A masterpiece in stone, Ragusa Ibla, an exciting work of art to discover
Ragusa Ibla, an Italian comune up to 1927, is now considered the historical district of the city of Ragusa. If you’re wondering what to see, this magic number is enough: eighteen. Because that’s the number of masterpieces recognized by UNESCO as belonging to the World Heritage.
Here, it is called just Ibla, or Iusu in dialect – it is the lowest part of Ragusa. After the earthquake of 1693, Ragusa was rebuilt in two different sites; the upper part, modern, and the lower part, replanned in Baroque style, over the ancient ruins.
To reach “Ibla”, you have to go down 340 steps, which reveal, one by one, the magnificence of a town that seems to be carved directly in the rock. A warren of narrow alleys and quaint little squares boast various fine buildings, majestic and richly decorated, packed together in a space that is too cramped for them. So, what might appear pompous or excessively regal becomes intimate, contained and romantic, reflecting the tone of the place, that is, based on a balance of intermingled buildings and styles. With its gigantic gateways and underpasses that look like secret passageways. Ragusa Ibla is like the whispering of the most evocative lines of poetry.
The spectacular centre is the Piazza del Duomo. Here, a wrought-iron stairway like something out of a fairy-tale encircles the walls of the Church of San Giorgio, whose cult was introduced to the island by the Normans and after whom the main festival of the town is named. On the patron saint’s day, the statue of the cavalryman saint who slew the dragon is carried through the streets in a procession on the shoulders of the faithful, followed by a crowd of devotees.
Among the attractions to be visited is the Cathedral of San Giovanni (with its Latin cross plan and exquisite chapels decorated with stuccos in Rococo style and polychrome marble statues) and the Church of Santa Maria dell’Itria, whose cobalt-blue domed campanile towers over the landscape.
Along the cobbled streets, aristocratic palazzi stand out, recognizable by the corbels, sculpted with allegorical figures, which support the balconies. These include Palazzo Cosentini and Palazzo Bertini, famous for the three masks at its windows: a beggar, a merchant and a nobleman.
In the east part of Ragusa Ibla, we find the Hyblean Garden, a veritable oasis of palms and pines where you can cool off in the summer and enjoy the wonderful, secluded atmosphere. Some archaeological digs in the area have brought to light the ancient Hybla Heraia.
The perfect spot for sipping an aperitif before hitting one of the excellent local restaurants. The most celebrated is undoubtedly Ciccio Sultano’s Il Duomo, the international laboratory of contemporary Sicilian cuisine.
As you drift around enveloped in mystery, a surprise awaits you around every corner; in every alley, you’ll be astonished at the incredible detail carved into the local limestone. An outing that will unveil the truly atavistic magic of Sicily, just a few minutes away from the San Corrado di Noto Resort.