Full disclosure. This is no longer coming to you “live”. We have been home for a week. My blogging just couldn’t keep pace with our activities. We were BUSY! And when we weren’t busy, we were recuperating from the busyness… and drinking…and eating…and drinking.
Speaking of recuperation, the good news is that our friends recovered in time to join us the evening before we left for Ragusa. Daniel, our wonderful guide (We all love you, Daniel!) sent a doctor to the hotel in Palermo, then arranged for a driver to pick them up and bring them to our next lodging–the beautiful Agriturismo Berlingeri. AND while they were in Palermo, he had them moved to a larger room so they could be more comfortable. Pretty thoughtful!
So, about Ragusa. It is actually TWO towns–lower and upper Ragusa. After the earthquake in 1693, the majority of the population moved upward, but fortunately, some stayed behind to rebuild what is now Ragusa Ibla, the old town.
The two towns are connected by a LOOONG staircase. Graciela, our local guide, packed us onto a bus (and we were indeed packed) to the upper city so we could walk DOWN, which gave us ample opportunity to take in the panoramic views.
I didn’t count the steps, however it was NOT a strenuous stroll, especially given our frequent pauses–bathroom break, cold drinks, ogling everything. Graciela’s interesting stories kept us entertained and engaged all the way down.
Take a look at the underside of this balcony. Graciela pointed out that the top figure on the left is asking the top figure on the right for more food and drink. The figure on the left is responding with the universal hand signal for “go do something unmentionable to yourself.” Too bad the central figure is missing. Wonder what HE would have had to contribute to this interaction.
Lesson learned: take time to look UP. Cool things are EVERYWHERE!
Our walk ended at the cathedral, where St. George plays a prominent role. Here’s HIS story. Initially, St. George was portrayed as a Roman soldier, who saw the light and ended up slaying the dragon. Graciela explained the dragon symbolized the pagans who were threatening the Christians.
Sometime during the middle ages, St. George got a make-over, becoming a medieval knight. This time the dragon was more specific; he represented the Muslims and Turks who were battling the Christians for control of the holy land. THAT St. George is portrayed in the huge painting on the cathedral wall. Nobody seemed bothered that George was killing dragons in two different centuries!
I bet you’re wondering what that silver and gold box in the middle of the cathedral is all about. Nope, it doesn’t hold the 10 Commandments and it isn’t a casket–but close. It holds 32 relics! Fingers, toes, pieces of the original cross–who knows? We didn’t get the specifics. One of our guides later commented “How many fingers and toes do you think the saints had?” Let’s ponder that for a while, and commend the entrepreneurs of the middle ages.
After our tour ended, we had free time to enjoy this lovely little mountain town.
Although there is a little trolley that can take you on a tour, we decided to walk off some of the great food and wine we had been consuming. Good thing, because the next day we headed off to a farm for a “Day in the Life” of a Sicilian family.
All OAT trips include a home visit or some kind of cultural exchange, and this trip was no exception. Here are Maria and her son John Baptiste, welcoming us to the family farm. John Baptiste, an archaeologist by training, is restoring the farm, which was his mother’s childhood home.
I know this looks like it could be an instrument of torture from the Spanish Inquisition, but it is actually the original wine press.
We didn’t make wine, but we DID help with the cooking, sorta the way my little 3 and 4 year old nieces help with cooking. The woman in the brown shirt and white apron? If it weren’t for her, the result would have been VERY different!
The food was magnificent! We could even tell ourselves that WE did some of the cooking.
Check out the oven. Doesn’t get more authentic than this.
So what else would you need to know if you are going to visit Ragusa? Well, the hotel we stayed at–the San Giorgio Palace Hotel– is ideally located. It is at the edge of town, carved into the hillside, and is within walking distance of everything — all of the restaurants, shops, cathedral and park. There is a nice patio on the 4th floor, where you can sip a glass of wine and watch the sun go down over the hillside. It was quite wonderful.