After spending six months in Marina di Ragusa Sicily living aboard our boat, I have quite a bit of feedback about the marina and surrounding area. Please note, however, that this marina review is about ‘wintering’, or staying put in the marina for the full winter season (October to April). More about Marina die Ragusa Sicily review winter season…
It’s not about Marina di Ragusa during the summer, which from what I’ve been told, is a whole different kettle of fish
Apparently, during the summer months, the prices go up, the beaches are jam-packed and there’s lines at every café, restaurant and bar. During the winter, MdR is inexpensive, the beaches are calm and there is never a queue at the café’s!
That being noted, my overall experience of Marina di Ragusa will most definitely be remembered as one of my life-time highlights
I’ve never met such a wonderful community of caring, kind, open-minded and helpful people EVER. I’ve never spent six months in such a lovely surrounding – with beautiful beaches, amazing food and memorable experiences.
Usually, on my marina reviews I go through a similar format detailing customer service, facilities, noise levels, community, surrounding area and so forth but for this review I felt compelled to do a brain dump about the positives and negatives of Marina di Ragusa. There’s so much to say…that I had to just let it dump from my head (and heart) onto the page.
And speaking of ‘negatives’ – the positives far outweighed them!
So…if you’re surveying all the possible ‘wintering’ spots in the Mediterranean – perhaps you’re considering Malta, Crete, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal… Well, here’s my account of Marina di Ragusa Sicily. Maybe this will help you make a decision?!
The positives of Marina di Ragusa
– Safe, secure, sheltered mooring. The pontoon and lazy-lines are well maintained. There is very little surge within the harbor and only when the wind is seriously blowing does the boat move around.
– Great facilities: clean modern bathrooms with hot showers, meeting rooms, café, restaurant, office/services (car hire, etc.), laundry, gym, chandlery, shops.
– Excellent customer service – office attendants were very kind, courteous, and quick to help with any matter. Marina technicians were fast to act when issues arise. For example, when the power went off on our pontoon, a technician would arrive in minutes to find a solution.
– Clean and tidy pontoons, boardwalks and common areas – flowers, palm tree’s and well maintained walkways.
– Cost for ‘wintering’ was very competitive with the rest of the Mediterranean.
– The weather during the winter in Sicily – well…that’s a difficult one. We just lived through what’s been noted as the worst winter in 50 years. We’ve had a lot of rain and wind. And from time to time we get the winds from the Sahara desert that drop red sand all over the boat. That being said, when the sun does come out and the wind stops, people are often in t-shirts. It seems like the weather is good up to December and then January through March it’s cold, wet and windy more so than sunny and calm.
– The social opportunities within the live-aboard community were amazing. Every morning at 9am a VHF radio broadcast went out announcing weather reports, social activities, items wanted or for sale and any other business. And if there were any medical or safety emergencies they were discussed and dealt with quickly.
– Social activities, all arranged by the live-aboards, included two weekly happy hours (starting at 6pm at the Stellar Bar and/or Marina Bar), happy hookers (knitting, crochet, craft morning), writers circle, coffee afternoons, Tai Chi on the beach, Yoga, fitness instructors, running, planned trips (to Ragusa, Catania, festivals), olive picking trips, pot luck, pizza and movie nights in addition to weekly talks on photography, diesel engine maintenance, cruising around Turkey and more. Furthermore, Christmas and New Years parties were a blast! (Read about my top 12 day trips to take in Sicily during the winter here)
– An eclectic mix of nationalities all interested in sharing customs and traditions. We had over 15 different nationalities and celebrated American, Dutch, Irish, English, German holidays/festivities.
– An abundance of help, knowledge and know-how was always available. If we had an issue or needed a special tool we’d just put out a radio message and within minutes help or the tool would arrive. Never in my life have I felt so connected and close with a community.
– The town of Marina di Ragusa is lovely – a car-free boardwalk along the beach and town square made walks and bicycle rides very pleasurable. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see and is dotted with fresh water showers, restaurants and café’s (not all open for the full winter season).
– Several great restaurants and café’s remain open all winter long.
– There is one large supermarket (EuroSpar) and two discount supermarkets (ARD and MD), a market every Tuesday with fresh fish, roasted chickens, veggies, meat and housewares offerings. There is a butcher in the square and several bakeries dotted throughout the town.
– For children, aside from the beach, there is a large playground, a small indoor play gym with an arts and crafts room (3 euros/hour) and the whole square to mix and mingle with boatie and local children. Every late afternoon families and parents sit around the square and the children run around playing for hours. Furthermore, there’s a pre-school that takes boat kids in addition to standard schools with openings.
– The local’s are AMAZING. Horatio, the fisherman, took me and a friend out so we could see what it’s like to go fishing (see Come fishing with me on a traditional Sicilian fishing boat – VIDEO). A family welcomed a group of us into their home and olive farm to teach us about olive picking and the authentic life of Sicilians. The family at the Stella Marina Bar constantly fed us snacks during happy hours, Rugby games and events…in addition to helping with airport pick-ups and arranging open-mic nights. The servers at the bakeries always greeted us with big happy ‘Ciao’s’ and remembered how we wanted our coffee’s made. The attendants at the supermarket went out of their way to help us figure out the code system for weighing veggies… and much more. We also had a local farmer bring us organic produce every Monday – the veggies were out of this world! If we ever forgot our money, we were always told to ‘just pay us later… ‘ Furthermore, during holidays the community have a variety of events that take place. As foreigners, we were always invited to take part in any event.
