A Short Guide to Ragusa | The City of Two Halves

Looking for the best things to do in Ragusa? How about where to stay or eat? We’ve got you covered in this complete guide to visiting the beautiful Sicilian city of Ragusa.

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When it comes to enticing the curious to Sicily, the Italian tourism board could ask for no better promotion than Inspector Montalbano, the literary creation of Andrea Camilleri.

A classic series of ever so slightly comedic whodunnits, on the written page, he proved quite the hit. However, it wasn’t until his books were adapted for TV, with the stunning Baroque backdrop of the Val di Noto and its picturesque coastline, that this quintessentially Sicilian inspector gained international acclaim.

And few places on the island were so heavily featured than the architectural masterpiece of Ragusa.

Like much of this region ofsouth east Sicily, Ragusa was reborn following the devastating earthquake of 1669. Some residents, empowered by the loss of one home, sought higher ground and built a more modern town whilst others, loathe to leave their grandpalazzi, rebuilt directly atop Ragusa’s medieval network of narrow streets.

The result? Ragusa became a city of two halves, of two faces, of two souls.

Sitting high above what used to be is RagusaSuperiore现代西西里山顶小镇,一个经典rational straight lines. Not without its architectural draws or old school charm (including the city’s official cathedral), it is however the historical centre - or RagusaIbla- which so enthrals most who cross the city limits. A warren like maze of cloistered and clustered streets lined with honey coloured buildings, grand squares and grander palazzi, towering churches and wide boulevards, all so perfectly, elegantly Baroque in design.

So perfect in fact that, along with seven other towns and cities in the Val di Noto, Ragusa is a UNESCO World Heritage site; a living, breathing, open air museum, and fine example of how tragedy can breed greatness.

In this guide you’'ll find everything you need to plan your visit to Ragusa, including all the best things to do, our top recommendations on where to eat and, if you plan on using the city as a base, some excellent places to stay.



Indulge the Foodie Within

Whilst many towns and cities across the world dine out on the presence of a single Michelin-starred restaurant within their limits, Ragusa is gifted with three!

Duomo| For chef Ciccio Sultano, "the story is that of Sicilian cuisine: characterised by many influences, conscious of its roots and yet free to transcend them, safeguarding tradition and upholding experimentation”. The two Michelin stars that Duomo holds confirm that he tells that story very well! The restaurant offers a variety of tasting menus as well as a la carte. As one would suspect, advance reservations are essential. Find Duomohereon Google Maps.

La Locanda di Don Serafino| Fancy eating in the candlelit vaults of an old Palazzo? Then set an evening aside for the excellent La Locanda di Don Serafino (its actually part of theequally luxurious hotelof the same name). Choose from a number of tasting menus with optional wine pairings or go a la carte. It also does a 'light lunch' - good Michelin star choice for those on a tighter budget. Find ithereon Google Maps.

La Fenice | Set a little outside Ragusa in a beautifully restored 1800s farmhouse (that’s also a4* hotel)。La Fenice is more modern than the other two where, according to the Michelin guide, dishes are ‘prepared with first-rate ingredients elaborated with creativity and remarkable technical expertise by the chef'. Find ithereon Google Maps.

Head up to Chiesa delle Scale To Enjoy the View

If you've been reading about Ragusa, chances are you've already come across an image taken from up high over the many tiled roofs; so iconic is the view, that many come here just to capture it.

位于拉古萨Superiore,它是连接到Ibla by a steep stone staircase of around 300 steps, and whilst the views are incredible all the way along, many of those photos are taken from the very top, with the view framed by the bell tower of Chiesa delle Scale. You can find the specific lookout pointhereon Google Maps.

In order to reach it, you have three options:

1. Begin your day’s exploration in Ragusa Superiore, enjoy the view and then make your way down to the historic centre along the staircase.

2. Take a taxi up to Chiesa delle Scale from Ibla and then walk back down

3. Walk all the way up, and all the way back down. This is completely doable, and there are plenty of places to stop as you go to catch your breath. Just be certain to take enough water, and perhaps don't attempt it in the middle of the day when even the fittest amongst you may struggle with mid-summer heat!

Due to our itinerary that day, we were unable to visit during the evening but this is well known as a truly exceptional place to watch the sun set.

