We stayed almost a week enjoying the sights of Siracusa. Ortygia Island (also called Città Vecchia or Old City) is connected to the main city by the Umbertino bridge and is full of ancient buildings. As you wander through its busy narrow streets with their overhanging ornate balconies, you are faced with piazzas and grand buildings at every turn.
The Parco Archeologico Della Neopolis is then a short walk through the newer part of the city, on our way we passed the 20th Century conical Cathedral of the Madonna delle Lacrime (Our Lady of the Tears) which was consecrated in 1994 and a stark contrast to the traditional stone buildings. It is affectionately known by the locals as the ‘inverted ice cream cone’.
Upon arrival at the archeological park we first visited the Greek theatre which has evidence of dating back to the prehistoric age. There was a show on that evening and so the theatre had been prepared with wooden benches covering up the original stonework. The theatre is one of the biggest in the world that has been entirely carved into the rock.
Next to the theatre is an ancient stone quarry called Latonia del Paradiso, man made caves have been created here dating back to the 5th Century BC, the most famous being The Ear of Dionysus (Orecchio di Dionisio). It is called this due to its ear shape, but also for its acoustic properties which amplify the sounds inside it. According to the legend, Dionysus used it as a jail where he would eavesdrop on the prisoners’ conversations.
After walking through the quarry and along trails with overhanging trees, we just had time to visit the remains of the Roman amphitheatre before the park closed. Built around the 3rd Century BC and created primarily for gladiatorial contests, it is considered the third largest in Italy.
On another day I met up with the ladies from the convoy to visit the market. Ortygia has one of the best Mediterranean markets that we’ve visited. The stalls are packed with everything that you need, colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, fish and spices, along with hats, bags, household goods and souvenirs, so it’s a great place to stock up before we depart.
We tried some local cheese, fruit and delicious fresh oysters, and still had some room for lunch and a glass of wine in one of the market deli’s.
After a great time revisiting Siracusa with our friends, the convoy from MdR was starting to disperse.
We planned to head across to the mainland of Italy, with a good wind forecast in a few days time we decided to head a little further north to explore the city of Catania and also prepare the boat for the crossing.