Castello di Donnafugata

Palace in Ragusa

Located 18km southwest of Ragusa, this sumptuous neo-Gothic palace houses the Collezione Gabriele Arezzo di Trifiletti, an extraordinary fashion and costume collection. The easiest way to reach the castello is by car. From Monday to Saturday, trains run from Ragusa to Donnafugata (three to four daily, 20 to 25 minutes, €2.50), from where it's a 600m walk to the castle. Alternatively, Autotrasporti Tumino runs a very limited bus service from Ragusa (return €4.80); see the company website for times.

Spanning the 16th to 20th centuries and considered one of Europe’s finest, the collection provides a lavish overview of Sicily’s once-glorious aristocratic culture. Indeed, its value led to a proposal to have it transferred to Palazzo Pitti’s Costume Gallery in Florence, a suggestion swiftly quashed by the Sicilian government. The near 3000 pieces – displayed on rotation – include ball gowns, uniforms, bodices, chemises, cloaks, shawls, underwear, gloves, stockings, veils, military and ecclesiastical millinery, shoes, combs, thimbles, bags, umbrellas, cosmetic items and fans. Among the many prized possessions is a gown belonging to belle-époque fashion icon Donna Franca Florio, a rare hunting outfit from the late 17th century, 18th-century liveries worn by the servants of Sicilian nobility and the very gown that inspired Claudia Cardinale’s famous frock in Luchino Visconti’s film Il Gattopardo (The Leopard; 1963).

Originally a medieval watchtower, the building itself was expanded by nobleman Vincenzo Arezzo La Rocca, Baron of Serri, who bought the estate in 1648. This expansion would subsequently form the core of the castle’s 19th-century reworking. This revamp was commissioned by Corrado Arezzo de Spuches, Baron of Donnafugata, who used the palace as a rural residence.