Tuesday Sept 17, 2013
Breakfast on the outside terrace of our hotel was lovely, and I met a British couple who were also traveling in Sicily for ten days. I like meeting other English-speaking tourists in Italy and find it interesting to hear their perspectives on travel here.
By 10:30 Rick, Monica, and I were on the road, planning to spend the day in the once-Greek city of Siracusa. I have never been here and was eager to see the ruins and amphitheatre I have only read about. Driving out of Catania was once again nothing short of chaos, and we arrived in Siracusa at 11:15. From a tip I read in my guide book, I suggested we park in the Talete parking garage at the end of via Trieste. We deposited some coins in the meter and printed out our ticket. It was a short walk to Ortigia Island, the historic center of Siracusa. An Italian Twitter friend, Alfredo Vinci, who grew up there, suggested that Ortigia is a must-see, so I was thankful for the information.As soon as we crossed the bridge we found the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. I always think it is amazing to see structures that date back so far in time, this one to the sixth century BC. Incredible.I loved wandering around the narrow alleys of Ortigia, noticing how old most buildings were, and wondering about the lifestyle there today. At one point I saw a woman on a third-story balcony lowering a basket from a rope down to street level, where someone deposited an item in her basket, and then she raised it back up to retrieve whatever it was. Almost like stepping back in time here. Many places here seemed to be in disrepair, and I assumed that the money is just not available to correct the problems.
We met some American tourists who were leaving, and gave us their map, which was helpful to find the Piazza del Duomo, which I understood to be the one of the most beautiful baroque piazzas in Sicily.On the way, in Piazza Minerva, we stumbled upon a modern restaurant with a Greek name, Kaos, and we were hungry, so we stopped and had a delicious lunch of pizza margherita and insalata mista.
A block away was Piazza del Duomo, and I was impressed by how white the buildings were and how clean the piazza was. Truly a beautiful piazza and the cathedral dominated with its magnificent façade. At one time this was the ancient temple of Athena, and the original Doric columns can still be seen. How beautiful, both inside and out. Totally worth the two euro fee to enter. Afterward I could hear live accordion music near the other church here, the Church of Santa Lucia. We walked along the water and experienced beautiful views, including a park and a marina.Before we left Ortigia, I wanted a gelato, and on the recommendation of Alfredo, we stopped in at Bar Apollo, across from the Temple of Apollo, and asked for Paolo. A very friendly gentleman with a warm smile introduced himself as Paolo, and I told him his friend Alfredo sent me. In Italian, Paolo explained that he knew Alfredo since childhood and they were like brothers. He could not have been any nicer, recommending pistachio and nocciola (hazelnut) gelato, which of course sounded good to me. Rick and Monica wanted only water, so we sat outside on this warm September afternoon enjoying the ambience and a little break. Paolo refused to allow us to pay for anything, and then posed for a photo at my request. Thank you, Paolo and Alfredo.
When we returned to the parking garage, we found that our rental car had been damaged with a dent in the right front fender and deep scratches. Naturally, the three of us were upset, and the great day we were having, all of a sudden, was no longer so great. How could someone do damage to another vehicle and take no responsibility? No note was left. Even though we have insurance on the car, since it is mandatory, there still is a deductible of up to 1000 euros, for which we could be responsible.
So we move on now to another section of Siracusa, where the Greek amphitheatre is located. Too far to walk, we drive to the Greek Amphitheatre and pay the entrance fee to witness this ancient marvel from Greek times. Originally built in the fifth century BC, it was reconstructed two centuries later. Built right into the rock, what remains of the amphitheatre is quite impressive, as many of the original fifty-nine rows of seats are still present. At one time the theatre held 15,000 spectators.After some time here we drove back to Catania, again in the crazy traffic, and were back by six. We decided to have dinner at Pagano Restaurant behind the hotel, as it had been highly recommended for typical Sicilian food. The rigatoni pomodoro and caprese salad were delicious.
After a Skype call and Face Time back home, the three of us called it a day.