Ragusa Ilba (Mostly)

Today, I spent most of the day walking to, from, and around Ragusa Ilba, and eating lunch there. My hotel is in Ragusa Superiore, about a 45-minute hike from the farthest point in Ragusa Ilba. Consequently, walking there and back consumed considerable time.

Before I start this narrative, I need to warn you that this is a somewhat long post. So, if you need to go to the toilet or grab a snack first, please do so. I’ll wait.

… waiting …

… still waiting …

… and still waiting …

Relieved and nourished? Great. Let’s prod on, shall we?

Getting to Ragusa Ilba from my hotel on foot involves trodding down a long set of of steep stairs. You know what that means. Walking back involves climbing up a long set of steep stairs. There are also other declines and inclines to tackle, although mostly without stairs.

There is a driving route, but, unless you don’t know me and you haven’t read the previous few posts from this trip or the posts from my Greece trip, you know that I’m at two with driving. However, if you’re new here and haven’t done the required reading, what the heck is wrong with you? Harumph. Some people just won’t put in the work. Do the reading now, please. I’ll wait.

… waiting …

… still waiting …

… and still waiting …

Done? Good. But I think you should apologize to the other readers for making them wait, solely for you this time, while you caught up. Okay, now that those negligent readers have been duly chastised, let’s continue.

Walking to Ragusa Ilba

A view of Ragusa Ilba on the way there and back.
A view of Ragusa Ilba on the way there and back.

Damn! Now you made me lose my train of thought. Where was I? Please excuse me while I scroll up a bit.

Oh, yes. I’m at two with driving. That’s why I decided to leave my rental car at the hotel and walk.

There are a few of advantages to walking.

First, and most important, it’s not driving.

The second benefit is exercise. Medical experts advise that exercise is important for the continuing health of a man my age. Then again, medical experts sometimes get things wrong. They’re much more often right than wrong, but they’re occasionally wrong. Maybe that whole exercise thing is one of those rare times. Then again, I’m still alive at the end of the day. So, that’s one data point in exercise’s favour.

By the time I got back to my hotel, but before I went out for dinner, my Fitbit told me I’d walked the more than 21,000 steps. True, that’s not much more than half my record walk in a day. And that record came within the last five years, when I was already bordering on decrepitude. And I’m not saying which side of the border I’m on. But, still, even if it’s not nearly a personal record, it’s still a slog for a man my age. And, in my defence, that record was on relatively flat land. Today’s trek wasn’t.

I had to climb back up that long sett of stairs to get back to Ragusa Superiore. And both Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ilba are hill towns. True, Ragusa Ilba’s hill isn’t as high as Ragusa Superiore’s hill, but walking around each part of Ragusa requires considerable climbing of hills. The upshot is, my Fitbit tells me I climbed the equivalent of 227 floors before going out for dinner today. (Fitbit counts only uphill climbs, not descents, but it counts all uphill climbs regardless of whether they involve actual stairs. Hence, “the equivalent of…”)

Again, not bad for a man my age. (I’ve considered telling people I’m 95 just to impress them even more when I cite stats like that. But it would be too depressing if they believed me. I’m 70.)

Another benefit of walking, rather than driving to Ragusa Ilba is, the hike provided me with some spectacular views of Ragusa Ilba and the surrounding hills.

In Ragusa Ilba

Ragusa Ilba is old-world picturesque. Although, I probably shouldn’t say “old-world” without qualification. It used to be a medieval town. But what stands there now is newer. The town was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. So, pretty well all of the buildings are newer than that.

Aside: I can’t believe that I, a lifelong Torontonian, just talked about the relative newness of the buildings in Ragusa Ilan, when at least some of them are somewhat more than 300 years old, and probably almost all of them are more than 200 years old. In Toronto, our provincial government, (rhetorically speaking, very provincial), recently announced that it plans to tear down a venerable public institution (The Ontario Science Centre) because it’s more than 50 years old and is in need of a lot of work. The government plans to replace it with a new building in a different location, a location that will, no doubt, block a much loved (by me) section of Toronto’s waterfront. We can learn a thing or two from the old and oldish world, I’d say.)