You can find the beginning of the steps in Ragusa Iblahereon Google Maps, and the churchhere.


Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista

The undisputed jewel in Ragusa Superiore's crown is the enormous Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista.

Designed by Rosario Gagliardi (an incredible architect responsible for many of the grand buildings inNoto), and completed in 1778, it rises imposingly from Piazza San Govanni, its broad and elegant facade - rich in sculptures and decorations - made assymmetrical by Mario Spada's exquisite bell tower.

Interestingly, the Cathedral that you can visit today is actually the second incarnation in the same location - the first dismissed rather rapidly due to its inadequate size.

For more excellent views of Ragusa, consider climbing the 129 steps to the top of the campanile. Costs €2 per person. Further details can be foundhere.

Plan |Our East Sicily Itinerary

Try the local cuisine

For those that love to try local foods (but whose wallets can't stretch to the aforementioned Michelin-starred restaurants - i.e. most of us!), you'll be pleased to know that there are a number of very region specific dishes and snacks on offer in Ragusa's patisseries and restaurants:

Pastieri | If you're neither vegetarian nor squeamish, try these super typical minced lamb, offal and cheese pastries, which you’ll find in most bakeries.

Scacce | Kind of like a stuffed flatbread,scacce最初只卖出了节日期间perio吗d. However, as tourism has increased in Ragusa so too have the abundance of these delicious savoury treats in all bakeries in the city. An excellent lunch on the go - especially for veggies. If you don’t mind a short walk from the centre of Ragusa Superiore, we’d highly recommend making your way toPanificio Giummarra.

Cunnighiu a Pattuisa| Not something we'd be rushing to try, but this dish of rabbit fried with wine, capers and olives is as traditional as they come.

Caciocavallo Ragusano | A typical Ragusan cow’s milk cheese that can be mild or strong depending upon its age. Whilst you’d be able to find this cheese in certain restaurants, we’d highly recommend stopping by Casa del Formaggio (maps), a delightful cheese shop in Ragusa Ibla. Owned and run by the Dipascuale family, they have been making their own DOC cheeses for for nearly 80 years and are happy to offer tastings for tourists.


Duomo di San Giorgio

In common parlance, when one speaks of an Italian Duomo, they are generally referring to a cathedral. And for many years, before the unification of Ragusa Ibla and Ragusa Superiore, the Duomo di San Giorgiowasthe cathedral for those that lived in the city's ancient core.

Built and designed by Rosario Gagliardo (yep, the guy that also did the actual cathedral) in the 18th century, the facade, along with its 250 steps upwards, took nearly 40 years to complete with the impressive neoclassical dome - modelled after that atop Paris' Pantheon - added in 1820.

The most imposing building in Ragusa Ibla, it is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture in all of Sicily. Indeed, art historian Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco went so far as to say that the Duomo should be included among "the seven wonders of the baroque world".

Carry Along the Church Trail

Yes, we know - there are an awful lot of churches in Ragusa. And whilst we certainly don't expect that you'll go in or even seek out many more than those listed above, we wanted to give provide a quick run down of other churches of note.

Chiesa del Purgatorio | Dedicated to all the souls in Purgatory, this church was one of the very few that survived the 1693 earthquake. It's worth popping inside to see Francesco Manno's painting,Anime in Purgatorio.

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Idria | Built in the 14th century by the order of the Knights of Malta, this church was another barely touched by the quake - including the beautiful Maiolica bell tower. As such, it was not modified until late 18th century when it was updated in the Baroque style.

Chiesa di San Giuseppe | Commissioned by the Benedictine nuns of a nearby monastery, San Giuseppe is an elegant 18th century church known for its stunning Baroque facade and the fresco that decorates the internal cupola.

Giardino Ibleo

Established in 1858 upon the ruins of the Cathedral of San Giorgio, theGiardino Ibleooffers a marvellous respite from the heat during a mid-summer visit to Ragusa; its tall palm trees casting a layer of much needed shade across manicured lawns and collections of Mediterranean plants.

Home to three separate churches (San Domenico, San Giacomo and the Capuchin church), there is also a small area of archeological excavation which has uncovered a number of important details from the times of ancient Hylba.

