Ragusa is a charming town clinging to the side of a hill in southeast Sicily. In 1693 an earthquake killed just over half the population and leveled the town. Over the years, the town was rebuilt in the Baroque style that was popular at the time, but most of the people moved up the hill to newer construction better designed to withstand earthquakes. The lower town was rebuilt by the people who couldn’t afford to start over in the upper town. There are two Ragusas today: the more modern Ragusa Superiore on the higher hill and the more historic Ragusa Ibla with narrow winding roads and houses built into the sides of cliffs. Our room in our hotel is one that is built into the side of the cliffs.Our walking tour was through the old town. Our local guide stopped to visit a sculptor and joke teller in his studio.The bread truck arrived in the middle of our visit with the sculptor. Walking is nearly as difficult as San Miguel. The sidewalks are very narrow to nonexistent and a car cannot readily pass if people are in the street.The senior men in the town were busy solving the world’s problems. They were also eager to talk to our tour guide.This is one of the finest Baroque balconies in town.Most of the churches have alters made of marble of different colors.This is the beginning of some 400 steps leading from the old town to the new town.The cathedral dominates the central square in lower Ragusa. The organ has over 3000 pipes, which does not place it among the largest, but there is only one person in town who is able to play it. The windows are interesting because they are not stained glass, but are painted glass.But the highlight of the morning was going to the home of this man, the one man in town who can play the cathedral organ and who earlier in his career coached Maria Callas. He played the piano for us and gave us a tour of his home, which reminded us of the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. The walls were covered from ceiling to floor with art work, photographs, and other objects. The rooms were filled with antique furniture displaying more collectible items. Following are some pictures of several rooms to give you an idea, but you really need to be in the room surrounded by all this art work to fully appreciate the experience.The second picture from the bottom is a model of the cathedral from many years ago.
On our free time in the afternoon, we walked through the gardens at the foot of town and did a little shopping.The late afternoon and evening experience was another highlight, but I am going to save that for the next blog.