Giardino Ibleo

One of the views from Giardino Ilbeo
Giardino Ibleo palm trees.

I started my visit to Ragusa Ilba by walking all the way to the far end of town. There, I spent some time in Giardino Ibleo.

It is a splendid little park with lots of stately paths, a monument, an old church, a playground, and lots of benches. They are also lots of bushes and trees of a number of varieties, including several palm trees.

Palm trees! Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Toronto anymore.

And the views from Giardino Ibleo to the adjacent valley and nearby hills and valleys are spectacular.

One of the views from Giardino Ilbeo.
One of the views from Giardino Ilbeo

Portale di San Giorgio

Portale di San Giorgio
Portale di San Giorgio

Take a look at the picture I posted in this section. It looks like it could be the entrance to a Gothic church dating from the middle of the 14th century, doesn’t it? Well, looks can be deceiving. But not in this case.

It’s a picture of the entrance to a Gothic church, dating from the middle of the 14th century.

That’s all that’s left of a church that was otherwise destroyed in the 1693 earthquake. You would have thought that God would have saved the whole church. But, you know. Mysterious ways. Or whatever.

It’s called Portale di San Giorgio because of the relief decoration just above the entrance and just below the arched reliefs. The relief above the entrance depicts Saint George (San Giorgio) slaying the dragon.

To be honest, I’m skeptical about the existence of the dragon. I think it’s a deep fake. But then again, I’m skeptical by nature.

San Giuseppe Church

San Giuseppe is a small church in Ragusa Ilba. It sports a unpretentiously charming exterior and a quietly delightful, but simple interior. That’s all I have on it, apart from the associated pictures below.

Exterior of San Giuseppe Church
Exterior of San Giuseppe Church
Interior of San Giuseppe Church
Interior of San Giuseppe Church

Cathedral of San Giorgio

Exterior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio
Exterior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio

The Cathedral of San Giorgio, perched atop a wide set of stairs, has a grand exterior.

Inside, it felt very heavy to me. I’m not sure I can describe what I mean by “a heavy feel” any better than than. No, I’m lying. I know I can’t describe what I mean any better.

The columns in the cathedral are constructed with thick, sandstone-coloured blocks. (Maybe they are sandstone. If you want to look that up, please report back to us in the comments below.)

Blood-red bunting is suspended below the arches between the columns. There are also lots of blood red accent panels on the walls. The panels have faint, monochrome patterns. Although, the patterns are so faint and near in hue to the background colour that I didn’t know they were there until I got close.

Interior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio
Interior of the Cathedral of San Giorgio

Maybe the accent panels are intended primarily to be viewed by an all-seeing being. Good luck with that.

The usual complement of religious paintings decorate the walls of the cathedral.

Below the arches between the columns hang chandeliers that are mostly black with, touches of gold colour. The chandeliers obviously used to hold candles. Now they hold fake candles with electric lights.


I had lunch at an elegant restaurant in Ragusa Ilba, waited on by primly dressed servers (yes, servers, plural), and a sommelier.

The restaurant offered a choice of two menus: a five-course dinner menu, or a three-course “surprise” lunch menu. “Surprise” meant that it was the chef’s choice and he wasn’t telling until it was served. I could also have ordered a la carte off the dinner menu.

I chose the lunch menu. It included two glasses of wine, paired with the courses by the sommelier. In addition, there was a delicious pre-meal amuse-bouche, a glass of sparkling wine*, a between-course intermezzo, and three post-meal cookie-like objects. All of them were delicious.

(* The sparking wine, was a choice between one local variety or one of two French champagnes. (Yes, I know “French champagnes” is redundant. Mentally delete the “French” if you like.) The server presented the sparkling wine as if it was complements of the restaurant. The server didn’t specifically say that, but he said it such a way, “can I offer you…,” that I understood it to mean that. The bill told a different story. )

For a price, Ugarte, for a price.” (Casablanca, 1942)

The first course was a green spaghetti with carpaccio and carrot juice sauce. Carrot juice sauce doesn’t sound terribly traditional to me, but I’m not exactly steeped in Sicilian tradition. In any case, it was mouthwatering.

