Piazza Amerina to Ragusa
Today took me from Piazza Amerina to Ragusa, with a stop along the way. Obviously, today didn’t take me there. Days just sort of linger there on the calendar, minding their own business, and marking time in twenty-four hour chunks.
My rental car took me there. But, unfortunately, it did so only when I did the driving. (As an aside, I’m not eager to be among the first to ride in production model autonomous cars. But once enough human Guinea pigs risk life and limb, some making the ultimate sacrifice, for the manufacturers to almost perfect the technologies then, you bet. I’ll be ready to welcome our new automotive overlords.)
But before I get into talking about the day, I regret to report that autocorrect and autocomplete still think that when I type “Amerina,” I really want to type “America.” You’d think that after all these times of me rejecting that suggestion, it would learn that, yes, I really do mean Amerina. But, no. I hope I didn’t miss any corrections of that.
Wandering in Piazza Amerina
Before hitting the road and then driving on it, I took another walk around Piazza Amerina to get a last look at the town and steel myself for the drive ahead.
I can confirm that Piazza Amerina is still charming in the morning light as it was yesterday in the afternoon, evening, and night light.
(Let me stop here to head off the sticklers who want to tell me there is no light at night. Yes, there is. They have street lights in Piazza Amerina. They turn them on at night, keeping the streets charming, or maybe even enhancing the charm, as evidenced by the picture I posted yesterday. So, please keep your stickler thoughts to yourself, thank you very much.)
I discovered a few things about the town on my walk. For one, Piazza Amerina has a lot of small, old churches dating back to the Middle Ages. Most were closed. I’m not sure if they are closed permanently or just when I walk by.
I don’t discount the possibility that locals run around from church to church, screaming, “He’s coming! He’s coming! Quick! Firmly close the door and be sure to lock it tightly! We don’t want him in here!” But it’s possible I have a touch of paranoia.
One church door was open. I guess they didn’t get the word. The Chiesa di Sant’Anna is very much abandoned as a church. The stone walls and the floor are bare. One window is missing. Others are broken.
But, sitting in the middle of the floor of the small church is a large statue of a torso with a cross carved all the way through its chest.
I think it might be part of a multi-site art festival. The artist is the same one who created the not-old old statues in the Villa Romana del Casale, Igor Mitoraj. He titled this piece “Cross Torso.” (I know this because the associated sign provided both Italian and English.)
(An internet search tells me that Igor Mitoraj was born in 1944, grew up in Poland, and died in 2016.)
I also learned that Piazza Amerina has a castle. It’s not a fancy one. In fact, it’s quite blocky. According to the sign in the public square below it, Castello Aragonese was built in the late 14th century. It is closed to the public. I believe that’s true seven days a week, every day of the year, not just when I’m there.
The final thing I learned on my walk is that at least one of the streets (and probably more) that I was absolutely, positively, 100% certain are pedestrian-only streets because they are way, way, way too narrow for cars, isn’t. As evidence, I tender the accompanying photo. I had to duck into a doorway for that car to pass by without taking some of my flesh with it.
The Drive to Ragusa
I intentionally took a route to Ragusa that was longer than necessary. Yes, I know. I know. Considering how I feel about driving, shouldn’t I take the most direct route?
I wanted a route that took me by the sea. The most direct route is entirely inland.
As it turns out, I only got a brief glimpse of the sea until I got to a town that I specifically set as a stop, Scoglitti. I saw on the map that Scoglitti has a Porto di Scoglitti. I figured, if it has a porto (port), I can probably get to the sea there. Turns out, I was right.
Scoglitti is a nice, largish town, maybe even a city. A modest beach sits beside its small port. The boats there appeared to be largely recreational, but I think fishermen also harbour their craft in the port.
A seawall, protects the port. The town, or whomever, thoughtfully put a promenade on top of the seawall so the townsfolk and tourists can stroll along it. One side of the promenade provides a pleasant view of the port and the town behind it.
The Seawall’s Sea Wall
On the other side of the promenade, the seaward side, after walking a short piece along it, walkers get a stunning view of a tall concrete wall. By tall I mean not just taller than I am, but taller than any human. To be fair, not all of the wall is that tall, just most of it. The rest is almost my height. So, if your goal is to gaze at the sea, that’s not the place to do it.
To be fair, the first portion of the promenade doesn’t have that wall, so I could see the sea for some of the walk. And there are other places in town where the sea is visible. Such as, well, I’ll get to that.
I planned to have an early lunch in Scoglitti then head to Ragusa, where I’m spending two nights. But there was a problem.
Today is a feast day here, Liberation Day. People were out feasting for lunch. And they had reservations. I didn’t. I tried three different restaurants with decent ratings on Trip Advisor. None of them had any available tables.
