Day 16: Resplendent Ragusa & Mediterranean Merriment

We unleashed ourselves to the world this morning by 9:30 and were on our way to the town of Ragusa, specifically the old part of town called Ragusa Ibla. 

Ragusa is one of a handful of towns in this area of Sicily that are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, mostly, I believe, because of the elegant Baroque architectural style that adorns many of its buildings.  We arrived and got sorted in terms of parking before entering town and finding ourselves on the Piazza della Repubblica.  There was a sign for a Tourist Information office but it was closed, leaving us to our own, mapless devices.

The beginning of the stairs

The beginning of the stairs

Nonetheless, Jim decided he knew which way to go to get to the big, main Piazza Duomo in the center of town, and led the charge up, up, and up about 1,094 stairs.  Several hours later (or was it only minutes?) we finally arrived at the top to discover we now held an excellent vantage point over the other side of town… and over where we thought we had been going.  People sure looked like little ants down there.  Back down the stairs we went, over a little, back up more stairs, no, not that way, go over this way a scooch more, up a hill, and finally we arrived at the main piazza, Piazza Duomo.

Jim at the level cathedral on the hill

Jim at the level cathedral on the hill

Piazza Duomo is flanked on one side by the ginormous Cattedrale di San Giorgio, which was designed by a guy named Rosario Gagliardi in the mid-1700s.  Kudos to him, and all, but really our hats are off to the people who executed the design, as the Cathedral is plunked down right on a sloping hill.  And it’s perfectly level.  Jim and I recently had a home improvement project involving leveling that took our team of two several hours, stretched patience, a little sniveling, some atonement, and Band-Aids.   And that was for installing baseboards in one room.  This Cathedral was really something else.

Church in the middle of Giardino Ibleo.  There are no shortages of elaborate churches in Sicily.

Church in the middle of Giardino Ibleo. There are no shortages of elaborate churches in Sicily.

As luck would have it, there were numerous cafés on the piazza so we picked one and sat for a spell with a coffee, admiring the Cathedral.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, although it was starting to grow warm and hiking a Mt. Etna’s-worth of stairs didn’t help our energy levels.  Once caffeinated, we proceeded to walk around town a bit more, eventually finding ourselves in the public garden named Giardino Ibleo.  This garden was splendid, full of palm trees, flowery bushes, a fountain, manicured shrubs, benches, a few churches, and views over the surrounding countryside.

Upon leaving the serene garden we decided to walk the ring road back to the car, almost getting mowed down three different times by the same ambulance.  As it was about 31C (88F), the thought of heading back to our hotel for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea was more appealing then visiting another nearby stair-laden town with more Baroque architecture, no matter how parallel the buildings were to the ground.

We took a scenic route back, which took us through the seaside towns of Marina di Modica and Sampieri before we reached Marina di Ragusa.  It was mid-afternoon and we were a bit peckish, so we stopped at an InterSpar grocery store in search of some snacks and were able to finally find a Sicilian specialty we had been anxious to try, arancini.  Arancini are basically fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and filled in the middle with something, like cheese, peas, or the personal fan favorite, “meat.”  As they don’t usually advertise what kind of “meat” it is, I’m less enthusiastic about trying it but Jim bravely ordered one and declared it delicious and his new favorite food.

The beach of Marina di Ragusa

The beach of Marina di Ragusa

Once fortified, we went back to the room to change into swim suits and find a spot on the beach across the street.  Spending time “at the beach” is a new concept for me, as I not only have a short attention span but also have the translucent skin of a jellyfish and the sun has a way of turning it beet red before becoming a deeper shade of white.  Jim, on the other hand, has the sun-kissed olive skin of a desert people and could easily spend all day lolling around a sandy beach in the sun with the occasional dip into the water.

As it turns out, bobbing around in salt water is great fun and we spent the next few hours floating atop waves, practicing water pirouettes, and marveling at the view of nothing but blue, blue water.  Eventually it was time to go in, so we removed as much sand as possible (how did it manage to get there?) and cleaned ourselves up before going out for dinner.  Dinner tonight was an easy choice; we picked up a pizza from Pizzeria D’Asporto to take back to our room and ate it while drinking a bottle of Sicilian Cusumano Benuara wine on the balcony.  This was the fifth full day of not having any plans and life was good.

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