Over the next 2 weeks we plan to travel along the bottom of Italy and up towards Croatia which means that we will be re-tracing some of the steps from our journey between Greece to Sicily at the end of last summer.
We previously stopped overnight in Marzamemi and found it to be a quiet little harbour with not much happening. However, we seem to have missed that it has a thriving pretty fishing village nearby
It was only a short walk to the village, we went along a busy narrow road full of cars and people all heading the same way!
The old centre of the village, most of which dates back to the mid-18th century, is situated on a little promontory with narrow streets and alleyways leading from the sea to the picturesque Piazza Regina Margherita.
Lined with bars and cafes, two churches overlook the Piazza, the oldest is the Church of San Francesco da Paola dating back to 1752 while the other dedicated to the same saint, dates back to 1950, has a wooden door and a rose window in Romanesque style. The baroque style Palazzo Villadorata, also overlooks the Piazza.
There was a great atmosphere here, with the hustle and bustle of visitors and locals enjoying a Sunday ‘passeggiata’ or sitting outside the different bars and cafes enjoying cocktails or ice cream in the sun.
On the south side is the little fishing harbour with colourful wooden boats.
Marzememi has a long history of exploiting the local fishing stocks and is well-known for its tuna fishery (Tonnara), it has been one of the largest and most productive tuna fisheries in Sicily. This was started in the 10th century by the Arabs who also provided Marzememi with its poetic name. There are many theories as to the meaning of the name, some say it is from the Arabic word ‘marza’ that means ‘harbour’ and ‘memi’ which means ‘small’. I prefer the idea that it derives from the Arabic ‘Marsà al hamam’ that means ‘bay of doves’, apparently for the abundance of these birds in spring!
Although since 1969 the Tonnara itself is no longer in use, Marzamemi continues its artisanal fishing and processing activities, producing canned tuna, dried tuna roe, smoked swordfish, marinated anchovies, seafood pasta condiments and tuna salamis.
All around the fishery and the main Piazza there are many low-roofed little houses made from local sandstone where the fishermen lived. These, along with the old fishery warehouses and canning factories have now been converted into craft shops, ice-cream parlours and characteristic little restaurants serving typical products of the area.
We met up with some friends and decided to try the catch of the day in one of the waterside fish restaurants.
After a couple of days here, we continued up the coast of Sicily to revisit Siracusa. (We previously wrote about this in our blog ‘Sicily’ on 13 November 2020).
When we arrived there was a big cruise ship moored on the dock, we were anchored nearby in the bay having a relaxing afternoon when the entertainment started on the ship. Loud Italian beach bar music was being played by a very enthusiastic entertainment host who seemed to be trying to get the passengers to join in with his party games (we couldn’t actually see any passengers on board!). Thankfully, the ship departed at 6pm and left us to have our sundown drink in peace!
The next day we took ‘Fred II’ on her maiden voyage to shore, tied her up and went for a walk around the town. With so much to see here, Siracusa probably remains our favourite place in Sicily!
We stocked up with fresh fruit, veg and fish from the market ready for our overnight passage to mainland Italy.