Be sure to head to the area of the garden opposite and the furthest away from the entrance for spectacular views out over the valley.

Tip | Before or after your visit, check out Portale San Giorgio Vecchio, the gothic portal of the destroyed cathedral. You can find the entrance to the small street to the right of the garden entrance.

Get Lost Within the Streets of Ragusa Ibla

Whilst there are certainly a few pertinent 'things to do in Ragusa', the greatest joy for any visitor to this rebuilt town will be found whilst simply getting lost amongst its streets.

And lost, is very much the order the day, with the patchwork quilt of winding alleys, stone staircases and narrow streets rarely unfolding out before you in a logical manner, and likely mastered only by those that call Ibla home.

So rather than resisting the antiquated layout and consulting the map at regular intervals, we suggest following your senses; being driven by your curiosity. The intrepid will be gifted quiet courtyards and small churches, hidden views and picture-postcard Sicilian scenes.


Take a Day Trip

If you're choosing to use Ragusa as your base in south east Sicily, or including it on youreastern Sicily itinerary, the good news is that you're excellently located for a number of day trips.

Castello di Donnafugata

So named for an imprisoned princess who escaped through its tunnels many years ago (or so says the lore), the spectacular 14th century Donnafugata Castle lies just nine miles from Ragusa. Fans of Montalbano will also recognise it as the residence of Mafia Boss, Balduccio Sinagra.

The castle has a huge 122 rooms, but only the first floor is open to visitors, alongside the vast and beautiful grounds and garden where during the summer season concerts take place. For further information, stop by the Tourist Information in Ragusa and grab a programme.

Hit up the Beaches

Not technically being on the coast hasn't stopped Ragusa from claiming its own beachfront resort - Marina di Ragusa - around 20 km from the city. Also known as Mazzarelli, it is famed for its sandy beaches, excellent facilities and family friendly atmosphere.

It's also easily accessible by direct bus from Ragusa if you don't have a car, or would prefer not to drive.

Other popular nearby beaches include Pozzallo and San Maria del Focallo.

Chiaramonte Gulfi

High in the hills of south-central Sicily, around 20km from Ragusa, sits the charming little historical town of Chiaramonte Gulfi. Known as 'il Balcone della Sicilia' (Sicily's balcony), it offers some of the most impressive views anywhere on the island, from Valle dell'Ippari, and the Gulf of Gela in the south toMount Etnain the north.

The reason many tourists flock here however is for its gastronomic delights, specifically its exceptional extra virgin olive oil, accredited with the DOP and its premium pork products. If you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, consider timing your visit for one of the towns several food festivals (olive oil at the end of November/beginning of December, sausages during Easter and the Sagra del Gallo ai Sapori Chiaramontani in the middle of August).

Take on a Few Wine Tastings

Whilst we're still on the subject of gastronomic delights, now would be an excellent time to point out Ragusa's proximity to some of Sicily's best vineyards, in the nearby Baroque town of Vittoria (around a 40 minute drive from Ragusa).

You can find the details of Vittoria's vineyardshere, or read more about the region inthis excellent article.

Visit the Other Val di Noto Towns

正如我们提到的,拉古萨只是八个城镇之一that make up the Val di Noto, and it’s possible to visit the remaining seven (Caltagirone, Militello, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide and Scicli) as a day trip; their relative proximity to one another meaning that should you set off early, visiting two or three of the smaller towns in one day is perfectly viable.

We are yet to visit all them ourselves, however we do have specific guides to:


Where to Stay in Ragusa


Hotels, Guesthouses and B&Bs

Hotel Il Barocco| This small family run hotel is ideally located and traditional in its decor. Not the fanciest but clean and large rooms, and exceptionally good value! Find out morehere.

A.D. 1768 Boutique Hotel| A truly stunning boutique hotel set in a historical building that wonderfully combines art, contemporary design and the original architectural features of the building. We would stay here in a heartbeat! Find out morehere.

Locanada Don Serafino| Spread across two beautifully restoredpalazziin the old town, this hotel is perfect for those that love a modern spin on classic luxury. Not entirely our cup of tea, it remains one of Ragusa’s most sought after hotels - in part because of the on-site two star Michelin restaurant. Find out morehere.

