade of the Church of the Holy Souls stands at the top of a long, wide staircase. The entrance to the church is sculpted with plant designs, above which reliefs show souls in purgatory. The other portals are false (interpreted to mean there is only one true gate to heaven). Interior highlights include the high altar of polychrome marble from the late 18th century, the large painting of saints and souls in Purgatory by Francesco Manno and the sculptures of skulls with the symbols of popes, cardinals, bishops and kings, a warning about the transience of earthly attributes of power and wealth.

Address: Piazza della Repubblica, Ragusa

7 Castello di Donnafugata

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Castello di Donnafugata

Recommend good views from the perch, the castle of Donnafugata in one frazione – a hamlet – of Ragusa is known to fans of Commissario Montalbano mysteries as the home of the late mafia boss Don Balduccio Sinagra. The castle has also been used as a film set for other works. Although its exterior is castle-like, the rooms are more like a palace, richly decorated and furnished, with walls covered in murals and in damask. The origin of the name has given rise to several stories, as it means ‘fugitive woman’. Just as interesting as the castle rooms are the grounds, which include 1,500 plant and tree species and a labyrinth of dry stone walls high enough to conceal adjacent paths. Trapezoidal in shape, the labyrinth appears to be modeled on the famous maze at Hampton Court Palace outside London.

Address: Fraz. Donnafugata 1, Ragusa

8 Chiesa di San Giuseppe

Chiesa di San Giuseppe
Chiesa di San Giuseppe
 

The church dedicated to St. Joseph was also designed by Rosario Gagliardi, with a dynamic curved facade similar to his Church of San Giorgio. The semi-circular portals are crowned with statues of four saints and more saints stand in the arched window above. The pediment above is decorated with sculpted swirls and flourishes. The elliptical interior is richly decorated with frescoes and paintings and the five stone altars are decorated with stained glass to resemble marble. The two niches at the front contain statues, one in papier-mâché and the other a silver statue of Saint Joseph from the 16th century.

Address: Piazza Pola, Ragusa

9 Santa Maria delle Scale

At the end of Corso Italia is the church of Santa Maria delle Scale, named after the scalaor a staircase leading down Old City. When it was rebuilt in the 18th century, the church retained parts of the former 15th-century late Gothic building, such as the bell tower and the portal-like opening to an interior side chapel. From the square in front of the church you have a beautiful view over the old town of Ragusa Ibla, up to the striking dome of San Giorgio. You can reach the old town via the Corso Mazzini route or by descending the 242 steps (La Scala).

Address: Corso Mazzini, Ragusa Ibla

10 Museo Archeologico Ibleo

This museum, housed in the Palazzo Mediterraneo, has displays of prehistoric, Greek and Roman finds from Ragusa itself and from the surrounding countryside, arranged in topographical and chronological order. Particularly worth seeing are the collection of sixth-century BC ceramics from Attica, a Doric caryatid from the fourth century BC, a floor mosaic from Santa Croce Camerina and late Roman finds from the cave of Trebacche.

Address: Via Natalelli, Ragusa

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