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Posts tagged ‘Ragusa’

The Sicily Series | Part X – Baroque Round-up

From Catania to Noto, and all the lavishly decorated theatrical towns in between, Baroque was a huge feature of our Sicilian adventure, and very much characterised the look and feel of South Eastern Sicily. Yes, of course modernity has crept in, placing its often ugly stamp around these towns of baroque splendour, but Sicily is no Manhattan, and for the most part it is the ancient architecture which continues to dominate, even though it is often tired, dilapidated and a mere shadow of its former self. This, I think, is the true essence of the Sicilian Baroque: complete over the top theatricality while bearing all the signs of age and weathering which is a side effect of the harsh climate and the poor economic conditions which still dominate in the region.

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For me, nostalgically romantic as ever, it is this battered and broken appearance which gives the Sicilian Baroque its charm, furnishing it somehow for my perception of what the Mediterrananen aesthetic should always look like. Fascinated, I took a lot of photos, as the elaborate lines and fantastical detail of the baroque flourishes became more and more over top. While, throughout the Sicily series on my blog, you will already have seen many of these, I thought I would end this Daily Norm trip to Sicily with a final round up of the many baroque splendours on show.

So let me indulge you in the beautiful Baroque of Sicily, in the abundance of putti (cherubs) and swirling clouds that offer the promise of paradise. Gaze in wonder as life-like statues of the apostles and the saints appear to come to life upon their baroque stage-set, and be dazzled by the plethora of intricately carved balcony corbels, each displaying its unique take on the ultimate Sicilian decoration, as angels and demons, animals and even house owners are rendered in stone and set at the base of palace balconies where they can be best admired from the street below.

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Sicily is characterised by its food and its people, by its climate and its architecture, but chief amongst its influences are the tectonic actives and that ever dangerous volcano, Etna, which have so often caused havoc on the island. But with disaster comes beauty, and were it not for the great earthquake of 1693, Sicily might never have been presented with this opportunity to redesign itself in the baroque style. Today we cannot help but admire this aesthetic all the more, both for its fortuitous advent, but also in the knowledge that its fragile foundations may be rocked again one day when the powers below the earth decide its time to stir again…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

 

The Sicily Series | Part VII – Rocky, Resplendent, Regal Ragusa

It was a fair old drive from Noto to Ragusa, although the fact that our satnav tried to turn us right into a mountain ravine did not help. But when we arrived we felt a little disappointed. Sure, it had a grand looking cathedral and some nice-ish streets but what was it worth the near-death experience on the journey? It was only when we sat down at a local cafe, coffee needs predominating, that I opened my Baedeker and realised that Ragusa is actually a town split geographically in two. And we were in the wrong bit. For the real star of Ragusa, and well worth the fuss, is Ragusa Ibla, its ancient town, built on a steep hilltop across the other side of a rocky mountain valley which splits the town in two.

Of course we were parked on the wrong side of the divide, but the walk at least offered us the best possible vistas of Ragusa Ibla: a cluster of houses and churches which appear to defy gravity in their precarious positioning upon the steep slopes of the hill, and which collectively takes the breath away for the sheer feat of this human intervention upon the Sicilian landscape.

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There were many steps down to the crevice which carves Ragusa in two, and many slopes within the old town itself, but the climbing and panting and general opposition to the heat was both a necessity in this car-defying town, and a very useful mode of calorie consumption. It came, after all, just before our arrival in the Piazza del Duomo, where lunch next to a deliciously somniferous trickling fountain provided me with the star dish of the holiday as far as I was concerned: spaghetti with local Bronte pistachios, hard pecorino cheese and gamberetti. Washed down with a little local Etna wine and heaven descended, and that was before the typical ricotta desert of cannoli deconstructed into a mass of creaminess and crumbling texture.

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Stamina recovered, we were able to discover the quaint nature of this beautiful town, another with its fair share of fairytale like Baroque brilliance but on a somewhat more compact scale. Walking the narrow streets provided an inescapable exposure to wafts of garlic and pistachio, and to the perfume of herbs drooping from pots crammed onto wrought iron balconies. Some streets were so narrow as trigger maze-like disorientation. Others gave way onto stunning vistas, such as the great glass dome of the Cathedral of San Giorgio which rises above the old town, or the views across the arid mountainous landscape.

But for all those views, and the indelible beauty of Ragusa Ibla, gosh how we bemoaned its location as we made the hike up hundreds of steps, in full 30-something degrees of heat, back to our car parked in the other half of the city. But as we all know, it’s the inaccessible places that are often the greatest gems, and that was certainly the case with the treasure of Resplendent Ragusa.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.