We arrived late at night in our first apartment in Siracusa (Syracuse), Sicily. Stumbling off the train, miming our need for a taxi, and Buds showing the address on his phone, the kind, non-English speaking taxi driver bundled us all into his taxi on this dark, rainy night, and off we went.
We were all laggy from the long, long day of travel and subsisting on saltine crackers and no water for the last several hours. It was with an air of disbelief when the cab pulled into the empty courtyard of a church and indicated with gestures that this was where we should disembark.
“Are you sure?” I asked Buds.
How could he be sure? It was dark. It was late. We were trusting in the kindness of strangers once again, and as it always had been, it was the right decision.
We were on the Island of Ortigia, on the Island of Sicily, in the city of Syracuse.
Let’s take a digital look at where we were:
Italy, with Sicily in the very bottom.
Just Sicily. Notice Syracuse on the bottom right.
Zoom in on Syracuse.
Ortigia is the upper snaggle tooth of the witch’s mouth underneath the c in Syracuse.
Zoom in on Syracuse to see Ortigia.
The taxi driver pointed down an alley to the right of the church courtyard. With repeated motions he indicated that was the way to our first Sicily home.
Later we were to understand how close we actually were:
The kind owner was waiting for us. She had stocked the kitchen with food we needed for a late night meal and an easy breakfast in the morning. A quick tour, and then she left us to settle in.
The first apartment.
Lots of pictures in the link above which do a fantastic job of showing the apartment, so I’ll not give my normal exhaustive tour. A few highlights:
The alley from the church courtyard to get to our doorway.
The kitchen that gave us the vision for our new kitchen.
He matched his shirt to his chair, which I’m sure helped his productivity.
The toilet was so tall even my feet wouldn’t touch the ground, hence the helpful chair to use as a footstool.
The water was fine for drinking everywhere we had stayed, but I thought this water dispenser we found in an alley over from our apartment was cool:
With only 2 full days here, Buds got us out on a tour our very first morning in town.
This was a walking tour with archeology student Enrica and she was great. The children had about 3 hours of walking in them on this first day. Buds and I took a tour with her the next day where we got to just absorb all the history we were surrounded by.
We started with the Temple of Apollo.
Overlooking the Temple of Apollo, built before 550 B.C.
Duomo di Siracusa
The amazing thing about the Syracuse Cathedral above is that it began as a Temple to Athena, and the inside and parts of the outside show many of the original features of the temple.
Saint Lucia is the patron saint of Syracuse, and we also toured her church just across the courtyard from the Cathedral. In her church we saw the Caravaggio painting explained in this Wikipedia post.
Also on this tour was the glorious moment when Yessa asked me how St. Lucia got three arms.
Our beautiful setting for lunch:
The next day Buds and I toured alone. We took a taxi to the Archeological Park, and Enrica took us around this place she knew so well for several hours. This website has a great write up about the three main areas of importance we saw: The quarry, the Greek Theater, and the Roman Amphitheater.
The Archeological Park- looks a little like Pompeii.
The map of the park.
Erika led us through the quarry first.
Yup, looks like an ear.
The Ear of Dionysus
Yup, looks like an ear.
The lines from the hand tools of the slaves who mined these walls are still visible.
This locally famous plant…
Appears on lots of columns and decorations.
We started at the top, looking down into the Greek Theater.
Notice the teepee shaped building in the background. We’ll visit it later.
The bubbling “fountain” at the top of the Greek Theater where patrons could get a drink.
The elite families had “box seats” with their names on them in the front row at the amphitheater.
These are plants.
Enrica picked up a few pieces of pottery off the ground and told us they were from a certain archeological age. No way of knowing if it’s true or not, but it sounded good.
Buds and I decided to walk the couple miles back to our apartment from the tour. This gave us a chance to visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Tears. We visited respectfully, but still found ourselves in jaw-dropping awe at the curious space. It was beautiful, in its own way, but it would not be a soothing place of worship for me.
One of the evenings, Buds and I settled in the children in and popped around the corner to a tiny restaurant that served delicious food and wine and seemed to only be open due to the interest and whims of the jovial owner. We told him to bring us whatever sounded good to him, and we loved it.
We wanted to go back the next night, too, but he wasn’t going to be open because he wanted to be with his family instead. Can’t argue with that.
Whenever Buds and I talk about Ortigia, we always speak in reverent tones about “the light.” The light here was so golden, so beautiful, it makes my heart ache to think about it.
It was really bright, too.
This was Buds attempting to take a picture of the rest of us, but since he couldn’t tell what the screen showed, we got this squinty-eyed selfie:
One of the afternoons The Buster and I wandered around in the church at the end of our alley.
For a small church by Catholic standards, it had many beautiful pieces, too.
I love the comfortable homeyness of the priest’s glasses sitting on the side table, ready for the next worship.
This statue/coffin/display would be carried through the streets on holy days. In the following picture you can see the metal slots at the bottom where the wooden posts slide in to be lifted onto the worshipers’ shoulders.
And since we haven’t had many pictures of Monkey so far, here’s a reminder that she was still taller than Buster during this trip.
She’s not taller anymore.
This was a perfect beginning to our Sicilian Adventure. From the little cafe where Buds, Yessa, and I (and maybe Buster) would grab an espresso and a croissant each morning, to the golden light that greeted us by the Cathedral, to the gelato shops we tried out by the center fountain, this is a town Buds and I hope to return to.