Villa Boscarino| A luxuriously renovated hotel with fantastic facilities and beautiful design features - as well as a small pool, manicured gardens, and a breakfast room that was an old chapel! Located a little out of the historic centre but well worth a mention. Find out morehere.

Similarly,Relais Antica Badiais a very traditional, popular hotel offering more grand luxury which will be a dream for some.

Airbnbs & Apartments

A' naca| Located halfway between the new and old town, this is quite possibly our favourite Airbnb in Ragusa. Ground floor apartment that is full of light, cute details and a large plant filled terrace with views over the city below. Just lovely! Find out morehere.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our second favourite Airbnb is owned by the same host -A' naca sopra. Just as lovely!

Atmosfere di Roccia| We’re not entirely convinced by the open bathroom situation, but this apartment has too many excellent reviews to ignore, plus a lovely little terrace with incredible reviews. Find out morehere.

Suite Piccolo Giavante| Set across two floors, this two bedroom apartment offers period features (beautiful stone floors, original tiles, stone walls) but with modern facilities. Located in Ragusa. Ibla, guests speak very highly of their stays. Find out morehere.

La Casa dei Sogni|If you’re looking for a small but cosy, super traditional Sicilian rental with excellent reviews, be sure to check out this place. Find out morehere.

If you’d appreciate having a lovely terrace to enjoy breakfast or that early evening glass of wine but don’t mind too much about stylish decor or loads of space, we can also recommend:

Iblachiara|Monolocale TrinaSicula|I Balconi su Ibla

Please note that whilst we only tend to recommend airbnbs/apartments that already have excellent reviews, Ragusa has a surprisingly large number of brand new listings with only a handful of previous guests (if any). Many of them look rather wonderful - places likePalazzo D'Autore会大大降低。值得在mind if you’re on a tighter budget.



By plane

The nearest airport to Ragusa is Comiso (15 km away), which is served mainly by low-cost airlines travelling from the Italian mainland as well as a select number of European destinations.

In order to reach Ragusa from Comiso, you have a number of options:

  • The Sicily Shuttle. This is a door-to-door shuttle service which takes around 30 minutes. Ticket price depends upon how many are in your travel group, with a price of €45 for two people.

  • Local bus. There are a number of local bus companies that service the area. Seeherefor a full list and timetables (scroll down the page)

  • Taxi. Expect to pay somewhere in the region of €30-40.

  • Rental car. There are a number of rental companies at the airport, and you can bookhere.

Alternatively, there are more frequent flights, from many more destinations, into Catania airport (110kms away). In order to reach Ragusa fromCatania, you have a number of options:

  • Bus from Catania airport toSyracuse, then the train to Ragusa.

  • Bus from Catania airport to Catania city, then change on to a bus to Ragusa.

  • Private shuttle.

  • Rental car.

By Car

The city is a great base and stop on aneastern Sicily road trip,but bear in mind that ZTLs are very common in Ragusa, so it is necessary to check with your accommodation in advance about the parking situation if you're going to be based there.

If visiting Ragusa for the day, or looking for an alternative place to park up, then we recommend making a beeline for this big and easy-to-access free parking area (Google Maps) just under the walls of Ragusa Ibla. If you visit and find this lot is no longer free, please do let us know in the comments so we can update.

The drive in and out of the city is beautiful, but do be aware in advance that within the city limits there are tight corners, narrow streets, and a few obstacles to look out for.

Read this post -15 Essential Things To Know Before Driving in Sicily- before you travel to learn more about ZTLs and the realities of the roads out there.

We book all our worldwide car rentals viaAutoEuropeand highly recommend them.

By bus

There are regular buses from and to Syracuse, Noto, Modica and Agrigento (via Gela) withAST, as well as to Catania (via Catania airport) withETNA Trasporti.

For those looking to visit the beach, there are frequent buses to Marina di Ragusa withTUMINO.

All buses leave from the Ragusa bus terminal (Google Maps)。

By train

There are really quite good train connections between Ragusa and Noto, Syracuse, Modica, Vittoria and Gela.

For timetables, as well as the option to book tickets in advance, see eitherTrenitaliaorItaliarail- and be sure to read12 Tips for Train Travel in Italy.

The train station is located in Ragusa’s new town, from which you can jump on one of the local AST buses to Ibla.

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