A fairytale apparition of a white neogothic castle rising on a hill makes this place seem almost unreal. But the castle of Donnafugata is an authentic piece of Sicilian history, just 15 kilometers from Ragusa in the countryside. Surrounded by scrub-covered hills lined with dry-stone walls, the castle is a vision, ensconced within a large park. Olives and carob trees dot some of the fields. The castle has been featured in the Inspector Montalbano series and a few films.

The castle's history started as a smaller country estate residence of the Cabrera family, who sold it to the Arezzo family in 1648, and they became the barons of Donnafugata. They built a masseria, a fortified farming house (sort of like a Spanish hacienda) and a village grew around it for workers who tended the vast agricultural holdings. They expanded the house into a true castle at the end of the 18th century.

The neogothic construction is on three floors with two towers flanking the entrance, and 120 rooms in the 7500 square meters of space. (That's 80,720 square feet!) It bears Venetian and Moorish elements worked into the architecture and decor, too. The gardens cover eight hectares (almost 20 acres) and cultivate 1,500 species of plants. There is a circular temple, a dry stone trapezoid-shaped labyrinth, sculpted hedge designs and grottoes. One of the barons had a sense of humor, or at least enjoyed a practical joke, and had devilish elements installed in the garden to play pranks on his guests. One was a garden seat with a water sprinkler built in, that was activated when someone sat down! Another was a grotto that would release a man-shaped puppet when someone drew near.

The castle also houses the museum of costumes, known as MuDeCo with costumes from various eras, set into context.

There are some restaurants in the borgo at the foot of the castle.

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Address in Ragusa:

Contrada Donnafugata, frazione of Ragusa.

Ph. (+39) 093 267 6500.

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