Ragusa, Sicily

Ragusa (Italian: [raˈɡuːza] (listen); Sicilian: Rausa [raˈuːsa]; Latin: Ragusia) is a city and comune in southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Ragusa, on the island of Sicily, with 73,288 inhabitants in 2016.[2] It is built on a wide limestone hill between two deep valleys, Cava San Leonardo and Cava Santa Domenica. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Rausa  (Sicilian)
Città di Ragusa
Panorama of Ragusa Ibla

Coat of arms
Ragusa within the homonym province
Location of Ragusa
Location of Ragusa in Italy
Ragusa (Sicily)
Coordinates: 36°56′N 14°45′E
ProvinceRagusa (RG)
FrazioniMarina di Ragusa, San Giacomo Bellocozzo
  MayorGiuseppe Cassì
  Total442.6 km2 (170.9 sq mi)
520 m (1,710 ft)
 (26 February 2018)[2]
  Density170/km2 (430/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0932
Patron saintSt. John the Baptist (Ragusa)
St. George (Ragusa Ibla)
Saint dayJune 24
WebsiteOfficial website
Part ofLate Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
CriteriaCultural: (i)(ii)(iv)(v)
Inscription2002 (26th Session)
Area17.39 ha (1,872,000 sq ft)
Buffer zone29.32 ha (3,156,000 sq ft)


The origins of Ragusa can be traced back to the 2nd millennium BC, when there were several Sicel settlements in the area. The current district of Ragusa Ibla has been identified as Hybla Heraea.

The ancient city, located on a 300-metre (980 ft)-high hill, came into contact with nearby Greek colonies, and grew thanks to the nearby port of Camerina. Following a short period of Carthaginian rule, it fell into the hands of the ancient Romans and the Byzantines, who fortified the city and built a large castle. Ragusa was occupied by the Arabs in 848 AD, remaining under their rule until the 11th century, when the Normans conquered it. Selected as County seat, its first Count was Geoffrey, son of Count Ruggero of Sicily.

Thereafter Ragusa's history followed the events of the Kingdom of Sicily, created in the first half of the twelfth century. A Chiaramonte family fief, it remained the county capital after it was unified with Modica in 1296, a status it lost in the 15th century after a popular revolt.

In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality "Ragusa Superiore" (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city "Ragusa Inferiore" (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927 at the expense of Modica, the former capital and the most populous and important city in the region since 1296.

In 1838 an asphalt deposit was discovered, which is still being worked.

During World War II, Ragusa was one of many Sicilian towns in which the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini was deeply unpopular. Reasons for this were a combination of straightforward anti-Sicilian racism on the part of the fascist regime (which was central to the regime's ideology) as well as the anti-mafia campaign led by fascist agent Cesare Mori which was so heavy-handed, brutal and draconian that it managed to alienate huge swaths of the Sicilian population. Coupled with both of these was the reality that fascist administration in Sicily was largely incompetent as well as indifferent to the local population. When food became scarce and Mussolini's regime had to begin rationing food, Sicily was designated as being the last to receive food aid. This often included food that was grown in Sicily (particularly wheat and fruit) which was then exported to northern Italy, despite the fact that scarcity had become a large-scale problem in Sicily. Sicilian police officers were replaced with police officers from Northern Italy as the Sicilian officers were perceived by the regime as being more loyal to their local communities than they were to Mussolini. The officers from Northern Italy were underpaid, which led to them quickly becoming corrupt and indifferent. Compounding this was the fact that they often held attitudes that were contemptuous towards the Sicilian population. When the combined British and American military operation to invade Sicily began (Operation Husky) the population of Ragusa was deeply resentful of Mussolini and the fascist regime. British forces landed to the south and east of Ragusa along the coast and American forces landed southwest of Ragusa in the Gulf of Gela. The two groups linked up in several towns in between these two locations including Ragusa. The small detachment of fascist troops in Ragusa fled without fighting as the British and American forces approached. The local population welcomed the British and American soldiers with "unbridled enthusiasm".[3][4][5][6][7][8]


Ragusa is a hilltown that lies below the Hyblaean Mountains, and is historically divided into Ragusa Ibla and Ragusa Superiore. The municipality borders with Chiaramonte Gulfi, Comiso, Giarratana, Modica, Monterosso Almo, Rosolini (SR), Santa Croce Camerina, Scicli and Vittoria.[9] It counts the hamlets (frazioni) of Marina di Ragusa, located by the sea, and San Giacomo Bellocozzo.

