Rent Boat in Ragusa, excursions in Ragusa Print
Ragusa, provincial capital, is 136 Km. distant from Agrigento, 141 Km. from Caltanissetta, 104 Km. from Catania, 145 Km. from Enna, 200 Km. from Messina, 283 Km. from Palermo, 81 Km. from Siracusa, 309 Km. from Trapani.
The municipality has 68.011 inhabitants, its surface measures 69.389 hectares and its population density counts 98 inhabitants per square kilometer. It rises on a hilly area, 502 metres above the sea-level.
The main economical activities are agriculture, cattle breeding, handicraft, tourism and the new chemical industry linked to oil and asphalt extraction. The main cultivations are: vegetables, cereals, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, fruit and hothouse plants. There are also cow, sheep, pig and horse farms. The main handicrafts are wooden and wrought iron goods. According to some sources, the name Ragusa etymologically comes from the Greek-byzantine word Rogos, which means barn referring to the rich production of wheat in this area.
Undoubtedly, Ragusa is an interesting city not only for its geografical position but also for the richness of its artistic heritage, it is located on a calcareous rock between two deep valleys: the quarry of San Leonardo and the quarry of Santa Domenica. The city is divided in two: Ragusa Inferiore (lower Ragusa) also called Ibla and Ragusa Superiore (higher Ragusa), separated by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine crossed by four bridges among which the nineteenth century one of the Cappuccini is noteworthy. Ibla original name was Hibla Heraia, a town founded by the Siculians in the inland area of the Hyblaean plateau. Later, it was conquered by the Carthaginians and by the Romans. In the 4th century AD, under the Byzantine domination, the settlement became bigger, and in 848 it was occupied by the Arabs. In 1091 it was entitled county town by the Norman King Roger II, and in 1282, after the battle of the Sicilian Vespers, it was included to the county of Modica by Manfredi Chiaramonte. An awful earthquake destroyed Ragusa and all of south-western Sicily in 1693, but reconstruction began immediately, on the same place the ancient city was found, near the hill of Patro, thus giving life to the early nucleus of Ragusa Nuova. Today, it still is the historical quarter of the city: with a medieval urban plan, reconstruction that occured in 1700-1800 gave it a harmonical look, rich in churches and Baroque palaces. The contrasts between the two towns intensified during the 19th century when two autonomous municipalities were established. They were reunified only in 1926 and the following year Ragusa was made provincial capital.The construction of the new urban centre, followed a veritable paradigm with an octagonal system already widely experimented in the new cities built by the Spanish in latin America and utilised in the Raroque construction of many other Siciclian localities. Ancient palaces and churches were reconstructed and in 1738, the reconstruction of the church of S.Giorgio took place in a more central position previously occupied by the church of S.Nicola. The ancient  residence of the Donnafugata family - maybe improperly defined as Castle - is very attractive and has often been transformed into a cinematic location, it was originally to be an amazing holiday house. At the beginning of the XIX century, the Baron of Donnafugata Francesco Maria Arezzo began to enlarge the room of the early nucleus of the manors within the feud. From that point, the sumptuous building - still admirable - was erected according to the will of his son Corrado. The young Donnafugata, raised by the Fillipini friars in Palermo, continued to follow his father's plan thus enlarging the room and keeping only the great loggia of the frontal facade empty. Creating what would become his country residence, where he could enjoy peace, far from a very difficult family situation marked by the unbearable death of his daughter Vincenzina and of his wife as well. The palace, which is notable for its unusual architecture, is the result of the sequence and juxtaposition of multiple interventions by different owners, namely three: the Baron Francesco, his son Corrado and his granddaughter Clementina, who is responsible for the completion of the frontal loggia and for the backing square tower on the Northeastern side. Nonetheless, the structure is pleasant thanks to Corrado Arezzo's taste, since he was a very cultivated man with a wide range of interests. It is also rich in valuable details designed to flank wide luminous rooms inside a series of spaces inserted one on another in order to create a particularly amazing mosaic. 
The Donnafugata Castle is also emblematic of the attention paid by the Sicilian noble families to their country house, a sort of elegant residence for the owner in many months of the year, but also the proper place to supervise the agricultural situation of large landed estate. The palace occupies an area of 2,500 square metres and presents 122 rooms. The main facade is decorated with a beautiful Venetian Gothic-styled loggia and through eight pointed arch balconies it is possible to access the large terrace under the loggia, while nice mullionned window with two lights refine the order facades. Among the most important rooms: the hall of the coat of arms must be cited with its walls decorated with the coat of arms of the most important Sicilian families and the hall with mirrors as well, with its rich curtains and pelmets which alternate with the mirrors covering all the walls, tha hall of billiards, the flat of the Bishop, the picture gallery, the guest flat, the music hall, the smockers' lounge, the library. The use of the local pitchstone for the floor in the rooms should be noted. The castle is surrounded by a wide park measuring almost 8 hectares that Baron Corrado Arezzo, an experto botanist, made furnish with essences he had personally chosen. Inside the park, many buildings can be found intended to make the Baron's guests stay more pleasant, among them, the coffe house, the little temple, the labyrinth, an artificial grotto reproducing a typical environment of the Carso area (which includes the Italian provinces of Trieste and Gorizia) and some basins, along with manifold scattered posts from Caltagirone. The Castle is approximately 20 kilometeres far from Ragusa and it can be reached via the provincial road to Santa Croce Camerina, turning on the right at the crossroads and proceeding to the railway station of Donnafugata.
The main monuments of Ragusa are also: the church of S. Maria delle Scale, the church of Purgatory (18th century) famous for its Baroque portal, the wonderful cathedral of S. John the Baptist (18th century) and Palace Donnafugata containing many paintings by Ribera (1588-1652) and Messina (18th century)
Amongst the most illustrious personalities we mention Sister Maria Schininà who in 1892 founded the "Missionary congregation of the sacred Heart" in Ragusa, the scientist G.B. Odierna and Mrs Maria Occhipinti, who during the Second World War, laid down under the wheels of a tank to prevent young recruits from Ragusa to leave for the military service.

 

 
 

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WHAT TO SEE

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Ragusa, castle of Donnafugata
Ragusa, castle of Donnafugata
Ragusa, castle of Donnafugata
Ragusa, museum of Donnafugata
Marina of Ragusa
Ragusa, S.Giorgio Cathedral
Port of Ragusa
 
 
Ragusa, old city
Ragusa, Ibla
Ragusa, S.Giovanni Battista church
Ragusa, San Giuseppe church
Ragusa, panoramical Ibla
Ragusa, Santa Domenica cave
 
   
     
 

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