How many of you are fascinated by the Baroque towns? So you cannot miss this 2-day tour to the discovery of Ragusa, Modica and Scicli in Sicily, cull of Baroque. In Sicily, the Baroque style has left its mark and many cities are witnesses of its beauty. I already wrote about Noto, a true capital of the Baroque which deserves to be included in your tour. But today I want to focus on these enchanting towns: Ragusa, Modica and Scicli. The journey from Noto to Modica only takes about three quarters of an hour. So it’s very easy to reach them in a short time. Then you know that traveling in Sicily by car is always the best solution, as I’ve always said! You can visit them whenever you want because Sicily is nice 365 days a year and, above all, it has something to offer in all seasons.
I chose Ragusa Ibla as my base city. It is the old part of Ragusa and I stayed at the beautiful classy Bed and Breakfast Sabbinirica.
DAY 1. RAGUSA IBLA & RAGUSA SUPERIORE
Visiting Ragusa is a unique experience that will allow you to immerse yourself in the past, to walk through narrow streets full of history and traditions, to admire historical buildings once noble seats, and to stand in awe before the numerous Baroque churches. Everything is the real proof of many historical invasions that have marked the city.
You can get to Ragusa from the airport of Catania Fontanarossa or the Punta Raisi of Palermo. If you are traveling by car you can reach it from Catania and Syracuse easily. You can also arrive by train, but Intercity buses are better than trains cause they are faster.
Visit Ragusa on foot not to miss any glimpse of her beauty. The journey only takes no more than 3/4 hours. If you have kids and they are tired to walk there is a little city Baroque train (Trenino Barocco) to visit the city right in Piazza Duomo.
If you arrive by car there is a parking area in Piazza Matteotti. There are parking areas at Largo San Paolo and Via A.G. Ottaviano, right at the entrance of Ibla.
Ragusa is divided into 2 parts: the upper Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla.
Let’s start with Ragusa Ibla! Ibla is the old part of Ragusa. The earthquake of 1693 has completely destroyed it. Then it was rebuilt from ruins by following a medieval architectural asset.
Ragusa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its numerous churches (mostly over 50) and the baroque palaces of incomparable beauty.
What you will love of Ragusa is walking through narrow and typical streets, as almost a labyrinth, to discover beautiful gems in the nooks and to enjoy stunning views hidden in the corners.
Among the most important churches stand out:
– The Baroque Cathedral of San Giorgio. The staircase in front of the façade is impressive. It has a blue dome which is lit at night and it is really charming.
– The Church of San Giuseppe, that attracts visitors for the presence of carvings and sculptures. The convex façade is of the architect Gagliardi. It incorporates the bell tower, bulging columns and swirly volutes.
– The Church of Madonna dell’Idria, which has a bell tower covered with polychrome ceramics of Caltagirone.
Among the most beautiful Baroque palaces of Ragusa stand out the Palazzo della Cancelleria.
I chose to stay in a beautiful B&B Sabbinirica with a spectacular view of Ragusa Ibla. I fell in love with it.
NOTE: For luxury shopping go to Arpel, a clothing boutique in Corso XXV Aprile.
If you want to taste one of the best ice-creams in Ragusa Ibla I recommend Gelati Divini in Piazza Duomo 20. My favourite flavor is spiced Maya and also Modica chocolate. Also figs and prickly pears are really good! Otherwise go to Mastrociliegia and try the hot cream! It is in Corso XXV Aprile.
I love Ragusa Ibla by night. Don’t you think it is gorgeous?
Upper Ragusa or Ragusa Superiore
Via Roma is the main street of Ragusa Superiore and it is the heart of the historic center. The Archaeological Museum in Via Natalelli 11 is rich in finds from the area but unfortunately it is not sufficiently valued, as it often happens. It is located in a quite old building. However, the entrance is free so if you want you can make a detour.
In my opinion, the most interesting thing here is the view of the valley Santa Domenica, just outside the museum, crossed by three bridges that link the old Ragusa to modern Ragusa. The old bridge, which is now a pedestrian area, was built in 1835 by the friars.
Take Via Roma and reach Corso Italia. Here you can appreciate Palazzo Schininà, which is now a bishopric. Coming down from Corso Italia go to Piazza San Giovanni where there is the Cathedral of San Giovanni. The Cathedral has a large baroque façade with three portals. Corso Italia is characterized by a series of 17-th century buildings like:
– Lupis Palace with its corbels;
– Zacco Palace. It has columns and Corinthian style capitals, balconies with wrought iron railings supported by large brackets with grotesque masks and mythological figures. You can see these masks also in Noto (at Nicolaci Palace), on the balconies of palaces and stately homes. They are not only decorative elements but sculptures made by famous sculptors.