The Sicilians took us in with open arms and always made us feel welcome
– The Comiso airport is only 25km away from the marina and Catania Airport is only 1 ½ hours away making the marina a great place to come and go from.
A video of a spectacular sunset over Marina di Ragusa
– The town of Ragusa, 20km away, has everything you could ask for – a massive hardware store, malls, grocery stores, Lidl’s and more. And in Catania, you’ll find an Ikea and anything else that you can’t get in Ragusa. (Buses take you from MdR to Ragusa and from time to time the live-aboards plan day-trips to the town).
– Day trips out are plentiful. Just to name some within a two hour car journey from the marina are: Noto, Syracuse, Catania (Mount Etna), Villa Romana del Casle (Roman Villa), Agrigento (Valley of the Temples), Modica (where Chocolate was invented in Italy), and loads of beach stops, castles, agritourism (eat or buy farm products from the farm), hikes, horse riding and much more.
– Have I mentioned food yet? It’s Italy and I haven’t mentioned food! All the food you eat at restaurants and buy in the stores is often local. You can often get everything you need from local farmers. Everything that’s in season is very inexpensive and plentiful. The beef fillet is special in the Ragusa area – give it a try for yourself. I found it to be exquisite. And, of course, there’s loads of fresh fish.
– Cost of living in the area – if you don’t eat out, it’s very inexpensive.
– Public transport is great. There are buses that go to anywhere you’d want to go. They, however, don’t operate on a Sunday.
The negatives of Marina di Ragusa
– The walk to the bathroom from the furthest pontoon can take about 15 minutes (25 minutes with a child).
– The chandlery has a very limited stock and we found it far quicker and less expensive to order pieces/parts from other parts of Europe and have them shipped to us at the marina. For some reason the staff don’t seem interested in making any money (and I wouldn’t make that statement from my own experiences only – it seems a consensus amongst the whole community!)
– The cost for having a lift-out or any work done on the boat (out of water) is extremely high in comparison to other areas in close proximity. For example, a lift-out for our boat in MdR was quoted in the 1.000’s, whereas a lift-out in Preveza, Greece cost less than half of that.
– The electricity went out often. In many cases, the whole down of Marina di Ragusa went out. In other cases, it was just our pontoon. Every time it rained pontoon M lost electricity. Mostly, the electricity was often on within a few minutes to a few hours so although it was an inconvenience if we were in the midst of cooking (with electric), in most instances it didn’t bother us.
– The weather did get quite extreme. We had warnings of water spouts/tornados and when the rains came there was quite a bit of flooding. And when I say flooding I mean water rushing down from the higher grounds along the roads and causing serious waterfalls into the sea. You wouldn’t want to be walking, riding a bike or even driving a car during some of the floods we witnessed.
– Getting around – you really need a bike or scooter. To get to the main grocery store, it’s quite a hike up a hill. Most live-aboards have bikes with attachment baskets to collect groceries and supplies. This really isn’t a negative unless you don’t have a bike or don’t want to get one! Note: There’s a Decathalon sports shop in Ragusa (20km away) and they sell the fold-away bikes for 100 – 300 euros.
– It’s impossible to buy a car in Italy and leasing costs too much. Most live-aboard’s simply rent a car when they need it – either from the Marina or from the local airport. Rental’s from the airport are far cheaper but you have to take a bus to get there.
So, as I mentioned at the beginning, wintering at Marina di Ragusa has been an incredible experience for my husband, 4-year-old daughter and I.
We will hold the time we spent here dear to our hearts
The friends we made will last the test of time. The memories will be etched in our minds forever – My daughter, Sienna, singing Frozens, ‘Let it go,’ at the open-mic night, trick or treating on the pontoon, playing Rummykub on our friends boat, enjoying a snow-ball fight wearing t-shirts up on Mount Etna, doing runs to Lidl to get cheap wine and cheddar cheese, picking olives and then watching the process of turning them into olive oil, fishing with nets, watching my daughter run free along the beach with all the other children, having visitors join us on the boat from home, the amazing conversations had at the Stella Marina Bar…and even the tears some of us shed. Tears of missing ‘home’ and family. Tears about not knowing ‘what’s next.’
Through the good and the not-so-good, our time at Marina di Ragusa has certainly been fulfilling
It hasn’t always been easy – we’ve had many repairs, I’ve felt lost and ‘stuck’ at times and I still go through phases where I’m scared about how our daughter will adjust to moving again… HOWEVER, I’ve never felt so alive in my life.
In summary, I highly recommend Marina di Ragusa for wintering. The facilities, attendants, community and surrounding area are fantastic. I, however, at this time, suggest you consider alternative locations for out-of-water work (such as antifouling). Several boaties winter in MdR and then sail to another destination at the beginning of the season, get their work done and then carry on.
Perhaps in years to come, MdR will become more reasonable with boat maintenance?! If they do, it will certainly be an even more amazing place.
Let me leave you with some photo’s I took over the winter season… Click on them to see a larger view. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Finally, for more information about our time spent in Marina di Ragusa, please read the following articles. All of them were written during our stay at the marina and will provide you with even more information on our time spent in Sicily: