10.03.2015 - 11.03.2015
To get to Sicily we took the ferry to Messina, which was quick and easy.
Then we drove on to Nicolosi, near the slopes of slopes of Mt. Aetna, which took hours in a driving rain. The main problem was that google maps didn't seem able to find its way on these crazy Italian roads, where there are more roundabouts than you can shake a stick at. The major roads are fine, but as soon as you get off of them, the GPS gets lost, and it doesn't help that the name of the same road seems to change every few miles. At any rate, it was cold and damp when we arrived, and so we left a day early and drove to Siracusa.
We were lucky to get some nice views of the mountain, totally snow covered, as the weather cleared overnight.
In the more distant view, you can see smoke rising from the top of this very active volcano
Siracusa turned out to be a delightful city with a mostly restored old section, Ortigya, about a ten minute walk from our B&B. Ortigya is on a small island separated from the rest of the city by a causeway. We spent most of the day there just wandering its narrow alleys and piazzas, going to the papyrus museum, and later to a crazy puppet show, in Italian, which didn't seem to make a lot of sense even when we read the plot in English.
Houses and sea wall near papyrus museum
Siracusa has a long history of several thousand years. The Greeks occupied the place for quite some time around 1000 BC to 2 or 300 BC. In fact there is still an ancient Greek amphitheater where aeschylus' plays are performed as they were during Greek times. Aeschylus lived here for a while, as did Archimedes. Siracusa was a major maritime power and Greek city/state. Eventually it was taken over by the Romans, and then the Arabs, and finally the Normans who came in around 1000 AD.
The Duomo, the towns most famous cathedral, is built on top of the columns of the Temple of Apollo, which dates to 600BC. The old columns of the temple are still quite visible, and the building is, in a word, magnificent, both inside and out.
Side view with columns still visible on the outside
Inside the building
Inside of dome,
Not quite Michelangelo, but almost
Our B and B, Siracusa, is newly opened by two very friendly women, one of whom speaks some English. We spent some time talking with them at breakfast and soon they felt like good friends. We are very happy to be staying here, and they invited us back for breakfast on our return trip to Rome in a week or so. Nanette even arranged for an inter-cambio over skype with one of the women.
Nanette with our hostess' showing off breakfast pie