So, as foreshadowed by this post our account of our weekend in the south begins with two more car-related incidents.
Incident One: Had to pull off in some grass because a truck approached on the not-one-way rural road we were on. While sitting there, Chris casually asked me how much longer until we hit Ragusa, which we couldn’t see yet.
Me: “Three minutes.”
Long pause. Long glance at the fields of cows and sheep around us.
Both of us: “Wait, what?”
Turns out the GPS was leading us to the middle of some random field, basically. Whoops. Easy fix, though.
This is where we realized we weren’t three minutes from Ragusa
Incident Two: We made it to Ragusa and were marveling at how little traffic was on the road. We were following our instructions and down a cobbled street that, again, one might have assumed was a one-way. Nope. The tiny Fiat in front of us squeezed past the bus, but it wasn’t even close for our Toyota. So we ended up backing up the better part of a block so that the bus could get past. This happens a lot though, so the cars behind us were obliging!
Anyway, it was a rainy morning in Ragusa but we still had a great time walking around, riding a tourist train and (mostly) eating. Most important of all was just admiring THIS VIEW:
We decided to park temporarily on a sidewalk (other cars were doing it!) to evaluate our options because the road looked like this:
For the record, we did end up driving this way to go home and it was totally fine.
Chris realized there were stairs into the center of town, so we decided to walk instead of driving. If anyone else is visiting, I highly recommend this. The walk was slightly perilous because the stairs were slippery from rain, but it was otherwise beautiful and not nearly as far as it looks in the pictures.
We just walked toward what we figured would be the center of town, and the next thing we knew we were coming up right next to the Duoma Sant’Giorgio, and the piazza next to it.
We stopped for some cappuccino in a shop right on the square to get our bearings (and because the kids are always better behaved when fed) and I went to investigate a small tourist train on the plaza. I assume the combination of it being the low season and rainy, but no one was out and the train driver agreed to take us whenever. We ended up being trend setters though, because a Rick Steves tour group turned up and ended up joining as well. We had a nice time talking to a couple from the Pacific Northwest, who we also ran into in Noto the next day.
When we ran into them in Noto, they announced they were apparently here just to take a picture of the four of us. So we ended up with two pictures of the four of us in two days, haha
The tourist train was pricey at 20 euro (I should probably have negotiated a free ride for the kids, since I didn’t specify when talking to the guy) but worth it because of the rain. We got a chance to ride around and see some of the sites and hear just a little bit of history along the way. I did wonder a tiny bit about some of the translation; for instance, it announced that people would go to the “Church of Purgatory” to be covered in honey so bees and other insects would sting them. Sounds a bit out there, but on the other hand … people did wear hair shirts and whip themselves, so who knows?
View from the train
Like many of the other cities we’ve been in, Ragusa was rebuilt in the Baroque style after the 1693 earthquake that destroyed so much of Sicily. It is one of eight towns that have been described by UNESCO World Heritage as “representing the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe.”
After the tour, we wandered and ate, mostly. We tried some kind of pastry that was basically fried elephant ears about the size of tennis balls (amazing) and some pistachio cream (vivid green and surprisingly delicious). We also ended up at an ice cream shop since I’d heard tell of Ragusa’s wine ice cream. (Really, it was all in the name of research.) It turned out this place had several flavors of wine ice cream, so I went with moscato. And dude — it did taste exactly like moscato. Not quite like regular ice cream, but not like a wine icee either. I had gotten it more for the novelty than with any expectation it would be any good, but it was actually really delicious. I did not see the olive oil ice cream, which is apparently also a thing, but I would have liked just a tiny sample. I really can’t imagine how that would taste?
We were staying in Modica, as I mentioned before, and it was an easy drive from there — maybe a half hour? We spent the morning and early afternoon there, then headed home in time for (we hoped) a nap before our 4:30 p.m. chocolate tour in Modica.
We packed up our apartment Sunday morning and headed out to Noto, about an hour away. Noto has been dubbed “The Stone Garden” because of the sheer number of gorgeous churches, palaces and other buildings done in the Baroque style (yes, after the earthquake). We had a great time just wandering the streets and taking it all in (especially since it was a Sunday morning).
One of our first sights
I did decide to go up to the bell tower of one particular church (name escapes me, sorry) but only made it to the halfway point because it was making me dizzy. This is a terrible picture, but these tiny stairs included a rope for you to hold on since there wasn’t a handrail. I’m not sure how I would have handled it if someone had come down the stairs as I was going up, or vice-versa — I guess one of us would have had to reverse?
View from the spot I did make it to
This is the city’s most iconic building, the Noto Cathedral. On the inside, it was surprisingly white and light — very different from most of the European churches I’ve seen. It reminds me a little of the Sagreda Familia in Barcelona in that way, but obviously not a fraction as ornate as that place
That Rick Steves’ trip couple took this picture too!
On the steps of a palazzo across from the cathedral, waiting for me to climb down from the bell tower
We had a gorgeous lunch at Trattoria al Buco, which seemed to be a popular Sunday lunch spot for the after-church crowd, I’m guessing. We sat at a table outside just across from the Chiesa Santa Chaira and I had the tied-for-best ravioli with meat sauce I’ve ever had.
Chris playing with the kids at lunch
Mommy enjoying herself at lunch while he did this
We ended up finding a park to play in for a while, paused to watch the world’s largest cat baiting a tiny dog and stealing its food and wandered a bit longer before we decided it was time to call it a weekend. We had a great time!