Things to Do in Ragusa
One of Sicily’s prettiest baroque cities (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site besides), Scicli is rich in elegant architecture, religious landmarks, and charming restaurants and cafés. The city’s hilltop San Matteo Church is its most recognizable monument, and other popular attractions range from its grand town hall to pretty palazzi.
A little more than 9 miles from Ragusa in southeastern Sicily sits a beautiful 14th-century castle with a pretty name - Donnafugata Castle (Castello di Donnafugata). The word translates to “fugitive woman,” but the castle’s name stems from an Arabic word, so there’s no romantic story to go with it.
Donnafugata Castle is a patchwork of architectural and artistic styles, including one Venetian Gothic facade and Baroque interior. Visitors can walk through many decorated rooms on the first floor of the castle, including a Hall of Mirrors, smoking room, music room, royal bedrooms, and many rooms with trompe l’oeil paintings on the ceilings.
The castle’s gardens are also open to the public, including a Neoclassical temple building among the gardens of Mediterranean trees and plants. Tours of the filming locations for the “Inspector Montalbano” television series typically include a stop at Donnafugata Castle, which figures into the show as the residence of a mob boss.
Experience some of the best of Sicilian Baroque architecture by heading to Ragusa’s old town, called Ragusa Ibla, where you’ll find the Church of San Giuseppe (Chiesa di San Giuseppe). Dating back to the 1700s, it was constructed atop an earlier church, which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.
Its impressive façade, featuring an elaborate Baroque bell town, is very much the star of Piazza Pola. The oval-shaped interior dazzles too, complete with a frescoed cupola, and — take note — high-up wooden grate-covered lookouts from which the nuns can participate in services. If you like what you see here, head to nearby Chiesa San Giorgio, which features a similarly extravagant façade — so similar in fact, that it is believed that the church’s designer, Gagliardi, also designed Chiesa San Giuseppe.