Monday 11 June 2012

Upper Ragusa

"Does Ragusa have anything to do with ragu sauce?"

You can certainly count on me to ask Cesco a stupid question like this. It has nothing to do with the meat based sauce of course!

Ragusa is one of the most fascinating towns in Sicily. One that has caused many visitors' jaw to drop as they first set eyes on the lower Baroque town, with many buildings protected by UNESCO patronage. Cesco is so proud of his hometown and after the visit, I could understand why.

Standing there and taking in all the wonderful sights before me, it dawned on me if you grow up in an environment steeped in history, art and culture as this, you will most certainly speak and write with as much passion as him. He tends to describe everything in great detail with the right embellishments and emotions that tug at your heartstrings.

During my travels to Italy, I am always in awe with the kind of buzz and viva-life around me. Southern Italians are known to speak with their hands. They are always in animated discussions, gesticulating wildly as they speak. Unlike us, they are not always in a hurry. During our two nights there, dinner at Cesco's house did not start until 9.30pm.
It was a long walk to Cesco's house. Luckily he helped with my backpack.
Ragusa is really two towns combined in one municipality: Lower Ragusa (Ragusa Ibla), an ancient city rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake and Upper Ragusa, the new city built in the early 1700s on the ridge across from the old city of Ibla.

Our bus finally stopped at Upper Ragusa after a 2-hour journey through the countryside in Southern Sicily. The journey took us past rolling hills and large patches of farmland divided by stone walls, like a scene out of Scotland or England, albeit with warm mediterranean climate.
We picked up some Sicilian bread here.

This bread is shaped like an 'S'.
Next, we stopped by the fishmongers for fresh sardines.
They sell grilled seafood too.
To get to his house at the old side of town, we had to walk through Upper Ragusa, also known as the ugly part of Ragusa (according to Cesco) which features solid, unadorned buildings built during the fascist period.
 As we approached the bridge that separates the two towns, we caught a glimpse of Ragusa Ilba in the distance. The sight of the jumble of houses, churches and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge was really quite breathtaking. No wonder Ragusa Ilba is a tourist magnet.

Once we were across the bridge, it was like entering a different era. It is definitely prettier here.
Finally, we arrived at his house which overlooks the old town of Ragusa. What a magnificent view!
A piece of artwork by his mom hangs by his front door.
He lives in a uniquely narrow house with 3 floors crammed with books, CDs and loads of collectibles.
For lunch, we ate this Sicilian specialty - a pastry stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce.
Cesco brought out his best wine to celebrate our get-together.
A toast to friendship.
View from his window.
His cat named Alicia.
 His mother and sister stopped by to say hello. His mum Gabriella who is an artist, said my Asian features reminded her of the Tahitian women in Paul Gauguin's paintings. The next day, she presented me with a book by Gauguin.
Lucia (his sis), May Ling, Cesco and Gabriella.
We think Gabriella is so cool.
 That night, we returned to Cesco's house for dinner. He made a pasta sauce using the fresh sardines he bought earlier. He also added wild fennel.
 Then he started making a special topping (using breadcrumbs and garlic) for the pasta.
 The pasta was a springy kind, like ramen.
 Voila, the pasta was served!
His girlfriend brought a Sicilian pie, with salted cod and potato filling, made by her mother. It was really delicious!
We had some mulberries grown by her uncle. These were the sweetest mulberries I had ever tasted. 
May Ling gave them a scarf which they both loved very much!


Amel said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your travel photos. :-D

Open Kitchen Concept said...

I love reading your posts. Did you know there's a chocolate called regusa which is v delicious?

Blur Ting said...

Thanks Amel!

SB - Really? Actually there is a small town called Modica in Ragusa which produces chocolate according to their old traditional method. We were supposed to go there but ended up with other plans.

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