We met David and Judy at Milan airport, then whizzed off down to Sicily for our island getaway. We’ve been looking forward to this trip for quite sometime as the vivid descriptions we’ve been reading about this Pearl of Southern Italy are truly captivating. From the incredible colour of the crystal clear water to the mighty volcano Mount Etna, the history and numerous World Heritage sites, to the smells and tastes of the fresh local produce. We soon realised that we had time to only enjoy the sights of the the southern half of the island, so perhaps that gives us a reason to come back again?
We flew into Catania, picked up a hire car as it sounded pretty much impossible to make the most of the island using only public transport and then headed south to Siracusa. Again staying in an Airbnb, this time a two bedroom selfcontained apartment, in the heart of the older residential area. Our hosts are there to meet us, give some local maps and the low down on the local restaurants/cafes etc. With only a ten minute walk to the historic centre on the island of Ortygia we're in a prime spot.
Siracusa, with a population of 125,000, is an ancient port city founded in 734BC by the Greeks. Once a great capital, it rivalled Athens with both power and splendour and was regarded as one of the most powerful cities of the western world. Now days we get to enjoy the faded seaside palaces and the spectauclar Duomo in the town centre that was literally built on top of an ancient Greek temple. So you can imagine the number of Greek and Roman ruins that are scattered throughout this city, specifically the mainland's Neapolis Archaeological park.
The island of Ortygia is tiny, measuring only 1km by 500 metres, but an absolute gem. It’s connected to the mainland by two bridges and is filled with beautifully restored Baroque buildings, stunning views of the clearest water I’ve ever seen, delightful piazzas and mesmerising, narrow winding streets. Being so small its pretty much impossible to get lost, so the perfect opportunity just to follow our noses and enjoy the experience!!!
Whether its early in the morning and you’re searching for a good cafe, as we always are, and a Sicilian pastry or later in the day when the sun is well up and you’re looking for a shady spot to rest your weary legs and indulge in a gelato, this stunning place has it all. The colourful morning street market sells a fantastic array of fruit, veggies, fish and meat to locals and tourists. And towards the end of market is a widely renown deli called “I Sapori dei gusto Smarriti” which means ‘Flavours of Lost Tastes’. The queue is already well out onto the street and Jude’s inquisitive nature soon has her over there checking it out. Even though there’s a cruise boat in port the town still feels full of old fashioned charm, nobody seems in a hurry. We’ve only been here twenty four hours and have already been won over by this environment - not sure it can get much better than this.
With the help of our hosts, we found a fun local family restaurant. No English was spoken but we laughed and enjoyed their delicious fresh tasty pasta and local wines and beers. Great prices so I can see we’ll be eating out lots.
Two picturesque Baroque styled towns, Noto and Ragususa, are an easy drive away so the perfect day trip. Both are centuries old, with beautiful historic centres, but were destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1693. So what we saw were towns that date back to the early 18th century. Still charming and full of character, Noto in particular is quite a stunning example of Baroque styled architecture .