Going Baroque — Things to Do in Ragusa

Two days in Sicily’s Val di Noto — Things to do in Ragusa

The original plans for our stay in Ragusa during our 11-day Sicily itinerary included a day trip to Modica (one of the other important Baroque towns of the area especially known for its chocolate) and other sites, but we decided to stay focused on Ragusa. We’re glad we did as two days was just right for seeing the sights here at a moderate pace.

Ragusa, Sicily, Italy seen from the upper part of the city


How we got to Ragusa

From Agrigento where we toured the Valley of the Temples and spent one night, we drove about 2-1/2 hours to Ragusa, partially close to the coastline and through a few small towns before turning inland and up into the hills the rest of the way to Ragusa. The ride was quite scenic, particularly the inland part of the ride up into the mountains.

Driving tip (anywhere in Italy): Watch out for ZTL zones. If you enter one of these restricted zones (even by mistake which is not an excuse), you will most likely be sent a ticket in the mail — even several months later. We learned the hard way several years ago in Florence.

Ragusa Ibla highlights

There are two distinct areas of Ragusa — Ragusa Ibla, the lower historical center of the city and Ragusa Superiore, the upper and newer commercial center. We spent nearly all of our time exploring Ragusa Ibla, as we recommend you do as well.

Catherine Sweeney on Corso XXV Aprile in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Corso XXV Aprile

Ragusa is one of the eight Late Baroque towns in the Val di Noto of southeastern Sicily to be on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2002. There is much to explore in this town that was largely rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake that devastated the region.

Piazza Duomo

Piazza Duomo in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Piazza Duomo

Piazza Duomo is the captivating central area of Ragusa Ibla with landmarks, restaurants and shops. The piazza and a main street that leads to it (Corso XXV Aprile) showcase the essence of Baroque Sicily with its palaces of Ragusa nobility and the imposing Duomo di San Giorgio overlooking the square and much of the historic center.

Duomo di San Giorgio

Duomo of San Giorgio in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Duomo of San Giorgio

We admired this beautiful 18th-century neoclassical duomo from many vantage points throughout our stay, day and night. Take some time to step inside to see the decor, statues, relics, and artifacts.

Duomo di San Giorgio -- exterior at night and interior stained glass window, statues and artifacts

Duomo di San Giorgio at night and interior

Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti

Tour Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti on Corso XXV Aprile at Piazza Duomo to get a feel for the life of Ragusa nobility in the 19th century. The palace was built between the 17th and 19th centuries and has been the continued residence of the Arezzo family. Our tour was led by a member of the noble family (top left in photo below) who still lives there. Some of the areas we were able to tour included the ballroom, living rooms, dining area, and private chapel where we admired the marble flooring, frescoes, and many original furnishings.

Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti

Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti

Teatro Donnafugata

Across from the palace is Teatro Donnafugata, initially used exclusively by the local nobility, it is now open to the public. The theater is a small version of the grand opera houses of Italy. Imagine a performance in this very small theater (100 seats) and learn of its history, concerts, and distinguished performances in collaboration with the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

Small 99-seat theatre in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy -- Teatro Donnafugata

Teatro Donnafugata

Cinabro Carrettieri

At Cinabro Carrettieri step back in time as you see the ornate traditional Sicilian carts handcrafted and painted in this workshop and learn about the intricate and precise work of the woodworkers and vibrant colors used by the painters. Notably, there are only a few craftsmen of these Sicilian carts still around.

Inside Cinabro Carrettieri, the Sicilian cart production and painting shop in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Cinabro Carrettieri

Salita Commendatore

For fantastic over-the-rooftops views of Ragusa Ibla and the surrounding countryside visit Ragusa Superiore (the upper, modern town) via Salita Commendatore, the 340 winding steps that separate the area from Ragusa Ibla. Although some visitors walk from the lower part of the city and then up and down the stairs, we took a taxi up the hill to the top of the steps and walked back down to Piazza Duomo. On the stairs, you’ll pass the 15th-century church, Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Scale, one of the Baroque treasures of Ragusa.

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily, Italy

Ragusa Ibla from Salita Commendatore (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Scale bell tower on the right)

Giardino Ibleo

Walk around the tree-lined paths of this lovely garden, first opened in the 19th century, on the eastern edge of Ragusa Ibla. There are benches throughout to relax after a day of sightseeing.

Giardino Ibleo, Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Giardino Ibleo

Romantic Ragusa

We found Ragusa to have a distinct romantic feeling, especially when walking around at night on the quiet streets with the glow of the street lamps lighting the old buildings and patches of pavement.

Ragusa Ibla at night, Sicily, Italy

Ragusa Ibla at night

Churches tip: Besides the duomo, there are many churches (about 50), some quite small that can be visited. We heard that some tourists make a point of seeing as many as possible. We stopped into a few that we just happened to come across. There’s always something interesting to note about interior decor or architecture, ornate or simple.

Where we stayed

Aurà Guest House Iblea — Via Tenente la Rocca, 4 — a small B&B in a very nice location on the edge of Ragusa Ibla near the park. It is in easy walking distance to Piazza Duomo. If you’re very lucky you might find a free parking space (marked with white lines) near the B&B just down the block. If not, there are paid parking spaces (marked with blue lines) in the nearby Giardino Ibleo parking lot which is where we parked.

Where  we ate

  • That’s a Moro, Largo Camerina, 5 — restaurant with full menu and wine list and a collection of works by local artists to admire throughout
  • Trattoria La Bettola, Largo Camerina, 7 — nothing special, but a good Sicilian meal with a very limited wine selection. One red wine was available by the bottle which was ok, but not great. It’s actually located right next to That’s a Moro — both were close to our B&B.
  • Enoteca il Barocco, Corso XXV Aprile, 33 — small wine shop and local food products with a few tables inside and outside for enjoying their wines, meats, cheeses, salads and more. It was our favorite food and wine place in Ragusa.
Mr. TWS at Enoteca il Barocco, a wine shop in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

Enoteca il Barocco

Where we should have dined tip: Although the two restaurants near our B&B recommended by our host were very convenient to our accommodations, we should have booked a table for dinner at Locanda Don Serafino or Ristorante Duomo, two Michelin-starred restaurants in Ragusa for one of the nights.

General trip tips: 1) Timing is everything. 2) Make sure you check what events are happening in the towns you’re visiting. — After breakfast at our B&B, we were on our way to Siracusa, our next destination. Our plan was to stop in Noto, another Baroque hill town, for lunch and to get a quick glimpse of the famous cathedral. We did not know that the annual flower festival (a major local event) was taking place, closing off a main street and several side streets. We got hopelessly lost in the narrow one-way lanes and could not find parking anywhere near the city center. So we decided to get out of town and pay a visit to Noto another time.

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3 thoughts on “Going Baroque — Things to Do in Ragusa

  1. Tom Bartel

    Ragusa looks lovely. I always think of Sicily as being more ancient. All the Greek and Roman ruins, with an occasional 12th Century church thrown in. Good to know there’s more variety. I’ve been wanting to get back to Sicily ever since we left.

  2. Mary

    After recently discovering your blog, I came across this post on Ragusa which was my paternal grandparents’ birthplace. I’ve never been there but thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences and seeing it vicariously through your beautiful photos. I must say my favorite pic is the last one taken at Enoteca il Barocco.
    I believe the food pictured is what my Nonna called scaccia. I remember three different types she made – spinach with raisins, cauliflower, seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes and her classic one with tomato sauce, basil leaves and thin slices of cheese (perhaps Caciocavallo).

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