Ragusa and Paestum, Italy
The city (approx. 73,000 inhabitants) is located in the south of the Italian island of Sicily and belongs to the Sicily region. The core city is around 500 m above sea level in the Hyblean Mountains. The very large district of Ragusa extends to the south coast of the island. Cultural tourists who undertake study trips to Sicily should definitely spend a day or even several days in Ragusa to visit the baroque buildings that characterize the cityscape.
Arrival and best travel time
Ragusa is easy to reach via the nearby Comino Airport. From Syracuse there is a railway line to Ragusa. If you are primarily interested in cultural visits and want to avoid too much heat, you should not necessarily make the trip to Sicily in midsummer, but perhaps rather in April / May or September / October. Spring in the region is extremely sunny (seven to eight hours of sunshine in April and May per day!) And is pleasantly warm. Beach holidays in the Ragusa region are possible from June to September. The sea water is already approx. 21 ° C in June, 24 ° C in July and 25 ° C in September.
A city made up of two cities
The ancient city of Ragusa was nearly destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1693. The residents rebuilt it, separately in two parts of the city, as “Lower Town” and “Upper Town”. The lower town is called Ragusa Ibla, the upper town Ragusa Superiore. Both parts of the city are characterized by late baroque buildings from the 18th century. A staircase of 242 steps connects the lower town with the upper town. The trip is worth it just for a walk up these stairs! Some of the steps have been extended to form viewing platforms, and strollers can enjoy the view over the lower town and the surrounding mountains. A walk at dusk is particularly romantic. In Ragusa Ibla, the lower town, the church “San Giorgio” is particularly worth seeing; it was built around 1750 and has a beautiful baroque facade and a representative dome. The town’s Archaeological Museum is located in the upper town of Ragusa Superiore. The most beautiful buildings are the large cathedral “San Giovanni”, which is decorated inside with marble columns, and the church “Santa Maria delle Scale”, whose portal from the 14th century was left standing during the earthquake.
A trip to the beach
Marina di Ragusa is the name of the district on the sea coast, which is approx. 25 km away from the city center. It is a former fishing village that has now become the region’s tourist attraction. The sandy beaches of Marina di Ragusa stretch for several kilometers. The new marina is very romantic.
Anyone taking a trip or study trip through Italy will be able to admire great monuments from many epochs – including the ruins of the Roman Forum, the excavations in Pompeii or the Renaissance buildings in Florence. But smaller and perhaps lesser-known sites also have a lot to offer. This also includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site Paestum, in Campania.
In the footsteps of the Greeks in Italy
Before the Roman Empire was even thought of, the Greeks established colonies on the Italian peninsula and beyond. These colonies in turn have their own daughter cities and one of them was Paestum, which was founded as Poseidonia around 600 BC by the inhabitants of Sybaris or Troizen. The current ruins of the once flourishing settlement, which has become prosperous through agriculture and trade, allow a good overview of the development of Greek architecture: If the Hera temple is still assigned to the archaic Doric style, the other two large temples are considered to be Examples of buildings in the classic, Doric style. Ionic style elements can even be found in the Temple of Athena. The Romans also left their mark on Paestum: An amphitheater and a few other public buildings come from them before Paestum was abandoned around 500 AD. The Museum of Paestum offers an insight into the life of the Greeks in southern Italy – finds from necropolises are exhibited here, including the allegorical tombstone of the high diver.
Paestum’s rediscovery in the 18th century
While the Renaissance brought back the ideas of antiquity, the 18th century increased interest in ancient monuments and art. In Germany, Winckelmann is particularly responsible for this development. The educational trip to Italy is becoming fashionable and the discoveries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum lure intellectuals to Italy – including Goethe and Seume, who both report with fascination about the overgrown and forgotten ruins.