Also Bertini Palace has masks on the windows.
TIP: to admire one of the best views of Ragusa go to at S. Maria delle Scale church with its wonderful staircase (242 steps!)
Relax yourself at Giardini Iblei where there are mature trees. Enjoy a stunning view of the countryside and the incredible Irminio river valley. Within the garden there are three churches: San Giacomo, Cappuccini and San Domenico. Before the entrance of Giardini Iblei take a look at the portal of the church of San Giorgio in Catalan-Gothic style, the last surviving gate of the ancient church of San Giorgio.
Remember, you can enter Ragusa Ibla from Corso Mazzini.
NOTE: The province of Ragusa is called the Garden of Sicily just because vegetables, fruit, almonds, olives, honey are cultivated. The production of different types of cheese is another feature of Ragusa. Try the tangy pecorino (a kind of Sicilian cheese which comes from cows’ or sheep’s milk), tuma, provolone. One of the best wines in this part of Sicily is the local red Cerasuolo di Vittoria made from a blend of Frappato, Calabrese and Nerello grapes grown near Victoria in the province of Ragusa.
I had lunch at a delicious vegetarian restaurant called Delicatessen, which offers local products. Excellent quality-price ratio. I got a burger and a salad with spelt, plus a organic carrot centrifugate.
The first night I went to Vittoria because here you will find the famous Sakalleo seafood restaurant. Don’t miss it! The second night I had a fantastic burger at Il Braciere delle Scale. It is very crowd but here you can really taste something unique!
TIP: If you are visiting these beautiful places in summer you could visit Scoglitti and Donnalucata, 2 fishing villages, with big beaches and nice cafes that comes to life in seummer. Marina di Ragusa is a very popular destination in summer! It is a must!
DAY 2. Morning in MODICA and afternoon in SCICLI
Modica is another wonderful late baroque city perched on a hill. The center is a maze of narrow streets and staircases lined with buildings and churches. If you’re visiting Sicily by car, leave your car along Corso Umberto I. From there continue on foot towards the oldest part on the hill. Even Modica, just for its beauty has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city lies on three valleys and it is split into two areas: Modica Alta and Modica Bassa.
When you are in Modica you have to taste the chocolate of Modica (called glass chocolate). It is made following an ancient Aztec recipe dated 1753, when Sicily was still under Spanish sovereign. The feature of this typical chocolate is the craftsmanship carried out at low temperatures which let the cocoa paste be separated from sugar. The chocolate is more gritty and very flavored (the traditional recipe requires cinnamon and vanilla spices). Go to Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, founded in 1880, in Corso Umberto I, 159. Here you can taste different types of chocolate before you buy. There are many flavors like orange, red pepper, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachio, coffee, lemon, anise, carob, white pepper, ginger.
NOTE: Only for lovers of Italian literature > visit the Salvatore Quasimodo’s house with furniture dating from the early twentieth century. You can listen to Quasimodo’s poems by his voice!
The hallmark of Modica is the charming Castello dei Conti on the top of the rock. There is only an eighteenth-century tower and a clock, but it offers a beautiful view of the city although, unfortunately, it is unusable. Corso Umberto is the historic site where once flowed in the rivers of Pozzo dei Pruni and Janni Mauro.
The Baroque Cathedral of Modica is amazing!
You can visit both Modica and Scicli in one day but if you want to stay longer in one of the two cities I recommend Modica, where you can also have tasty dinner in the evening. Its charm is unique! As for Scicli have a stroll in its historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scicli was destroyed by the earthquake in 1693 and later rebuilt in Baroque style. It is located in a wide valley surrounded by rocky hills and characterized by the presence of quarries and caves. The center stands between limestone hills giving the city a charming look! The baroque buildings are built with the typical stone of the area. When the stone is lighted it turns yellow!
Start your walk from Piazza Italia, characterized by magnificent eighteenth-century palaces and the church of Madre della Madonna delle Milizie, decorated with stucco and frescoes, so called because it houses a famous papier-mâché work of a battle against the Saracens.
But what will surprise you most is the old town. Between the center and Colle di San Matteo is Palazzo Beneventano with typical masks.
One of my favourite churches in Scicli is San Michele Arcangelo church.
A gastronomic specialty of Scicli is the “turkish head”, a kind of big puffs filled with cream pistachio, chocolate and ricotta. You can taste it at Pasticceria Basile, in Viale 1° Maggio.
TIP: I recommend a stop at the nearby beach of Sampieri. A walk at sunset is a fab experience, with the background of the Fornace Penna, an example of industrial archeology that turns red at sunset.
As you can see Ragusa, Modica and Scicli are pretty baroque towns. It is hard to find something similar around the world. What are you waiting for? Have you put them on your bucket list?