Frommer’s description of Ragusa, “The landscapes around Ragusa are among the most memorable (and eerie) in Sicily. Many are crisscrossed with low-lying stone walls, pieced laboriously together without mortar, and lying in impoverished solitude beneath the punishing sun “, really left me wondering what we would find.
But once we crossed the valley and started up the hill near the town, we began to see these fields, not under a punishing sun but with a light drizzle in the air and white with wild flowers. More reminiscent of Scotland and their stone bordered fields than anything so ominous and “eerie”. What else are you going to do with all those rocks when you have fields to clear?
The town itself is divided into two parts, the old Ilba and the new city perched on top an even higher hill than the one Ibla sits on. The old style, crumbling buildings are jammed together, a few washed in brighter colors of the sun -yellow, orange and red, completely covering both hill tops with a few church steeples piercing through.
As you can imagine the streets are narrow and wind around, impossible to follow even with a map as there are very few street signs. It is difficult even to find a road by which you can enter the old town with a car as so many streets are staircases rather than actual streets. To make matters worse, the location of the hotel in the guidebook was off by a street or so. I left Don with the car and set off on foot eventually finding the hotel halfway up one of the staircases in streets behind the Duomo. The owner of the B&B was very charming and explained where we could park the car. We just had to wind around to the street just above the hotel, and then walk back down the staircase.
Sounded simple enough, but again without street signs and the streets winding around the hill it was hard to tell exactly where we were. I asked a couple of men doing stone work on one the staircases the name of the street we were on. They were very amiable and after studying my map for the longest time, in the end gave me what turned out to be the wrong information. Finally we figured the map out on our own. It turned out we were on the right street all along. I was just looking for the staircase in the wrong direction.
The town really does have beautiful old crumbling buildings with fabulous view of the valley around. A lovely place to walk around and take in the architecture and views, that is, once the car is parked!
For dinner we had reservations at the Michelin starred Duomo Ristorante.
Caelum Hyblae Hotel Review
A Lonely Planet listing, really is a lovely little seven room B&B located off a staircase, not a true street, at Salita Specula 11. (Note that the location on the Lonely Planet map is off a street or two. As you face the Duomo, on the street to the right of the Duomo, Via Duomo, there is a sign to the hotel pointing up a flight of stairs.)
The B&B has tastefully decorated rooms, mostly in white, complementing the old stone building. Our room had a view of the hills beyond the city. There are also a couple of other comfortable public rooms in the building decorated in the same manner.
Concerning breakfast, the second B in B&B isn’t near the first B, that is you are given a coupon and have to walk a couple of blocks through lovely Ragusa to a bar that upon being given said coupon will serve you a coffee of your choice, a well made pastry and a bottle of some juice drink. If it is unfortunately raining at the time, you will have to eat your breakfast Italian style, standing at the counter. Not generally what most guests have in mind when they think of a B&B.
While the owners, a young couple, are very friendly and helpful the reception is not manned 24 hours or even a full 8 hours. It is very important, therefore, that you let them know when you are coming.
Parking is on the street above the hotel or in a very small parking lot on the same street. Luggage must be carried down a flight of stairs, and of course back up again when you leave.
There is no internet access. It is, however, very conveniently located to the Michelin starred Duomo Ristorante, just down another flight of stairs. All in all perfectly charming hotel in a lovely town.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.