If your time is limited, you can skip the upper town (Ragusa Superiore) and spend all your hours in Ragusa Ibla, as the older town holds far more intrigue. Those with more time can hike through the upper town.
The long main street, Corso Italia, cuts through the upper town and makes for Ragusa's best promenade. The main attraction here is Cattedrale di San Giovanni, Via Roma 134 (tel. 0932-621658), dating from the 18th century and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Pause on the elegant square in front of the cathedral and look uphill to admire its decorative facade, which is made asymmetrical by a campanile on its western side. Its front elevation contains a wide terrace. The inside is ornate, especially the stucco decorations in the cupola. The Latin cross interior is notable for its two orders of pillars, each made of locally quarried asphaltite. Open daily 8:30am to noon and 4 to 7pm.
Museo Archeologico Regionale Ibleo, Palazzo Mediterraneo, Via Natalelli (tel. 0932-622963), lies off Via Roma, within an easy walk of the Duomo, near the Ponte Nuovo bridge. The museum is rich in artifacts unearthed from ancient colonies in the province. The best of the collection is in the remnants of the civilization that flourished in Greek days at Rovine di Camarina, 16km (10 miles) northwest of Marina di Ragusa. Assaulted by the Carthaginians, the colony was finally leveled by the Romans as early as 598 B.C. Some of the artifacts at the museum in Ragusa are from a temple here once dedicated to Athena. Various necropolis reconstructions hold great interest. Hours are daily 9am to 1:30pm and 4 to 7:30pm; admission is 4€ for adults and 2€ for children aged 17 and under.
The most scenic way to reach the old town is by taking the long stairway, Santa Maria delle Scale, heading down from Ragusa Superiore to the historic core of Ibla. Take this walk for the panoramic vistas alone, some of the finest in southeastern Sicily.
Head east until you come to the Cattedrale di San Giorgio, Piazza del Duomo (tel. 0932-220085), which is open daily 9am to noon and 4 to 7pm. Characterized by an impressive neoclassical dome, this is one of the best examples of Sicilian Baroque in the south of Sicily, dating from the 18th century. The facade is a trio of tiers and looks like a glamorous wedding cake. In contrast, the interior may come as a disappointment, as it's quite plain.
Continuing east from the Duomo, you'll come to the Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Via Torre Nuova 19 (tel. 0932-621779), open daily from 9am to noon and 4 to 6pm. It dates from 1590, and its oval-domed interior contains beautiful galleries and a striking pavement crafted of black asphalt interspersed with majolica tiles. Among the notable artworks is the painting Gloria di San Giuseppe e San Benedetto (Glory of St. Benedict), by Sebastiano Lo Monaco (1793) and one of Ragusa’s most beloved paintings, the so-called “Our Lady of the Cherries.” In an altarpiece portraying the Holy Family, Mary holds cherries in her apron, offering them to passersby.
If you continue walking all the way east through Ragusa Ibla, you'll reach beautiful public gardens, Giardino Ibleo, which are studded with religious buildings, notably Chiesa di San Giacomo. Dating from the 14th century, the church was hit by the 1693 earthquake, and much of the damage was never repaired. If it's open, you'll get to see a beautiful triptych by Pietro Novelli, depicting the Madonna flanked by St. Agatha and St. Lucy. At the edge of the gardens, enjoy the panoramic view sweeping across the Valley of Irminio. The gardens are the perfect place for a picnic and can be visited daily from 8am to 8pm; admission is free.
Exploring Marina di Ragusa
Ragusa’s seaside getaway, 25km (15 miles) southwest, is a pleasant collection of houses facing a sandy beach and marina. Smaller, quieter, and more famous these days is adjacent Punta Secca, fictional home to Inspector Montalbano of the popular TV series; fans will recognize his house near the lighthouse. The series is also filmed on location in Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, and other towns in this corner of the southeast.
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