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November 12, 2008

Ragusa to Agrigento

Filed under: Italy Rome-Sicily 2008, Travel — anotherheader @ 10:30 pm

Ragusa Superiore in the morning light

Ragusa Superiore in the morning light

The morning quiet in Ragusa was broken by the clang of the bells from the nearby Duomo San Giorgio. No need for an alarm clock here! When the bells fell silent, the only the sounds that remained were from the birds, the braying donkeys in the distance, and small, slowly moving vehicles collecting garbage and making the local deliveries.

Becky and workers in the morning

Becky and workers in the morning

Again on this day we were out early into the cool, fresh air and glowing light to explore the environs. On the crown of a hill, Ragusa Ilba is small. The interior of the town is serviced by a traversing band of narrow one-way road. Steep walkways with steps interconnect the road segments and provide more direct routes for those on feet. Our path took us all through the town. Views of the countryside appeared suddenly as the alleyways opened up revealing the surrounding terrain.

Eventually all roads lead to the Piazza del Duomo. We arrived to find the spectacular baroque cathedral with its yellow stone bathed in the warm sunlight of the morning. Having opted out of breakfast at the B&B, our walk ended with a pastry and cappuccino with the locals in café along the piazza. We’d loved to have stayed longer and relaxed in Ragusa, but it was time for us to leave. This corner of Sicily, with its beautiful, peaceful baroque towns, certainly  draws us back.

San Giuseppe in Ragusa

San Giuseppe in Ragusa

With the TomTom back in charge, we headed to Villa del Casale near Piazza Armerina. Not that we’re paranoid, or at least, not that we think we are paranoid, but sometimes it seems like the TomTom is trying to lure us to our deaths.

“That’s odd, why is the TomTom taking us down this way?” I said to the BeckBeck system.

“I don’t know about this,” returned the BeckBeck.

After a pause, the BeckBeck continued with attitude, “And I don’t know why you listen to HER, anyway.”

The Duomo (San Giorgio) in Ragusa

The Duomo (San Giorgio) in Ragusa

Obviously this conversation wasn’t going anywhere. Perhaps it was time to reconsider the nasty installation of the TomTom to BeckBeck interface cable as a way to mitigate the emerging intersystem jealousies. Unfortunately the microscopic road that the insistent TomTom had guided us down wasn’t going anywhere either. I’m beginning to think that the TomTom has some of the same issues as the BeckBeck system. That could be bad for me, real bad.

The portal of San Giorgio Vecchio, Ragusa

The portal of San Giorgio Vecchio, Ragusa

Steep and super narrow, the single lane dirt and gravel road with deep trenches on both sides was going nowhere fast. We thought this was impossible in Italy, but we were starting to here the banjos play. And that’s never a good sign.

Fortunately we found a driveway angling sharply up off the grade of the road. With a twenty-eight point turn and a cloud of tire smoke induced by the Punta’s non-existent low end torque and funky clutch combination coupled with the loose road surface, we screamed up and out of the TomTom’s trap.

Back on the highway, the TomTom was quickly recovered and acted like nothing had happened. Maybe it was just testing us.

Mosaics in Villa del Casale

Mosaics in Villa del Casale

Villa del Casale is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 3rd and 4th century Roman hunting lodge has uncertain origins. The lodge was preserved when it was covered in mud from a flood in the 12th century and has been unearthed only recently to reveal the framework of the lodge and its incredibly extensive and beautiful mosaics. As visitors to Villa del Casale, we came away with a strong feeling of what life was like for the rich and powerful of the day. For the lucky few, life would have been extremely comfortable.

Back in the car and rolling on minor roads past dry the hills, prickly pear cactus farms, olive orchards, and vineyards, we headed to Agrigento. Agrigento would be our second to last stop on the trip.

Our accommodations near Agrigento were at Fattoria Mose, an agriturismo. Staying at an agriturismo basically means staying at a farm house. Tourism of this sort has been encouraged by the government to help out struggling small farms.

Restoration in progress at Villa del Casale

Restoration in progress at Villa del Casale

The Fiat wound through the roads of the spreading suburbia and struggled up the hill to the gate for Fattoria Mose. Inside the compound, past the sleeping dogs and cats, and into the massive farmhouse we met our hosts, Chiara and Ernesto. Chiara is fluent in multiple languages and is a welcoming hostess.

We were shown to our room and settled in, having decided to pay a little extra for the evening meal at the farmhouse. Fattoria Mose, built in the 1800’s, is a large complex of buildings surrounding three courtyard areas. Inside the main building, the ceilings are high and the rooms are spacious and breezy. The house is decorated with older furnishings that reinforce the farmhouse feel. With the hospitality, and the building, it felt as if we were staying at a friend’s or perhaps a distant Sicilian cousin’s house. Our room was comfortable and we took a long nap anticipating the late dinner.

Roman mosaics in Villa del Casale

Roman mosaics in Villa del Casale

Fattoria Mose remains as a working farm, producing organic produce, olive oil, seasonal fruits, almonds, pistachios, loofa, and other items for sale. The ingredients were reflected in our rustic, home cooked meal. Becky seemed to be particularly enamored with the new olive oil being served, literally drowning her salad in it. It was either that, or the top came off the bottle. It was hard to tell for sure.

Dinner was shared with Chiara, Ernesto, Chiara’s grandmother and 5 other travelers, all English speaking. From the other traveler’s, we received lots of information on where to go and what to do in Sicily. It was unfortunate that this meal came towards the end of our visit as there is no way we could make it to all the places suggested. Curiously, all three couples at dinner were using the same system to get around—a rental car and a GPS. Everyone found this approach to be enabling.

The Duomo in Ragusa Ilba at dawn

The Duomo in Ragusa Ilba at dawn


Fattoria Mose:

More information about agriturismos:


  1. […] was the third of the eight UNESCO Baroque towns that we have visited. We very much liked Ragusa and the small bit of Noto that we saw on our 2008 visit. The architecture in this area of Sicily is […]

    Pingback by Sicily: Modica | Another Header — July 8, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

  2. […] in southeastern Sicily. Motivated by their UNESCO World Heritage designations, we visited Rasgusa and Noto in 2008. We liked both towns. It led us to return to the area in 2016 to visit Modica, another town […]

    Pingback by Sicily: Scicli | Another Header — July 16, 2017 @ 8:36 am

  3. […] Villa Romana del Casale […]

    Pingback by The List | Another Header — October 3, 2019 @ 8:21 pm

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