I think this is may simply be an excuse to post some more photos - Ortygia is just SO photogenic. As you walk through the city your eye is constantly taken by delightful details. Much of the city is scruffy and shabby - though that is rapidly changing as restoration projects overtake the place. You have to hope they don't get too carried away with all that cleaning and smartening up - much of the city's charm comes from the patina that only comes with 500 years. It's all too easy to sandblast and scrub softly worn old stone into something that looks as though it was pressed out of a mould down at the local garden ornament workshop just yesterday and no matter how skilfully limewashed paints are applied, the new stuff never looks like the paint that sun and salt air have worn into the washed-out and patchy pinks and terracottas that look so right against the clear blue sky.
All of this faded charm is what you expect to find in a place like Syracuse. What may come as more surprising, is the grandeur and opulence that is a legacy of the 18th century rebuilding of the city after the devastating earthquake of 1693. Wonderful flourishes of Baroque exuberance are everywhere. I found myself constantly stopping to take in yet another lovely window or doorway, elaborate portals, stucco decorations on coffered ceilings, church facades like a tiered wedding cake, silver altars and barley sugar-twist pillars - and who was the 18th century aristocrat that rode around in the golden coach now parked in the Palazzo di Senato on the Piazza Duomo?
The time to leave Syracuse came all too soon. Other places called, Agrigento and the famed Valley of the Temples was our next destination and one we didn't want to miss, but leaving our little apartment and the streets and piazzas of Ortygia brought a twinge of regret that we hadn't time to stay longer. We'd been carless for a few days, able simply to walk everywhere we wanted to go on the island without thinking about where to park or how we were going to negotiate a way through the impossibly narrow streets. There were still places we wanted to visit - we never did find our way across the island to the old ghetto and we'd only seen the Castello Maniace from the sea.
A walk across the Ponte Nuovo to collect the car, a nervewracking drive back to the square at the end of Via Salomone to load up the suitcases and then continuing on the one-way loop around the island back to the bridge and across to the mainland. A last glimpse of things that defined the island - a Spanish gateway in the city walls, a bright sunlit balcony, a quiet courtyard seen through an archway, boats and bathers bobbing in the water, a pink palazzo once owned by a poet ....
Syracuse was our first taste of Sicily. We'd been told it was lovely, we expected to like it - and we did.
Favorite thing: Walking and watching old houses in Ortygia with their typical facades, with balconies full of plants and drying clothes - these are pleasant views for the eyes. You could take just any of old streets, as lots of old has been kept... it keeps you busy all time. Siracusan people here make a lot of effort to keep their balconies fine - how else if that's their only private outdoor place they have in Ortygian labyrinth of narrow paved streets and buildings, all those placed very close to eachother.
Siracusa was originally named Syraza, it is in Siculo tongue which means "abondance of water", due to a quantity of waterways and swamplands in the area in ancient times. The town is built on an ancient Greek settlement founded by Corinthians in 734BC, amalgamating with the Sicels (Sikels). Sikels or Sikeloi were Italiac people who arrived several centuries before the Phoenicians and Greeks, probably between 1200 and 1000 BC. Sikels constituted a highly developed society that the Greeks respected profoundly. It took several centuries fo the Sicels to complete assimilate and amalgamate with their Greek neighbors.
In its glory days Syracuse was one of the main centres of Greek civilisation and military prowess, composed of five major areas, which in the time of the Greeks were known as "Pentapolis" (five cities). Its golden days Syracuse reached during Hiero II, who lived until he was 92, ensuring a century of peace and prosperity to the city. It was Hiero II who created the finest and largest Greek theatre in excistence. He also had skilfully developed trade with Alexandrian and enormously increased the wealth of the city.
Syracuse had ingenious defensive contraptions and machinery created by Archimedes. After Hiero II death Syracuse fall, not because the cioty walls collapsed, but by the treachery of an unknown citizen who admitted a Roman spy into the city. In 212 BC Syracuse capitulated and the Romans established total control over the Sicily. The Romans divided Sicily into estates for growing grain and treated the island very much as an inferior province.
With the decline of the Romans, followed a long line of conquerors, occupiers and dominators: Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spaniards and each of them has left traces in architecture and culture. Following the devastating earthquake of 1693, many ancient sites and monuments were damaged or destroyed, and the city rebuilt in recognizable and characteristic Sicilian Baroque style.