I was about to give up and skip lunch when, on the way back to my car I spotted a small restaurant right near the port. Trip Advisor didn’t give it a great rating, but I tried my luck. That restaurant didn’t seem to take reservations and it had a free table. The great part is their tables are on an upstairs patio, with a view of the sea. Mission accomplished.
I ate a competently prepared misto salad and fettuccine con vongole (fettuccine with clams), and looked out at the sea while eating.
Service at the restaurant was slow. Couple that with the time it took to find a restaurant and it was about 4:00 p.m. when I got to my hotel in Ragusa, only a little more than a half-hour drive from Porto Scoglitti.
Here in Ragusa, I’m in a boutique hotel in a former villa. I checked in and tried the WiFi. It didn’t work.
I went back to the front desk, the receptionists couldn’t get it to work either, despite a few reboots.
They gave me the password to their private WiFi. That worked.
I went back up to my room. The key wouldn’t work. It’s an old fashioned key, not one of those fancy, schmancy electronic keys. But, simple though it may be, it didn’t work.
I went back to the front desk and told them about my problem. The receptionist said something to the effect of, “you just put the key in and turn it.” (I think she thought I was a dolt. No comment.) I told her I tried that. I also told her I even tried turning it both ways.
She came up with me to the room. She put the key in the lock, turned it, and the door wouldn’t open.
We went back down to the reception desk. The other receptionist—I think she has more experience at the hotel—came up to the room with me. She put the key in the lock, turned it, and the door still wouldn’t open.
The second receptionist told me she’d have to call someone to fix it and, as compensation for my trouble, offered me a glass of wine while I waited. Maintenance fixed the lock before I finished my wine.
I mention all this to explain why I didn’t have much time to spend in Ragusa today. Not much, but not nothing.
Oh, before a get into that, my hotel room is very nice. I have a large balcony. On one side, the balcony has a view of the town and some hills behind it. Plus, a few trees with lilac-coloured flowers are blossoming just beyond the other two non-wall sides.
First a little background on Ragusa.
Ragusa is actually two, two, two cities in one: Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ilba.
Ragusa Ilba is allegedly the more interesting part. It’s the lower of the two parts, and it’s where the city started. But in 1693 a major earthquake destroyed much of the city. The wealthier of the folk in Ragusa decided that, rather than rebuild there, they’d decamp to higher ground on an adjacent hill, Ragusa Superiore, where they built a sturdier cathedral, San Giovanni Battista Cathedral.
I’m staying in Ragusa Superiore, despite the Ragusa Ilba supposedly being the bigger attraction. That’s mainly because I found a nice looking hotel there and, most importantly, it has a few on-site, free parking spots. I didn’t want to have to hunt for one on some narrow street with tightly packed parallel parking.
Despite my late start, I did get to do a little exploring in Ragusa Superiore, including visiting the above-mentioned San Giovanni Battista Cathedral.
Ragusa Superiore has some pleasant streets. Nowhere near as old or charming as those in Piazza Amerina, but pleasant.
The downtown shopping street, a pedestrian promenade, is particularly pleasing, with two rows of trees.
Just off the shopping street sits the San Giovanni Battista Cathedral. It and a piazza out front sit atop a set of steps.
To my eyes, the interior exudes unpretentious grandeur. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, so please allow me to explain. Like you have a choice.
The cathedral is large enough to swallow you up in its immensity, primarily it’s height. But its ornamentations are not overpowering. Don’t get me wrong. The decorations are attractive, particularly the ceiling. But none of it is overstated. There are a few paintings in shallow niches in the side walls, and a couple of sculptures also in shallow niches in a side wall.
One slightly deeper side wall niche has large frescoes on its three walls
Here and there, some of the relief decorations on the upper portions of the walls have a few touches of either gold leaf or probably gold paint as accents, but they fall far short of ostentatious
A very simple, tasteful altar piece sits behind an altar that is so simple that I knew it was an alter only by its location. Then again, what the heck do I know about altars?
Five confessionals sit in front of the wide pillars between the niches in one side wall. Three confessionals sit in front of pillars between the niches in the opposite wall. All of the confessionals had a spot for someone to confess on either side of the priest’s space. Eight confessionals, sixteen confessing positions. No waiting. Wow. I guess people in Ragusa do a lot of sinning.
And that concludes today’s program. On to Ragusa Ilba tomorrow.
You made it to Ragusa! Good driving, safe driving. I think having a little chat with Siri beforehand helps.
I am envious of your wanderings. And your meals. Not that I am starving. But even a competent bowl of fettucine con vongole by the seaside in Sicily sounds a whole lot nicer than looking out into the backyard from my table day after day at leaden skies and just willing the trees to leaf out already.
On another note: what’s with Sicilians and the seaside anyways? Do they think that too much sea gazing brings down a curse and so they erect walls and barriers in the name of the public good? Who believes in curses anyways (kinahora)? Enjoy.