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Sicily: Siracusa

ITALY | Monday, 27 February 2023 | Views [107]

Mt. Etna in her cool, calm and collected demeanor

Mt. Etna in her cool, calm and collected demeanor

TIME WAS RUNNING OUT ON OUR SCHENGEN VISAS forcing us to rush through Sicily our first time here. Four days wasn’t nearly long enough—this time we have 2½ weeks! Coincidentally, it was late February when we first visited so we won’t see the island that most tourists visit. But we won’t have the crowds, either. We will re-visit some places and search out new vistas. Our AirBnB in Catania isn’t in the best part of town nor is it up to our usual standards. But it’s very affordable, has on-street parking and Carlo has left us a lot of food and it’s only for five nights.


          Not the best of neighborhoods in Catania

Our first outing—after grocery shopping, that is—was to Syracuse (or Siracusa). Our first time in Sicily we visited the disappointing Archeological site and the impressive Necropolis but totally neglected the Old Town on the Island of Ortigia. First order of business was lunch. Connie had a taste for pizza but the owner convinced us to try pizzoli, a speciality of the local village of Sortino. This is Sicilian “soul food,” originally a peasant dish made with pizza crust covered in cheese, spices, veggies (or whatever was available) and topped with another pizza crust. Trust us, it was a gastronomic epiphany!


                   Pizzolo—better even than New York Pizza

First stop back in Old Siracusa was the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. Built in the early VIth Century, this was the first temple in Sicily built of stone; previously they were wooden. It is also the oldest Doric monument in Sicily with 46 Doric columns—Doric having less elaborate capitals than Ionic and Corinthian. It also set the standard of six front columns for temples.


                      Temple of Apollo—setting the standard


                Narrow streets of Ortigia


                    Fountain of Diana

You can’t get lost wandering the narrow streets of Ortigia—it’s an island, after all, and pretty much free of cars. We soon popped out at the Piazza Duomo di Ortigia where a very talented guitarist was playing a slow, soulful Blues tune. It didn’t really fit the environment but it sounded great anyway. Around the corner a breeze blew spray from the Fountain of Diana onto Piazza Archimede. In case you are wondering (probably not) Archimedes, the guy who gave us “π,” 3.14159blahblahblah was from Siracusa.


                 Piazza Duomo


                      Duomo of Siracusa


                            Archimedes was here!

Along the corniche we ran into the Arethusa Fountain, a place of legend too long to go into. Connie wondered why they don’t clean the thing out—it was filled with papyrus. Later we realized its other name, a funtana re papyri, refers to the fact that this is the only place in Europe where papyrus grows in abundance. Who woulda known?


                     Where papyrus still grows in Europe, Fountain of Arethusa


                          The Fountain of Arethusa comes with its own myth


                      Maniace Castle from the waterfront

The skies cleared on our way back to Catania and we stopped along the autopista to take photos of Mt. Etna looming over Catania. Etna is snow-covered and quiet today but as these photos from LAST February show, it’s full of surprises. I believe I’ve sensed a slight shaking—we will have to keep our fingers crossed.


                     Mt. Etna can be a capricious bitch; February 2022 eruption



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