The papyrus you see growing in the Fonte Aretusa is not an exotic import from Egypt. The plant has been growing in Syracuse for thousands of years, along the banks of the Ciane River. The plant has a myriad of uses, the best known of which is the production of a medium to write or paint on - don't call it paper! The technique for producing sheets of papyrus is completely different from that of making paper, even though the word "paper" in virtually all languages is derived from "papyrus".
Sheets of papyrus are made by a laminating technique whereby the the stems are split , the outer skin stripped away and the inner pith beaten into flat strips which are then laid side by side with all the fibres going the same way. They are wet and two layers are then laid together with the fibres of one at right angles to the other. The sheets are then pressed together and dried with sufficient pressure for the fibres to bond. When the sheets are dry they are polished to smoothe the surface. It's a painstaking process to say the least.
If you're really interested in the manufacture of papyrus and the history and other uses of the plant, you could visit the Papyrus Museum (near the Archeological Museum). We gave that a miss, but having had a go at making papyrus-type "paper" I have an appreciation of the skill involved (mine was hopeless) so I was more than happy to buy a couple of small paintings on papyrus from the studio of someone who still practises the craft.
Mostly featuring scenes of Ortigia, flower-decked balconies, painted doorways and such, they're not fine art, but at just a few euro apiece they make pretty souvenirs and gifts and they pack easily. I found mine in a studio near the Porte Marina, there are one or two others around the town. If you want something finer, you could go to the shop at the Papyrus Institute where, instead of a few euro you could spend a few hundred.
I am always touched and attracted by nice and unexpected details when exploring new places. The way this horse-drawn carts was transformed into souvenir shop looks amazing. So colourful but with style, not a bit of kitsch in it. It could easilly be considered as an piece of naive art.
We bought here a very cheap plastic rain coats and some souvenirs for the friends.
I searched everywhere before going to Sicily for a map for Siracusa. Guide books have tiny, pretty useless maps. Besides, I really like maps. After arriving in Siracusa, I checked all the souvenier stands. I found a tourist book with a really large, hard to read map. 4.5 euros, but I got the book, too. We had been wandering, around Siracusa for 2 days before I spotted an "I" with a circle around it. Walking into a courtyard that had businesses in it, I found one door marked "Informatione Turismo". I went in and found a perfect map--for FREE! Best map I'll bet you'll find.
I don't know what their hours are, but I know where they are. It's marked on the map. From Piazza Archimede, take Via della Maestranza, which goes to your left. On the lefthand side, after via Coronati, you will find an opening to an attractive courtyard. There it is. Good luck.
Great cakes, sweets and other delicacies in Sicily; not to mention all those traditional ice-cream and derivates (granita, cremolata....). As I'm a chocolate-lover, I'm glad to share with you the existence of Modica's Chocolate: a superb mixture of chocolate and cinnamon giving a wonderful result. You may trace it even in the Internet, through a page of the producers herself: mrs Elvira Rocccasalva.
FAMOUS PUPPETS FROM SICILY ... 'The opera dei pupi' is the traditional Sicilian marionette theatre. At the height of its popularity at the turn of the century, Sicily boasted 25 puppet theatres. The Success of the opera dei pupi was linked in the past with its natural audience, namely the population of the poorer quarters of the cities and villages, who followed the plot by installments every evening for months and months. The Theatres of the opera dei pupi were generally set up in warehouses or stables with roofs supported by arches or sometimes in wooden huts.