The concept of the Iblean Garden locked at a cliffy edge of the rocky hill was “born” in 1858 thanks to the initiative of Ragusa’s nobles....
Giardini Iblei (Ibla’s Gardens) adds and extra dimension to this captivating town. Just imagine a narrow steep-sided rocky ridge with no space for any “extravaganza”, place where each and every “free” foot of soil was already snatched long time ago for construction of churches, palaces, regular houses, leaving little space for narrow streets, tight passages and plazas, and then suddenly you see meticulously maintained open green space. In a way it’s a feeling that can be compared to the reaction of an unsuspecting tourist discovering Manhattan’s Central Park hidden in the middle of the jungle of NYC’s skyscrapers.
Commemorative plaque dedicated to the fathers of Ibla gardens
Ibla Gardens are truly big "discovery" for tired visitors
Ibla Gardens: Contrast of colors
Walking path in the gardens
But even this analogy gives false sense of similarity because the area of the Central Park at the time of its foundation was still “in the middle of nowhere” (more precisely, in the middle of the shanty towns with no future) while the Ibla’s Garden was planned in the “Center of Everything” dating to the times of prosperity under the rules of Chiaramonte. The garden is locked at the cliffy edge of the rocky hill where making one more step ahead will put you in the state of the free-fall…. In this sense Ibla bears a resemblance to another Sicilian jewel – Taormina.
The concept of Iblean Gardens was “born” in 1858 thanks to the initiative of local nobles: Carmelo Arezzo of Treffiletti, Emanuele La Roca Impelizzeri and Marquise Giuseppe Maggiore of Santa Barbara. The commemorative plaque making evidence of their vision and expressing the gratitude of Ibla’s inhabitants is placed on the wall of the Capuchin Convent (itself located within the Gardens)
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens are perched at the edge of the cliff offering panoramic view on the valley
Not surprisingly you will also find Rock Garden
Iblean Gardens are located on the south-eastern part of the rocky ridge overlooking the Irminio Valley. The gate at the end of Corso XXV Aprile (Ibla’s main street) opens into magnificent Palms’ Avenue – a large promenade flanked by rows of Phoenix palms. It brings you to a totally different world, almost seamlessly extending far beyond the edge of Ibla’s ridge into nature. Along the promenade you will find stone-carved vases with flowers and may be more precious – inviting little oases of serenity with outsized stone-benches…. The promenade ends at the monument commemorating fallen of the Great War near an old Capuchin Convent.
Garden’s current landscape was re-shaped in 1990’s following the design of architect Cellini. Today, with its numerous species of exotic trees, shrubs, flower beds, rocky gardens, fountains, ponds and latest addition of “Pine Forest” as well as magnificent views of the surrounding hills and valleys the garden is a favorite place not only for “exhausted” tourists but also for the inhabitants of Ibla.
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: Entrance Gate
Alley lined by trees
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: Majestic palm tree
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: View on they valley
Visitors may be surprised finding three lonely churches on the grounds of the Ibla Gardens. These are: Cappuccini Vecchi (Church of St. Agatha and Convent of Capuchins), San Giacomo Apostolo (Church of St. James, The Apostle) and Church of St. Vincenzo Ferreri (right at the entrance). They are reminding the simple fact that the garden was founded on the site of “pre-earthquake” Ibla, once upon a time a busy and crowded corner of the medieval city…
The church of San Giacomo is the oldest one dating from 1563. Badly destroyed by earthquake, it was rebuilt to the current shape following the disaster. The façade mostly preserved the “modest” style: triangular pediment supported by Corinthian columns with an unpretentious window above. Only third level supporting belfry is richly adorned with relief depicting St. George Knight, balustrade and statues of St. James and St. John (The Evangelists). Along the church’s right side wall there is also the statue of St. Anne with St. Mary as a child (S. Anna e Maria SS. Bambina) and another statue of St. John the Evangelist (S. Giovanni Evangelista). These are works from other Iblean churches, destroyed by the earthquake and subsequently abandoned.
Interior includes several altars with magnificent paintings, statues of saints, Gothic-style pulpit and wooden organ.
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: Church San Giacomo
San Giacomo (James) Church: Belfry
Statue of Santa Anna
St. John The Evangelist
The complex built by Capuchin Friars includes the church of St. Agatha and adjacent Monastery (Convent). The earthquake was merciful for Capuchins, as the whole structure survived the tragedy almost “unscratched”. But time was less forgiving – Capuchins Complex went through rough times of confiscations, abandonments, changing hands, re-acquisitions and re-openings to the public. These turbulent times made the huge impact on its historical treasuries. Today the convent is home to the luxurious restaurant and hotel operating under the name Antico Convento del Cappuccini. Due to its historical past and picturesque location overlooking the valley it is a favorite place for wedding receptions….
On the convent premises there is a small Diocesan Museum holding some historical objects of art and books from the former monastery.
The single-nave church itself is a masterpiece of sacral art. Although some original sacral artwork was moved to the Municipal Art Gallery, the church still contains numerous magnificent religious objects from the 16th and 17th centuries - altarpieces, statues, paintings by famous Sicilian artist Pietro Novelli, wooden pulpit and tribune for the choir, ancient crucifix ….
Ceiling in the Convent
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: Church of San Vincenzo Ferreri
.... and its beautifully crowned belfry
The church of Vincenzo Ferreri is located right at the entrance to the gardens. Due to the fact that it was founded by Dominican friars (back in the early 16th century) it is also known as Dominican Church. Earthquake made the first serious “dent” in the structure of the church and adjacent to it convent. However much more damage was done to it in the 20th century when city planners demolished the Oratory and then the Convent to make room for apparently” much more needed modern ”infrastructure”…. Subsequently the church was abandoned and only collapsing roof “inspired” city administration to do some renovation works in recent years.
Church’s façade with two Corinthian columns supporting the “broken” pediment is relatively simple. Highlights include: an asymmetrically located bell tower caped with colorful mosaics and the sundial displaying Equinoxes and inscription “Linea S. Vinc, Ferreri’ – in honor of the church’s Patron Saint – Vincenzo Ferreri. Living at the turn of the 14th and 15th century he was a much-admired passionate missionary and widely recognized logician….
Monument commemorating Fallen in the Great War
Ragusa-Ibla-Gardens: Alley of palms marks the entrance and the way out of the gardens....
After relaxing hours in the gardens, there may be time to try something typical Sicilian-Ragusan. And you will easily find opportunities to make it happen :-)
Who wouldn't like it? (just in case you wander what is Mastrociliegia - well, it's the name of the bar :-).
Typical Iblean food
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