Ragusa Ibla is built on a wide hill between two deep valleys. After the 1693 earthquake most of the population moved to a new settlement called Ragusa Superiore on the opposite hill. The two halves are separated by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine crossed by four bridges. Walking between the two is one of the best ways to experience the city. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on my map.
Both halves of the city have their own cathedral. As my Airbnb was in Ibla, I began my walk in Piazza Duomo by Duomo San Giorgio, but of course if you’re staying in Superiore, you could start at Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Piazza San Giovanni and follow this walk in the opposite direction.
It’s best to start as early as possible, before it gets too hot to walk, so I was up bright and early 7am, when the cafes around Piazza Duomo open. I had a milky coffee and brioche at Caffetteria Donnafugata which by all accounts is the best place in Ibla for a typical breakfast.
From Piazza Duomo I walked through the Neoclassical arch of Palazzo Arezzo di Sanfilippo…
…and walked along Via Maria Paterno’ Arezzo where I could get a partial view of my destination on the slopes opposite.
It was a slightly chilly morning in early November and the mists were still rising from the slopes of Cava San Leonardo and Cava Santa Domenica, the two deep valleys either side of Ibla.
I took a short detour down a side street to view Porta Walter, the only remaining gate of the medieval walls.
From here I climbed back and followed Via Dottor Solarino which circles up to the top of the hill. A good viewing point along the way is Belvedere Solarino where you can get views of the other side of Superiore.
The belvedere is just by the stairs down to Via Solarino, behind the basilica of San Giorgio. It’s a traditional spot for marriage proposals I’m told.
Continuing up the hill, near the top is the lovely Stile Liberty (Art Nouveau) Villa Arezzo.
It seems derelict at first although I understand it is being renovated.
The peculiarity of this building is that it has four façades which look different from each other but share the same decorative motifs around the balconies, gables and windows.
After this I doubled back and went down the Via Solarino stairs…
…to Via Capitano Bocchieri.
Here at #35 you can view the balconies of Palazzo de la Rocca, the first of three such Baroque palaces on the walk (see my post on Baroque in Ragusa).
From here I wandered the streets and alleys in the general direction of Superiore, catching views along the way.
I made a pitstop at Trattoria Agli Archi in Piazza della Repubblica, at the bottom of the ravine between Ibla and Superiore.
They are known for their cannoli here. I’m told the terrace above the cafe is an atmospheric spot for an evening meal (they’re closed for lunch).
Also in Piazza della Repubblica is Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio, another imposing church.
Just around the corner of Corso Mazzini is Palazzo Cosentini, another lovely Baroque palace with ornate balconies.
Corso Mazzini meanders up the hill to Superiore but you can cut off the corners by going up the alleys and stairs.
At various points along the way you can get fantastic views of Ibla. The best view I found was from Mirador de Ragusa Ibla at 116 Corso Mazzini.
The terrace of Al Gradino 284 at 6 Largo Santa Maria is a famous spot for an aperitivo with a view (book well ahead), but they were on holiday when I was there in October.
The views from Belvedere di Santa Lucia at 75 Corso Mazzini are pretty good too.
The lovely majolica tiles on the campanile of Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria (closed for renovation during my visit) stand out in particular.
Soon after this you meet the grid system of streets that indicates the more modern town planning of Superiore.
On the corner of Via San Vito and Corso Vittorio Veneto, you can find Palazzo Zacco, the third Baroque palace I recommend viewing.
From here it’s a short distance to the furthest point on the walk, Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Piazza San Giovanni.
The small garden by the southern side door is a nice cool spot where you could rest in the shade of the ficus trees.
I made another pitstop at Caffè Italia in Piazza San Giovanni, just in front of the cathedral, where I tried one of their Arancini di Provolone, made with the powerful local cheese. There are lots of places for lunch near the cathedral (see my map) but my plan was to head back to Ibla via a different route and eat lunch at Trattoria La Bettola (phone ahead to reserve).
Via Giacomo Matteotti seems to be the central pedestrian street where a lot of the locals hang out on a Sunday afternoon,
To get a view looking back down the valley to Ibla, you could detour along Via Roma…
…to Belvedere di Via Roma at the end where you can look back down the valley to Ibla.
Fans of modern architecture could take in the Fascist era Palazzo delle Poste in Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, built in 1938.
On the way back, another rationalist building is the Chiesa del Carmine in Piazza Carmine.
Next to the church is the Scalinata Padre Togni, a stairway heading back towards Ibla which also has good views.
At the bottom of the ravine, Via Giusti takes you back to Trattoria Agli Archi. From here you could take an alternative route back along Via del Mercato to get views of the valley.
The old market building, the Antico Mercato Communale, had just reopened after renovations when I was there and is now home to a variety of artisan businesses.
That day my journey ended at Trattoria La Bettola where I had a sumptuous Sunday lunch (see my post on eating in Ragusa).
An optional add on for a post-prandial stroll, or perhaps an alternative even earlier starting point for the walk, is the Giardino Ibleo, Ragusa’s public garden.
I went first thing in the morning when there was no one around and enjoyed the view of the Irminio Valley and the Hyblaean Mountains. My video here. The garden was designed partly in Italian style and partly in English style and contains three medieval churches.
Some rather unimpressive archaeological remains can be seen in one corner of the park which is the location of the original settlement, Hybla Heraea. The origins of Ragusa can be traced back to the 2nd millennium BC, before the Greek conquest, when there were several settlements of the Sicels, one of the three ancient tribes of Sicily, in the area.
Just along the road from the entrance to the gardens is the 15th century Portale di San Giorgio, the Gothic doorway of a former church that was destroyed in the 1693 earthquake.
See also my coming post on Baroque architecture in Ragusa for a couple more monuments not on this walk.
Now it’s time for some food…