Main sights

The city has two distinct areas, the lower and older town of Ragusa Ibla, and the higher Ragusa Superiore (Upper Town). The two halves are separated by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine crossed by four bridges, the most noteworthy of which is the eighteenth-century Ponte dei Cappuccini.

Upper Town

Ragusa Cathedral, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (San Giovanni Battista), is the biggest attraction in Ragusa Superiore. The church was originally located in the western part of ancient Ragusa, under the walls of the Mediaeval castle, where the small church of St. Agnese is today. A smaller building was quickly built on the site after the 1693 earthquake, which soon proved inadequate. The current edifice was built between 1718 and 1778, with a façade in typical southern Sicilian Baroque style, with three portals and sculptures representing the Madonna, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. The upper columns have two clocks showing the time in Italian and French fashions respectively. The high bell tower, on the left side, is also in Baroque style.

The ornate Baroque interior has a Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles separated by three colonnades embellished with gold. Charts showing Bible verses referring to St. John the Baptist are over every column. The dome was built in 1783, and covered with copper sheets during the 20th century. The side chapels, characterized by altars decorated with polychrome marbles, date from the 19th century.

Also noteworthy is the Hyblean Archaeological Museum, with different sections devoted to archaeological finds from the Prehistoric to the Late Roman era.

Ragusa Ibla

Ragusa Ibla is home to a wide array of Baroque architecture, including several stunning palaces and churches.

The Cathedral of San Giorgio started in 1738 by architect Rosario Gagliardi, in place of the temple destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, and of which is the only place in the city a Catalan-Gothic style portal can still be seen. The façade contains a flight of 250 steps and massive ornate columns, as well as statues of saints and decorated portals. The interior has a Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles ending in half-circular apses. It is topped by a large Neoclassical dome built in 1820.

On a narrow winding street connecting Ragusa Ibla with Ragusa Superiore lies the church of Santa Maria delle Scale ("Saint Mary of the Steps", built between the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries). This church is particularly interesting: badly damaged in the earthquake of 1693, half of this church was rebuilt in Baroque style, while the surviving half was kept in the original Gothic style (including the three Catalan-style portals in the right aisle). The last chapel of the latter has a Renaissance portal. The chapels are adorned with canvases by Sicilian painters of the 18th century.

The church of San Giorgio, designed by Rosario Gagliardi and built between 1739–1775, has a façade with tiers of juxtaposed columns. The Treasury contains silver items. Similar though smaller is the nearby church of St. Joseph, with an elliptic interior housing a seventeenth-century statue.

The church of Sant'Antonino is an example of Norman architecture, characterized by a Gothic portal, while the Church of Immacolata boasts a fine fourteenth-century portal.

San Giorgio Vecchio boasts a façade with a notable Gothic-Catalan portal, with a high lunette portraying St. George Killing the Dragon, and Aragonese eagles.

The Hyblean Garden offers a good view to the three churches of the Cappuccini Vecchi, St. James (fourteenth century) and San Domenico.

The Zacco Palace, a Baroque building, has Corinthian columns support balconies of wrought iron work, caryatids and grotesques.

The Villa Zinna country estate.



Ragusa has two railway stations, Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla, on the Canicattì-Gela-Syracuse line. Two other stations serve the localities of Donnafugata and Genisi.

The town will be served by the planned extension, from Rosolini to Gela, of the A18 motorway. The new exit of Ragusa will be located between the town and Marina di Ragusa.

The 18th-century interior of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Ragusa Ibla

Twin towns — sister cities

Ragusa is twinned with:[10][11]



Much of the filming of the Inspector Montalbano series is done in Ragusa, which has contributed to the rise of tourism in recent years.[12]

Notable residents


  1. "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. (in Italian) Source: Istat 2016
  3. The Christian Century, Volume 60 pg. 835
  4. Sicily: An Informal History By Peter Smmartino, William Roberts pg. 111
  5. Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943 by Carlo D'Este, pg. 433
  6. Italy; an historical survey by Jack F. Bernard, published by David and Charles, 1971; pg. 476
  7. Christopher Duggan (2013). Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini's Italy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-933837-5.
  8. Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943 by Carlo D'Este, pg. 148, 421
  9. 39162 Ragusa on OpenStreetMap
  10. "Comune di Ragusa". comune-italia.it (in Italian). Comune Italia. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  11. "Twinning". mostalocalcouncil.com. Mosta Local Council. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  12. http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/sicily/ragusa.html
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