Ragusa is one of the most stunning towns in Sicily, and you can't help but feel your jaw drop when you first set eyes on it! While most travellers on Italy's largest island are drawn to the capital Palermo or the coastal resort of Taormina; they really are missing out, because Ragusa is absolutely breathtaking. It's located about an hour's drive from Syracuse, the nearest large city, and is in the south east of Sicily.
Ragusa's population is just short of seventy thousand, and that's one of the main attractions. While other parts of the island can be filled with tourists, this town still seems to be a hidden gem. In 1693, most of the eastern side of Sicily was razed to the ground by a horrendous earthquake. In the aftermath, public opinion was divided on where to rebuild the town, so a compromise was made. The wealthier citizens built a new town (Ragusa 'Superiore') while the other half decided to rebuild on the original site at the bottom of a gorge (Ragusa 'Ibla').
Both are stunning, and when you initially approach Ragusa, you are totally blown away by the jumble of houses, and churches clinging to the walls of the gorge. It's only when you get closer that you notice the amazing Baroque architecture. The Basilica di San Giorgio (above) is just one of the many highlights in Ragusa Ibla, which is where I stayed. The square in front of the cathedral is full of aristocratic buildings, and a walk around the town takes you through a labyrinth of narrow streets with palaces and churches all around. It is picture postcard beautiful everywhere you look.
I stayed in a simple B&B called "Le Fioriere", which has just two bedrooms. It's in a perfect location for sightseeing in the heart of Ragusa Ibla, and guests have their own parking space - a real bonus in these winding streets, trust me! While you could easily spend a few days getting to know Ragusa, you'd be missing out, because the baroque towns of Modica and Noto are within a short drive, and are also a real treat.
Sometimes it's the little details that make a place, and that's what I found in Ragusa. While the architecture itself is amazing, you see little bits of magic in every building - a dragon door knocker, or an old rusting door with double letter boxes! Ragusa is just spectacular, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It may be off the beaten track, but the rewards for that extra bit of travel time are well worth the effort.
Have you been anywhere that has unexpectedly blown you away?