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Ragusa – Welcome to Sicily

An old Italian lady who speaks only Italian, a young Italian settled in Switzerland who could speak English and an Indian couple.  All in a small town in Sicily, at an almost-deserted bus terminus. A rain-drenched evening that welcomed darkness without embracing twilight.

We started experiencing the warmth of Italian hospitality right after we got down at the upper Ragusa bus terminal. We had booked a hotel at Ragusa Ibla, the old city. The untimely rain meant we had to find shelter in a small shed at the terminal. We asked a lady for directions to the hotel but she couldn’t understand us. Seeing our struggle, a young guy offered to help by translating our questions. Though the lady didn’t know the hotel, she offered to call the hotel and speak on our behalf. She seems to have told the hotel that two Indians are stuck at the terminal. The hotel arranged to send a taxi. The young Italian, who is settled in Switzerland and was on his annual vacation to his hometown Ragusa, waited till the taxi came. And four of us had some small talk, with this friendly guy as translator.

Ragusa Ibla – As Seen from the Way to Upper Ragusa

Ragusa probably exudes warmth all times. It is summer time. Though the days are sunny and warm, it’s not hot. The narrow but clean paved streets are flanked by buildings built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Neatly maintained houses, potted plants peeping down from balconies, creepers climbing up the yellow walls—perfect for a picture postcard! Narrow lanes and centuries-old buildings are perhaps part of all old European cities. But then this was our first ever European trip. In fact, our first ever international trip together. Excuse us for the over excitement!

Ragusa Ibla – Night
Ragusa Ibla – Saint George’s Cathedral and Main Street

Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla, as the old city is known, together form the Ragusa region.

TripAdvisor’s suggestion did not go wrong. San Giorgio Palace Hotel, an ancient palace building in one of those narrow streets in Ragusa Ibla, looked like just another house from outside. But the old palace has been skillfully converted into a heritage hotel. The window in our room offers a beautiful valley view. The road that winds up the hill looks even more beautiful in the glow of early morning sun rays.

San Giorgio Palace Hotel
Ibla Streets

At San Giorgio hotel, we had our first tryst with authentic Italian food. Risotto garnished with fresh pepper. It was also the first time we encountered ‘coperto’—the sitting fees restaurants charge. Most restaurants charge anywhere between 1.5 to 5 euros as ‘coperto,’ apart from the cost of the food. The literal meaning of ‘pane e coperto’ is ‘bread and tableware’ and essentially is a service charge. Restaurants that do not charge ‘coperto’ displays it prominently outside their shops. At that time, we were still under the burden of converting euro into rupees and frowning; so we were not very excited seeing the ‘coperto’ added in the bill. Later, we got used to it.

Ibla Streets
Ibla Streets
Ibla Streets

The mighty Saint George Cathedral stands tall at the centre of the town that is dotted with many small churches.

Life, not surprisingly, is unhurried and relaxed. One could see elders sitting and chatting on the benches by the street in the morning. The handful of shops that dot the street closes after lunch for a siesta.

Piazza Della Republica

Though Ragusa Ibla is best explored and enjoyed by walk, the toy train that takes you around the town for about 30 minutes is actually a good starter. You get a sense of roads and places and then voila! We did a toy train ride in the morning. And after a sumptuous lunch, we set out on foot to explore Ragusa.

Piazza Della Republica, at the base of the hill, is where Via Scale (via is road in Italian) starts. A road spirals up to Upper Ragusa, but flights of stairs, built between houses, connect two levels of the road throughout the length. Upper Ragusa was built on a higher plateau after Ibla was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1693. The path up offers good views of Ibla. While returning, we waited for the sun to set and click pictures of Ibla with its lights on.

Ibla – As the Sun Sets
Upper Ragusa – A Street
Bridges Connecting Old and New Ragusas
Saint Gioavanni Church and Upper Ragusa
 Ragusa – Near Saint George Cathedral at Night

According to Lonely Planet, Ragusa is often ignored by travellers. But if Sicily is your trip, Ragusa deserves two days of your itinerary.

Ragusa is in southern part of Sicily. Buses ply between Catania airport and Catania city to Ragusa at regular intervals with an approximate journey time of 1.25 hours.


8 Comments on “Ragusa – Welcome to Sicily

  1. Dear Unni & Bindu,
    Thanks for your New Year Wishes. Let me also wish you a happy good time as a ” A Couple”.

    I have read all your Himalayan Trip (Kashmir, Leh, Tsmori) and impressed by it. I do not know whether I can suggest something about your blog. It will be more interesting if you are writing the date or the month your travel experience. (You may writing it after a lapse of some time). If the date/month of travel is mentioned, it will be easy to visualise the scenario along your descriptions.

    I hope I am not intruding in to your style of travel writing.

  2. Thanks everyone for the appreaciative comments.
    @pns, we did not tip any further
    @kumar, we have read SK Pottekkat. we grew up in kerala reading malayalam books.
    @rr, thanks for the comments
    @pattu, thanks for the comments.

    wishing you all a happy and great year ahead

  3. Congratulations for your first International visit together. Ragusa is very much inviting. I fear if you were required to tip the waiter after having been required to pay ‘coperto’.

  4. Dear Unni & Bindu,

    I chanced upon your blogs while searching some details about Jog Falls & Linganamakki Dam, and now I am hooked to it. I had an overview of most of your writings and I would like to enjoy them at my leisure.

    Travelling through a place like Ragusa will make anyone excited. It is exciting to read and see. So you do not mind about getting excited about your 1st international trip together. Regusa streets are enticing in your photos.

    It is my hobby to read travelogues and travel blogs. Being a young couple, you might not have heard about the famous Malayalam Travel Writer, the late Shri. S.K. Pottekkat. I am inspired from him from the early childhood, as and when possible, I make travels and other times I get satisfied, for my travel urges, from bloggers like you.

    Wishing you all the best and awaiting for more of travel blogs.


  5. You use simple words but weave a kind of magic into your narration. The pics are superb. The night pics are mesmerizing .Looks a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing.
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
    Warm Regards Ram

  6. Hey Nathan from glassbox television here. There doesnt seem to be any way for us to contact you on your website so were writing you a comment. Can we get your contact info(email address) sent to that’d be great. Thanks


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