Tuesday 20 August 2013

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

Huddled on a paddle-shaped hill-top, the medieval town of Ragusa Ibla is a world apart from its much larger and younger neighbour Ragusa Superiore.  The most dramatic way to arrive is to walk down from Superiore via the steep flights of steps that thread their way over and under the town's roads. Your first view of Ibla itself might stop you in your tracks - the town's weather-worn rooftops tumble down the hill towards the eye catching church and neighbouring palazzos that mark the gateway to the old city. On your way down, you'll pass strikingly ornate Baroque balconies, railings, bell towers and archways, adorned with stone cherubs and swirling filigree.  At the bottom of the hill, you are confronted with the handsome eighteenth century facade of the Church of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. From here you can stroll past a beautiful golden palazzo and up through the eerily quiet streets paved with fine flagstones. The crumbling old terraces are punctuated with grand dwellings with cast iron balconies and lavishly-carved window surrounds. Many are for sale, others are being renovated. 
Ragusa Ibla's serene Cathedral of San Giorgio 

At the very top, you'll find a monolithic stone mansion, nineteenth century lampposts and commanding views back to Superiore. You'll also be level with the elegant dome of the Cathedral of San Giorgio held up by slender neo-classical columns. Make sure you head in that direction and work your way round into the Piazza Duomo, where you can admire the magnificent golden Baroque facade of the cathedral. Adorned with three tiers of classical pillars and standing at the top of scores of steep, broad steps, the cathedral has a magical air in the early evening sunshine. Around the lively square there are some decent restaurants, cafes and gelateria occupying fine old buildings. Once you've soaked up the atmosphere, head east through the elegant streets leading down to the charming park at the far end of the town. Complete with a fine church, period lampposts and rows of handsome palm trees, the Giardino Ibleo affords sweeping views over the surrounding countryside and is a fine place to chill. The well maintained park is the icing on an exceptional cake - Ragusa Ibla must be one of Sicily's stunning sights. 9/10

Ragusa Ibla's fine Piazza Duomo