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VagabondsUSA "TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY AND NARROW MINDEDNESS." MARK TWAIN

Sicily: Ragusa and Modica

ITALY | Monday, 6 March 2023 | Views [103]

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell Itria, Ragusa Ibla

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell Itria, Ragusa Ibla

WITH APOLOGIES TO CROSBY, STILLS, NASH and Young, “Our house is a very, very, very fine house” . . . with three cats in the yard, a three-footed dog, two horses, a mule and a flock of chickens. 

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                     Two Cats in the Yard (and one in the wine cellar) 

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     Three-footed dog

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                               Fresh eggs daily

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                                                      Nonna Agatha

Giovanni was leaving as we arrived and Agatha took over the check-in. She speaks no English but enthusiastically droned on in Italian until her son arrived. Uccio showed me around our latest AirBnB, a three-bedroom stone farmhouse in Ragusa in southeastern Sicily—he even drew me a liter of their home-made wine right from the barrel. The walls are two-feet thick and the only heat downstairs is the oven so it isn’t much warmer than the 45°F outside temperature. We have been spending our free time in the bedroom with the heat pump/air con cranked up.

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                     Charming but "molto freddo"

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                Uccio draws some family vintage

Modern Ragusa has all the amenities—groceries, laundry, pharmacy and even a McDonalds. The older late-Baroque area is called Ibla, mostly rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1693. Parking for Ibla is where you find it on a narrow winding road and from there requires an uphill hike through arched tunnels or up hidden stairways. Ibla has around 50 churches ranging from three obscure churches crowded into the small Hyblaean Gardens to the towering Cathedral of San Giorgio which dominates Piazza Duomo. We didn’t find all the churches in the up-and-down maze but we gave it our best shot before the weather turned bad.

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            Stairways in Ragusa

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               Piazza del Duomo and San Giovanni

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                    Chiesa di San Guiseppe

With the Glory That Was Rome we sometimes forget that Italy as a nation didn’t exist until 1861—and it didn’t become a Republic until the year after I was born! So despite all the myths surrounding Donnafugata’s origin, it isn’t surprising that most of the building is from the 19th Century. We were surprised, however, that we were able to pay the anziani entry fee—until now for only 65+ EU residents. And luckily we arrived just ahead of a tour bus of Italians. 

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               Entrance to Donnafugata—at a reduced price, no less

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                   Donnafugata Castle from the Garden

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                  Hall of Mirrors

Of the 100 or so rooms, only the primo piano was open but it was enough to give us asense of how nobility lived in imperial Italy. The garden was a copy of a formal English garden complete with a unique stone maze and the largest magnolia tree I’ve ever seen.

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               Sabadi Chocolate—for the distinguished palate

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                  Explanation before the Tasting

Modica is a smaller version of Ragusa with only 26 churches. It is famous for its chocolates—not the chocolate itself which comes from South America—but the unique recipes. It is hand-blended resulting in a more granular product than we are used to and it come is strengths from un-leaded 50% cacao to nitro 90%. Various versions are blended with mandarins, lemons, pomegranates, salt, anise and other strange ingredients that would make the folks in Hershey PA cringe.

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            Funerals in both San Giorgio and San Giovanni today 

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                  Panoramic View from Modica

Both major churches, San Giorgi and San Giovanni, were conducting funerals today so we weren’t able to enter. While Connie was perusing her map the old Italian guy kept pointing up a narrow lane and insisting (I imagine) that we should go in that direction. Turns out it took us to a panoramic viewpoint so, “Molto grazie.”

 

 

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