Picture a gorgeous hilltop city tucked between the smaller foothills, standing out against the Sicilian landscape.
Better yet, it’s close to busier, popular tourist spots on the island like Siracusa (Syracuse) and Catania — yet it’s nice and quiet.
For those reasons (and more), I visited Ragusa on one of my trips around Sicily and never regretted a moment of it.
Quickly, I fell in love with its beautiful Baroque architecture, perhaps the most prominent feature of Ragusa.
But there’s a tragic back story to Ragusa’s current layout and architecture, with a clear distinction between the historical center and the modern area.
The city as you see it today is the result of a devastating earthquake back in 1693: it destroyed dozens of cities and towns over eastern Sicily, and even more tragically, it wiped out over half of Ragusa’s population.
But like a phoenix from the ashes — the city built itself back in a beautiful late Baroque style as part of its earthquake recovery efforts, and it emerged more beautiful than before.
This unique architectural story that earned Ragusa and other nearby towns one of tourism’s highest distinctions: UNESCO recognition, as a World Heritage Site known as Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.
When to Visit Ragusa
While Ragusa isn’t quite as busy as some Sicilian tourist hotspots, like Taormina and Agrigento, it’s still one of the most recommended spots in Sicily.
True, the crowds aren’t as overwhelming as some of the bigger tourist areas, but you can still expect the peak summer to be busy and pricy, especially as Sicily basks in its post-White Lotus glow.
As with virtually all of Sicily, late spring and early fall are the ideal times to visit.
Winter is, of course, also a possibility.
But frankly, Sicily — and in particular its smaller towns and cities like Ragusa — really shuts down over the winter.
While you’ll save money, it’s not the best time to enjoy the island.
Plus, due to its location being both more inland and at a higher altitude than most of the island, Ragusa tends to have slightly harsher winters than the rest of Sicily.
If you’re hoping to visit between December and February, be sure to pack warm clothes! On the brighter side, you’ll find much smaller crowds.
How Many Days to Spend in Ragusa?
The city is quite small, but visitors can find many things to do in Ragusa if you want to enjoy it to its fullest.
If you can spend at least one night in Ragusa, you can take it slow and take your time checking out the lesser-known areas nearby.
However, if you’re driving around Sicily and have a packed itinerary, you can visit it in one day or less and still see the main sights.
Best Things to Do in Ragusa
First, a quick note to get you oriented.
The city of Ragusa is divided into two main areas: Superiore and Ibla.
Superiore is the modern area with organized streets and shopping areas, while Ibla is the historical core of Ragusa.
While most people tend to explore Ragusa Ibla for its Baroque beauty, the modern area is also lovely and offers spectacular views over the historical center.
Here is what you can do in both areas of charming Ragusa!
Wander around Ragusa Superiore.
Ragusa Superiore is the go-to place for shopping and eating, with a wide variety of restaurants and boutiques to peruse.
It’s also great to find scenic spots to admire the view over Ragusa Ibla.
Despite being the more modern area, you’ll also find beautiful Baroque churches, palaces, and museums.
You can also stroll through the quaint Villa Margherita, admire ancient Greek and Roman artifacts at the archaeological museum, and enjoy delicious food.
Stop off at Camiolo for pizza, or La Taverna Del Lupo for delicious Sicilian dishes.
Stop by the stunning Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista.
Located in Ragusa Superiore, the lavish Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista is a must-see stop.
Featuring elaborate Baroque architecture and a museum with religious arts and artifacts, this cathedral has a bit of everything you want in an Italian church.
There’s even a bell tower offering sweeping city views!
Explore Ragusa Ibla.
While Ragusa Superiore is worth some of your time, to be honest, you’ll probably want to spend more time exploring the smaller but more picturesque Ragusa Ibla.
The historical center of Ragusa is a compact gathering of houses with picturesque alleys and gorgeous churches.
Take some time to wander around the cobweb of narrow streets and stairways and check out the charming souvenir stores.
Be sure to stop and admire the beautiful Portale di San Giorgio, one of the few landmarks to survive the 1693 earthquake.
Wander around Giardino Ibleo.
While in the Ibla area, be sure to enjoy a peaceful stroll around Giardino Ibleo.
This lovely public garden that offers a serene setting to escape the crowds, complete with palm trees, fountains, and benches to sit in the shade.
Bonus: you can also visit the beautiful Church of San Giacomo Apostolo in the heart of the garden!
Visit the city’s beautiful Baroque churches.
You can visit spectacular Baroque churches in both Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla.
These striking buildings, built after the destructive 1693 earthquake, are the prime reason why Ragusa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with eight other places, including Noto, Catania, Acireale, and Modica.
In addition to the cathedral in Ragusa Superiore which we mentioned above, you can visit many other gorgeous churches.
A few of those include: the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio; the Church of Saint Joseph; Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio; and the Church of St Mary of the Stairs (bonus: it also offers stunning views over Ragusa Ibla!)
Be stunned by the Palazzo Arezzo Di Trifiletti.
Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti is a historic building in Ragusa Ibla that has been in the aristocratic Arezzo family since its construction following the 1693 earthquake.
The beautiful building looks out over the Duomo of San Giorgio and preserves the furniture and decorations of the 1800s following its last renovation.
The coolest thing about this building is that you can join a guided in-person tour with the current owner of the house.
They will show you around and tell you fun facts about the palace and the Arezzo family heritage!
You can book the visit in advance by filling out the contact form on the official website.
Enjoy panoramic city views from its viewpoints.
One of the best things to do in Ragusa is to look for vantage points to admire the stunning view over Ragusa Ibla and the surrounding valley.
You’ll find several incredible viewpoints around Ragusa Superiore as well as outside the city, in the hiking area east of Ragusa Ibla.
Check out the views from Mirador de Ragusa Ibla, the nearby Percorso delle Scale, the Panoramica su Ragusa Ibla on Corso Mazzini, and Panoramica su Ragusa e su Ibla at Ospedale Arezzo.
Of course, the whole area is full of beauty, so keep an eye out for other spots offering sweeping views.
Join a Sicilian cooking class.
If you spend more time in Ragusa, this Private Cooking Class at a Local’s Home is a great way to connect with the locals and take home a special memory (and some recipes to relive those memories any time you want).
Learning from an experienced home cook and eating the delicious fruits of your labor is just one perk: perhaps better yet is that it offers you a unique way to get to know the locals and their way of living.
The activity lasts roughly three hours, during which you’ll prepare a starter, pasta, and dessert, all paired with delicious local Sicilian wines, of course.
You’ll leave with new cooking skills to show off at your next dinner party or date night!
Cross the bridges for beautiful views.
Ragusa is also known in Italy as Città dei Ponti or City of Bridges in English.
This nickname is due to the three main bridges over the Valley of Santa Domenica: Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Nuovo, and Ponte Papa Giovanni XXIII.
Fun fact: the bridge names are quite literal!
Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest, built in 1843 in Roman style. Inversely, Ponte Nuovo (New Bridge) was built in 1937.
Ponte Papa Giovanni XXIII, built in 1964, is also known as Ponte Nuovissimo, which means Brand New Bridge.
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies, and she studied at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. Besides her native Romania, Roxana has lived in Rome, Lisbon, and Berlin, and she has traveled through much of Europe in search of hidden gems, history, and culture.