Baroque Town – Ragusa, Sicily, Italy

We left under the view of Agrigento temples, standing sentry over the road to the west. A fairly long drive west today and a little inland to the UNESCO protected area of Val di Noto consisting of 8 baroque towns perched on hillsides, of which we have randomly selected Ragusa to visit.

The drive was not so very scenic, this stretch of Sicily clearly being the vegetable garden of Sicily, achieved by acres and acres of poly tunnels lining each side of the road. It is not quite as vast and desolate looking as the Almeria region of Spain, but proportionally it is up there. We drove through a few very busy little towns, dodging the double parked cars and those pulling out of side streets etc into the most minimal gaps in traffic. Little roadside vegetable stalls provided some colourful intervals to our journey, one was just a old Fiat Panda with the boot filled to the roof with oranges, suspension bowing under the weight.

We were on a new audiobook for this journey, we tried “Under a Tuscan Sun”, as a preview for our future journey but the accent of the narrator was so grating we swiftly changed tack. So now we are on Command by Al Murray, which despite the contrast his TV persona as The Pub Landlord is extremely well researched and written. The journey passed by quite quickly as we turned inland and round the by-pass to park on the edge of the modern part of Regusa. We were a little surprised by the row of motorhomes there before us but managed to get a spot at the end of the car park.

We decided to have lunch and a breather after a fairly long drive before heading into Ragusa Ibla, the old town area. Although the city dates from 2nd century BC, it was an earthquake in 1693 which devastated the town and caused it to be rebuilt in the baroque style of that era. Regusa Ibla is perched on a 300m (980ft) hill, the modern Regusa (Upper) is on another taller hill beside it, Upper and Lower Regusa only being connected from 1926.

What all that means of course, is a lot of steps! Descending down into the valley, only to climb back up to the high point of the cathedral at the other side. All the time knowing that you have the opposite to do on return. Through the summer a free shuffle bus is provided as traffic access to the old town is limited and not all tourists would be keen to take on that number of steep stone stairs in the heat of the summer I would guess.

Although some parts of the town have been restored and maintained, there is also a large proportion of elegant decay. The modern town is fairly scruffy, as sadly a number of the towns we have seen. There is though a busyness and community.

Ragusa Ibla

It was just getting dark by the time we hiked our way back to the van, another day which has just flown by and our tour of Sicily rushes by.

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