With the first course, they also served a small loaf of delightful bread. They intended that I use the bread to sample a very flavourful local olive oil. Who am I to thwart their intentions? I forget how tasty olive oils can really be until I taste ones like the one they served.

With the second course, they served a different type of bread. Because, of course they did. One must properly pair one’s breads with the courses, mustn’t one?

Speaking of the second course, it was tuna belly with asparagus and a couple of other accoutrements that I can’t report on here because I couldn’t make out what the server said due to her accent. (She did say it in English for me, though.) The tuna belly was surprising, in a very good way. The meat was dense enough to have been red meat, not fish. And it was delicious.

The third course, dessert, was cannolo with a prickly pear sauce. (This is Sicily. Of course it would be a connolo. Or, to elicit a chuckle out of my most regular readers, one of their cannoli.)

Lunch occupied more than an hour and a half of my day day. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. La dolce vita.

Oh, remember that delightful restaurant near Villa Romana del Casale that I mentioned the other day? The portions today were possibly even a tad smaller than the other day. But again, the deliciousness more than made up for it.

And remember, in particular, how I said that the restaurant near Villa Romana del Casale was a bit more pricy than I tend to spend for lunch? Yeah, please forget I said that. My average lunch spend just took a bit of a jump. La dolce vita isn’t cheap, I guess.

After all that alcohol, thank goodness I didn’t drive to Ragusa Ilba. If I donated blood now, I’d probably have to warn the donation centre to keep my blood donation away from sparks and open flames.

Back in Ragusa Superiore

Chiesa do Santa Maria della Scale

At the top of the stairs between Ragusa Ilba and Ragusa Superiore, just on the edge of Ragusa Superiore, rests the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Scale, the Church of Saint Mary of the Stairs. After climbing all those stairs, I planned to rest there too. No such luck.

With the help of the Google Translate, the computer-printed sign on the door told me that the church opens for a few hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, but, in April, only on ten specific days. I arrived at the right time in the afternoon, but with only a one-in-three chance, I didn’t stand a hope in hell when it came to the day of the month.

Wandering Around

A lovely old church in Ragusa Superiore
A lovely old church in Ragusa Superiore

It was a full day, but I had a little time to do some more wandering around in Ragusa Superiore when I got back from Ragusa Ilba.

I checked on Google Translate and superiore does translate to what I assumed it translates to, superior. I’ve got to say, that’s a bit of a stretch. True, Ragusa Superiore is higher in altitude and a lot bigger and more populous than Ragusa Ilba, but I wouldn’t otherwise call it superior. At least, not for a tourist. Then again, I don’t know about services available for residents.

Not that I want to give Ragusa Superiore an inferiority complex. Goodness knows I’m well aware of the drawbacks of those.

And, don’t get me wrong. Ragusa Superiore has an ample supply of charm of its own, with enjoyable, mostly human-scale streets. Buildings vary from relatively new to oldish. (That is to say, old compared to Toronto buildings, but relatively young compared to buildings in, say, Piazza Amerina.)

Another lovely old church in Ragusa Superiore
Another lovely old church in Ragusa Superiore

The buildings vary in height from single stories to what, in Toronto, we call mid-rises. I didn’t see any high-rises or super-tall buildings, which likely mean they don’t exist here. They’re hard to hide.

And there are a few lovely old churches scattered about. That having been said, apart from the cathedral yesterday, I didn’t get inside any, so I reserve judgement as to whether they’re also lovely and old inside.

What I’m trying to say is, I really like Ragusa Superiore. It seems eminently livable. It’s just that, on the charm scale, it’s inferior, not superior to Ragusa Ilba. It’s not even close.

Update: After I got back from dinner, my Fitbit told me I’d taken more than 24,000 steps and climbed the equivalent of 262 floors. So, there’s that.


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