The origins of Ragusa Ibla are ancient. It’s situated on a hill that goes from 385 to 440 meters above sea level, it was built between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Already existing in old Sicilian age, Ibla was occupied by the Greeks, who called it Hybla Heraea.
The Romans succeeded the Greeks, changed the term Hereum at first and Hereusium later, during the Byzantine era, it cames in Reusia, from the Arabics named Ragus, and finally the current Ragusa.
In Norman age, the city experienced a great development, becoming County. After the difficulties of the Swabian period which saw the abolition of the County, it was restored under the Aragonese age, through the powerful Chiaramonte family.
Cabrera family succeeded to the Chiaramontes and the county, in the mid-fifteenth century, passed to Modica.
During the earthquake of January 11th, 1693, Ragusa was completely destroyed and had 5000 victims of a population of 12,000. Ragusa was rebuilt in two distinct sites, resulting in two different municipalities, Ragusa and Ibla, which were unified, then separate, finally come together again in 1926, when Ragusa also became the provincial capital.
Ibla is filled with many churches and palaces that adorn the city. The church of St. George by Rosario Gagliardi, it is considered among the most beautiful buildings of the Sicilian Baroque of the eighteenth century.
Other important sites are: Piazza Pola, the Palace of the Chancellery, the Church of St. Francis, the Portal of S. George, and a considerable number of buildings in late Baroque style.
The city tour can start with a visit to the Basilica of San Giorgio, an important example of Sicilian Baroque.
Completed in 1775 and designed by Rosario Gagliardi, it presents an elaborate front view preceded by steps and divided into three parts by columns and decorative motifs of that time.
The middle part, slightly convex, culminating in a belfry. On nineteenth-century three-nave stands a dome more than 40 meters high and supported by 16 double columns. Despite the architectural elements belong to different eras, the staircase and the dome of the church are from later periods, the whole building is remarkably smooth. Inside are 13 stained glass windows depicting the martyrdom of St. George, paintings by Vito D’Anna, a beautiful sixteenth-century stone altar by the Gagini; in the sacristy, a beautiful altar, large sculptures and a rich treasury of Gagini school of the saint.
In Piazza Pola, the Church of St. Joseph has a facade similar to that of the Basilica of St. George, and for this attributed to Gagliardi.
Inside, the nave, elliptical, we can find well preserved any stuccos, paintings and other valuable Baroque artefacts, as well as a seventeenth-century St. Joseph in silver.
Returning from Piazza Pola, going on Orphanage, the Church of Sant ‘Antonio welcomes us, formerly Santa Maria La Nuova, with a beautiful Gothic portal in the side, the remains of the ancient church in Gothic, and a Baroque portal.
Inside you can still see, in the portal of the sacristy, another remnant of its ancient structure.
Not far away we head towards the entrance of the Villa Comunale or Ibleo Garden, well maintained, large and wide: in fact, from its balcony we admire magnificent views of Iblei mountains and the valley of the river Irminio.
Within the garden there are three churches: St. James, Capuchins, St. Dominic and the Rosary. Near the entrance of the Garden Ibleo is the portal of the remains of the ancient church of San Giorgio, in the Catalan Gothic style, with precious lunette of Saint George slaying the dragon and the two side diamonds eagles Aragon.
The old church of San Giorgio, it is assumed erected towards the middle of the fourteenth century, during Chiaramonte era, had to be very large (three aisles) and certainly very pretty, judging by the magnificence of this portal with strong splay, which, although almost completely eroded by time and damaged by neglect, retains its ancient beauty with the sculptures in the soft local stone, it seems embroidery.
Inside the park keeps the church of San Giacomo, who had three naves of the seventeenth century, only the central, Baroque, on the other hand as the bell tower.
The church of San Domenico has a fourteenth-century bell tower decorated with colorful tiles, dilapidated, with major fault lines in the facade.
The church of the Capuchins, is characterized by a simple facade is enlivened by four pilasters with Corinthian capitals, supporting a pediment, the neoclassical accompanied by two small towers. The interior of the church roof truss contains one of the major works of Pietro Novelli said Monrealese, recognized as the most significant among the Sicilian painters of the seventeenth century: it is the Madonna with Saints and Angels (one of the apostles and a portrait of Novelli ).