Syracuse was the city of Archimedes, Aeschylus and Pindar. Plato spent several years here and it seems that his idea of Utopia was born in Syracuse. Syracuse was the most important city in "Magna Graecia", and for a long time rivaled Athens as the most important city of the Greek world.
Package travel certainly has its advantages, primarily because it costs less, but there are risks that you will not see all of what you should or planned to see. Additionally, if you get even a bad travel guide then such trip can eventually turn out as a huge disappoinmtment. How much and what can be seen out of one destination if time for sightseeing is limited to one or two hours? My trip to Sicily was a disappointment for me because, as desired by our guide, we spent more times in the local restaurants then in sightseeing. I wonder why? (hahahahaha).
We rushed through Ortigia like we were at the races, and even the weather conditions were not favorable. In short intervals alternately was sunny and very rainy, so that we had to search for the shelters.
Fondest memory: Island of Ortigia is the oldest part of Syracuse
The single most important activity? Please don't make me choose in Siracusa! OK, it would have to be charming Ortygia which is a delight to just stroll around. Meet someone for instance here at the Fontana Aretusa with its papyrus in the middle (picture). This is actually a freshwater spring, mentioned already by Pindar and Virgil and amazingly close to the sea. Arethusa turned into a spring (see the fountain under "musts") but still never managed to escape Alpheus and was contaminated instead.
When your feet are tired, find a quayside bar for a pick-me-up limoncello before your evening meal :-) I must say I enjoyed the archaeology park a lot too though and our daytrip combination of the two was perfect and without stress, even if the ideal would be to stay the night for the atmosphere - I'll certainly do that next time.
Fondest memory: The thieving magpie - see the restaurant tip.
Favorite thing: Just love this sky/sea line of Ortygia, this island has a lot of small harbours along its sea front, some of them are like hide away corners, some are turned into public beaches, but all in all they are different and worth to explore....
Sitting on the Mt Etna, wind blowing, Sun is shining, landscape is like in the moon...
MtEtna is a must place to visit for sure. To the top is a bus connection last 500 meters, but it costs awful amount of Liras. I recommend to walk up there, it should take a hour or so, but the views on the way are astonishing!
Fondest memory: Up there is a souvenir shop and cafeteria. Prices has a Etna-extra, but still reasonable.
(behind me on the pic is a main-crater puffing some smoke)
Fondest memory: I think the reason I enjoyed my visit to Siracusa so much was because I didn't expect to find so many things to see. It was one of those last minute trips which didn't give me time to read up on the city or plan my trip. Every sight was a complete surprise.
Favorite thing: AGRIGENTE : In the Valley of the Temples are the ruins of numerous temples but also necropoli, houses, streets and everything else one would expect to find in an ancient city. There is a small amphitheatre, as well as several auditoria, and a fine archeological museum. Unfortunately, most of the temples at Agrigento are in ruins, with pieces strewn about, and several appear to have never even been completed. Part of the Temple of Juno, built around 450 BC, is still intact. Its style has been compared to that of the temples at Paestum, near Salerno. The Temple of Concord (named retroactively), built around 440 BC, is in far better condition, and at night the illuminated temple is a sight to behold. A number of telamons (large segmented stone columns in the form of human figures) have been preserved.
MOUNT ETNA : Sicily 's most important attraction.
This vulcan is a nice place to have big walk. Remember that it's always quite a bit cooler on Etna than it is in the valleys or along the coast. There are several roads into the park.
PALERMO is the capital of Sicily.
Lots to discover : old and modern churches, cathedral,castle, chinese villa, Royal Palace, ... There's no other Italian city quite like it. Palermo is an urban paradox. Despite such inconveniences (pollution, many people, big urban city), Palermo remains a jewel of the Mediterranean.
IL DUOMO DI SIRACUSA
The facade of cathedral was built by Andrea de Palma on 18 century . It is a prime landmark in Siracusa and situates on P.zza Duomo .
Spend some time in the Parco Archeologico
Fondest memory: First sight of the Greek theatre - photo of the so-called Paradise Quarries a stonesthrow from the theatre which is seen on the intro. Must have seemed more like the Quarries of Hell to the slaves who worked there.
TO BE COMPLETED
Go down to Ortygia, the old area on am island, and see the cathedral and other sights - no photos I am afraid so I have put in one of the Roman amphitheatre in the Parco Archeologico
Fondest memory: A great memory is when the two women who helped me retrieve my case (mentioned in intro) were kind enough to make sure I got to my hotel. How could a trip go wrong with a start like that? Anyway it didn't.