Dwight Peck's personal website

Sicily in December 2012

On the track of the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, Italians and Commissario Montalbano

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.


We've sped down the southern coast road from Agrigento -- ironically, gliding right past Licata in painful ignorance that it was used for Montalbano's port scenes and after-lunch pensive walks to the lighthouse (thanks to the Guardian's article for that little oversight!) -- and turned inland at Vittoria, and got completely lost -- COMPLETELY lost -- in Ragusa, up and down the narrow streets interminably looking for our B+B, until finally some kindly gentlemen in a café let on that we weren't in Ragusa, we were in Comiso.

Finally we're here, having similarly roamed in vain all round Ragusa Superiore, the fairly undistinguished "new" town built after the earthquake of 1693, until we chanced upon our B+B (far left) nestled down between Upper Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla, the old town.

We're in A Casa di Grazia B+B, a rather artsy place that's inexpensive and quite nice (except that, errmm, the breakfast was mainly coffee-left-out-in-a-thermos and packaged snacks).

Our problem, alas, was that though the website promised "Internet", we misread that as "WiFi", and Kristin's got a Mac . . . thus . . . no ethernet port; so lest we miss too many of the developing events around the world, we had to cut our stay short to only two nights.

A Casa di Grazia couldn't be better located, right at the edge of the Ibla old town.

We're taking an early evening reconnoitre of the Ibla delights.

Like the Duomo.

And a view from the Ibla high point, the Piazza Solarino above the Duomo, back at Ragusa Superiore up the hill

Ibla street scenes

The Piazza della Repubblica, the crossroads and low point between Ragusa proper and the Ibla historic old town

The Piazza della Repubblica at dinner time

We're in the Ristorante Antica Macina, just next door to our B+B -- very good, and our host discoursed ably and animatedly on what's wrong with Italian politicians these days, whilst the kids dashed charmingly about underfoot. (We were alone in the place, but they'd done a pretty good business with a busload of tourists at mid-day.)

Our host on the left, and Montalbano (Luca Zingaretti) on the right. On our second night, Kristin had a true Montalbano moment when our host announced that, quite apart from the menu, a friend had brought in two fish he'd just caught himself with a rod and reel, and Kristin went for it enthusiastically. When it arrived, another couple at the next table, who'd just finished their dessert and coffee, took a look at it and ordered the other one.

Here's the Antica Macina in daylight. When it's nearly empty (as everywhere in December), you get to play with the kids -- and watch cartoons on the television when Berlusconi's pontificating smugly on every other TV channel.

It's time to see the sights.

We're starting out over there at the Piazza della Repubblica again, this time in daylight.

Ragusa Ibla -- this is the fantastic helicopter circuit in the opening sequences of every Montalbano film (just before the helicopter zooms in on Montalbano's home . . . on the beach).

The Church of the Souls of Purgatory in the Piazza della Repubblica -- built around 1650, it's the only Ibla edifice to have survived the earthquake of 1693. It's said to have iron rings round the outside where the Holy Inquisition could torture heretics al fresco.

We're digressing a bit up the hill towards Ragusa Superiore to get the panoramic Montalbano-helicopter view of Ragusa Ibla.

There it is (but without Montalbano's swooping helicopter) -- the Cathedral just behind the giant monastery on the summit. Ragusa is a "twin city", by the way, with Little Rock, Arkansas, USA . . . fancy that.

Ragusa dates to ancient Sicel settlements but developed under Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantine Greeks, Arabs, and Normans, until it became a stronghold of the Chiaramonte family from the 13th century. In 1693 Ibla, like much of the region, was collapsed by an earthquake -- most of the survivors set about establishing a new city in Ragusa Superiore, but Ibla was rebuilt as well, and the two remained administratively separate until 1926. Most of the Ibla old city dates from the early 18th century baroque era.

Near the Duomo

Nearer to the Duomo

The Duomo, the Cathedral of San Giorgio, dating from 1738. We're in serious Montalbano country now -- the Piazza Duomo extending eastward down from here is the most frequently seen urban setting for weddings, funerals, drive-by purse-snatchings, and what not.

Christ Pantocrator

Oh no, that couldn't be!

Another view of the inside -- it's okay, but only just (a "barker").

Another view of the front of the Duomo and its long march of steps down to the Piazza

The Cathedral and its gated steps, and on the left the steps up to the museum and to the high point of town at the Piazza Solarino and parts of the university.

Looking downhill, the Piazza Duomo, site of Montalbano's weddings, funerals, etc., and a place that sells wine-flavored ice cream

The Piazza below the Cathedral

The Cathedral

The Church of San Giuseppe, from the 18th century


La Rusticana restaurant -- the interior is the setting for the Trattoria San Calogero in the Montalbano films.

The Giardino Ibleo, or Ibla Gardens, at the lower, eastern end of the town, with the usual collection of baroque churches queueing up for our attention

Garden scenes

The Cathedral peeking over rooftops

Ragusa Superiore up on the horizon

The church of San Giorgio within the park

The Trattoria Vigata -- heh heh heh!

The Duomo again. Over on the right is the community club that appears in some of the films.

The Conversation Club

The Cathedral's dome (1820) and the countryside beyond

Kristin's gone back to the B+B, and I'm lost.

But I know where Ragusa Superiore is, anyway.

Ragusa Ibla street scenes

More street scenes

Is this the way out?

Tomorrow we'll be visiting Commissario Montalbano's house on the fictional "Marinella" seashore, his police headquarters in "Vigata", and the Mafia chief Don Balduccio Sinagra's palace. Ready for this?


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 24 January 2013.