Along the streets of Ibla, returning to the Basilica of St. George, you head to the vault of the church of Santa Maria delle Scale in Via XXIV Maggio.
Rebuilt after the earthquake, it saved the portal, a beautiful Gothic pulpit and the bell tower. Inside, the arches are worthy of note, Gothic and Renaissance type, and sixteenth-century image of the Virgin, terracotta work of the school of Gagini.
To the left of the church stands a tower that, in addition to the belfry, supports the balustrade of a dome, whose octagonal base is covered with polychrome tiles from Caltagirone, and vases decorated with flowers. Not far away we can see the Cosentini palace and the Bertini palace. The first one is a typical eighteenth century building. Probably the most characteristic of both palaces, whose fronts protrude from elegant balconies, ornate corbels supported by a cast of characters and a repertoire of animals, monsters, beasts, and horrible faces and fantastic shapes, which are quite common in the Sicilian baroque.
Bertini Palace, built by the Floridia family towards the end of ‘700, was later bought by Bertini, from which it derived its name. Typical there are three masks, set on the cornerstone of windows. The three sculptures have been subject to different interpretations: the most commonly accepted one is that of the “three powers.” The first mask is the poor which is deformed, with his tongue out, with some teeth missing and the enormous nose, he has the espression of that person who, not possessing anything, can not be deprived of anything. At the other end the merchant would have been represented, with a turban, a well cared mustache in a very comfortable mood, the symbol of the man who has everything and that everything can do, thanks to his money. The central figure is a nobleman, with secure and steady gaze, the one who can do everything, and therefore he represents the power of aristocracy.
The Nobleman, as the center of society, is carved into the front, between poverty and wealth.
From now on we leave Ibla and enter Ragusa Superiore, which shows in its urban layout the buildings of the eighteenth century assuming the face with the reconstruction following the devastating earthquake of 1693. The most representative building of this part of town is surely the Cathedral of St. John, located in the homonymous square.
The church, built between 1706 and 1760, has a beautiful baroque facade, a richly decorated portal and an imposing bell tower. To see inside, the fine stucco decorations of the chapels in the nineteenth century.
On the back of the church is the Rectory House, a magnificent Baroque balconies lightened by several windows.
Walking along Via Roma towards Piazza Libertà, the Ibleo Archaeological Museum can be reached by Natalelli street, at the ground floor of the Mediterranean Hotel, which houses the archaeological excavations in the province of Ragusa. They are listed geographically and chronologically from the Neolithic Age and divided into sections.
The first section collects the testimonies of the Neolithic until the ‘Age’ of the Bronze (Castelluccio culture).
The second one is exclusively dedicated to the discovery of Camarina: Necropolis kits, models and pottery of the Hellenistic and Roman city. The third section contains many examples of early Sicilian settlements: of particular interest is the documentation of the center of Monte Casasia and the necropolis of Castiglione and Ragusa Ibla. The fourth section contains documents relating to the centers of the Hellenistic period, in particular Scornavacche excavation, and reconstruction with original materials from the workshop of a potter. The fifth section houses the Roman and late Roman Age materials with a rich documentation from the centers of Caucana and Camarina, where beautiful mosaics have been found belonging to a Christian church.
Not far from the museum three bridges straddling the quarry of Santa Domenica: Bridge of the Capuchins, the first of Ragusa, was built thanks to the interest of the friars, and in particular father Occhipinti Scopetti, who supported the need of a bridge over the valley that greatly shortening the road and eliminating the effort of the climb. The bridge, inaugurated in 1835, was designed in two tiers: the lower with four arches and the top with ten ones.
A short trip can take two kilometers from the town where the mining and processing of bituminous limestone premises are located in. In the open air or in tunnels, they represent one of the largest of its kind. Not far from the mines recent excavations have unearthed a latomia, that is a cave carved into the stone with tombs of early Christian age (fourth century AD).