|An itinerary in Ragusa|
| Our tour starts from the heart of Ragusa,
from the large square planned by the architects La Padula
and Fichera; it was inaugurated in 1937 and then named
Piazza Impero. From this square, now called Piazza della LibertÓ we enter our itinerary. The square is
linked to Via
Roma, (the ancient
meeting place and city parlour which is now one
of the modern commercial centres of the town) through one
of the three bridges which overlooks the Santa Domenica
valley, popularly called Ponte Nuovo. The central arcade of the bridge is 40
metres high. Turning left we get into Via Natalelli, here
from the pavement we can enjoy a view of the valley, and
of the caves in its side parts; the caves are a result of
eighteenth and nineteenth century excavations to extract
the tender limestone. The so called "dead stone"
extracted from this valley was used to build the ancient bridge and the center of Ragusa.
Finally we reach the archaeological museum inaugurated at the end of 1960 which contains all the findings of the excavations of the well known archaeologist Paolo Orsi. The Museum is made up of five sections. In the first one there are findings from the prehistoric period and materials dating back to the Bronze Age, among which we can see flints extracted from the Hyblaean mountains according to the most widespread activity in ancient times. In the second one, as well as in the fifth one, we can admire findings from the archaeological area of Kamarina where two mosaics of the roman age have been restored. In the other sections we may find a kiln for ceramics in the Scornavacche village, ceramics, the reconstruction of tombs and funerary equipment.
Out of the museum, a few feet away on the left, going up three small flight of steps we are again in Via Roma. We walk as far as Corso Italia and on our right we find the Cathedral of "S. Giovanni" the patron saint of the town. It is a masterpiece of baroque art, built after the earthquake during the eighteenth century, the construction of this church lasted fifty years under the direction of two master builders Rosario Boscarino and Mario Spata. The designer of the project is still unknown; it was one of the first works to be put up in the new town; the church was acknowledged as mother church in 1895, and as cathedral in 1950. According to a legend the nice quadrangular belfry grows one millimetre higher each year, while, owing to one of the seven secrets of Ibla, and to the law of compensation, the belfry of the Immacolata church gets one millimetre shorter. The two orders fašade has three portals and six hardy columns decorated with Corinthian capitals. The central portal reproduces the statues of San Giovanni Evangelista and San Giovanni Battista. In the middle we find the statue of the Immaculate Conception instead of the statue of the patron saint to honour the memory of the old country church which once was in this place. Inside the church we may breathe the suggestive atmosphere of the light which filters through the panes of the dome. Looking upwards, the frescoes on the pendentive of the dome, sustained by eight pillars, catch your eye. The work of Salvatore Cascone from Ragusa portrays the four evangelists while two big bronze angels support the enormous chandeliers. The latin cross interior is divided into three naves; columns, vaults, arcades and numerous chapels guarding works of art draw our attention. At the end of the central nave the imposing organ Serassi Tamburini stands out with its monumental pipes; it is an excellent craft which has been giving for centuries pleasant and mellow sounds. In the right nave we find the first chapel called the Baptistery Chapel with frescoes by Cascone depicting scenes from the Old and the New Testament.
A christening font of Carmelo Cappello, the great Hyblaean sculptor of the contemporary school recently dead, has a great artistic value.
Before the gardens of the Cathedral, we may see the church of the Collegio di Maria Addolorata, which with its neo-classic fašade and its echoes of baroque art, is in perfect harmony with the Cathedral. Going down the stairs, we head towards Via Mariannina Coffa on the right side of the square, and then we move to Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) a pedestrian precinct, recently restored. The Bridge is named after the capuchin friar, who more than anyone else helped in building it in 1825. It is said that Padre Scopetta changed the original project so that the route of the bridge made a detour to link it to the Capuchin Square where there is the church with the same name.
From here, turning left, we head towards the bridge "Giovanni XXIII", the latest one which was inaugurated in 1964. At the corner with Corso Vittorio Veneto, in a very favourable position there is Palazzo Zacco, a noble mansion. The Zacco family in the nineteenth century, purchased it from the Baron Melfi di SantAgostino. On the corner of the mansion some stone putti sustain the coat of arms. The baroque corbels which reproduce two faces, a charming one and a grotesque one sustain the balcony. The stone masques represent musicians and sirens, among them the masque with a sarcastic smile seems to make fun of the observers.
Further on, this road crosses Corso Italia, an important road full of shops; at the street number 35, we may stop and watch Palazzo Bertini. It shows three unmistakable stone masks which decorate the arches of the little balconies. One of the possible interpretations of these expressions of baroque art is that the chubby cheeks of the right stone mask represent richness, while the comical and scanty expression of the left mask is the symbol of poverty. In the middle, the nobleman stands out with its glacial and aristocratic look.
Going down the Corso, we achieve our itinerary at the beginning of Via XXIV Maggio. Here in 1838 a votive aedicule (fiuredda) was built to thank the Madonna del Rosario for the end of the cholera epidemic which caused so many victims among the population.