October 22, 2019
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It was about an hour and a half drive to Siracusa (Italian spelling). I was relieved to reach the four lane freeway so that all the people that wanted to go 80+ MPH would not have to pass me on blind turns since I was only going 65 or 70 MPH. This could turn into a rant about Italian driving. The bottom line is that I saw a lot of crosses with flowers on the side of the road and I witnessed a close call head on collision when some idiots (three vehicles at once) were trying to pass an 18 wheeler. This Italian culture of speed and impatience on the highway was not attractive.
Siracusa is a very interesting city. There are Greek and Roman ruins, medieval churches and buildings and museums to explore. The fresh sea food and wine was fantastic. Here is a Google map link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/dYZ7tkE2B2nxEWWz7
The Greeks were the first to really settle and turn the area into a thriving metropolis (with the help of slaves). Archimedes was born and killed by the Romans there. The City was equal in size and influence to Athens in the 5th century BC. It served as the capital of the Eastern Catholic Byzantine Empire in 663-669 AD. Here is a link to more information on the city’s history: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syracuse,_Sicily
There are three sections to this city. The medieval old town on the Island of Ortigia, the Roman and Greek ruins on the hills, and then the more modern areas of the city.
You cross a small channel to reach the Island of Oritgia. Here are some photos in Ortigia:
The Duomo di Siracusa, below, is the most important church in Siracusa. It was originally a very large Greek temple dedicated to Athena. While it is sad that the original temple was lost, at least some of it has survived. When the earliest Christian church was built the the temple could have been completely destroyed and quarried for materials.
More information can be found in the link below:
The above image is from inside the Duomo. Note the gown the young lady was asked to wear before entering the Duomo.
Saint Lucia (Lucy) is the most venerated saint in Siracusa. She was martyred in 304 AD. It is said that in the 17th century the city of Siracusa was having a famine and after praying to Saint Lucia, a ship with no crew appeared with cargo of wheat and saved the city. Every year in December there is a massive celebration of this event.
A biography on Saint Lucia can be found here (an interesting read): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy
More information on the celebration can be found here: http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art333.htm
More information about the chapel in the Duomo dedicated to Saint Lucia can be fount here: https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duomo_di_Siracusa#Seconda_cappella:_La_cappella_di_Santa_Lucia
I went back to Island of Ortigia in the evening. At all times I felt safe. There was a great night scene with lots of people, outdoor dining, and wine bars. Following are more photos:
The above establishment was my go to place to get a meal. For five euro I could get a big plate of rigatoni in a rich tomato sauce with small chunks of pork that had an incredible sharp bacon flavor. They had great pizza and hot sandwiches too. It was a working class cafe with about 4 simple picnic tables and bench seating. The bulk of their business was take out. It was run by two ladies who couldn’t speak English, but they could cook. Their address is Corso Umberto I, 65, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy.
The next day I walked the 30 minutes up to the historic Greek and Roman ruins. Ancient ruins always stir my imagination and curiosity. I’m trying to find a common thread that binds everything in human history together. I want things to make sense and have some kind of order to them. Like Einstein and Hawking trying to find the master model of the universe or poor Archimedes trying to accurately calculate the value of pi. In the end, for me at least, it is about a good bottle of Sicilian wine and some well aged cheese with cured meats.
Below are photos of the Ear of Dionysius. It is located in an ancient limestone quarry used by the Greeks and Romans. There is debate about whether the cave is man made or a natural formation or both. I think the answer is both. Regardless, it has a long history. More information is here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ear_of_Dionysius
The Archaeological Park of Neapolis includes the ancient quarry, the Greek amphitheater, The Street of Tombs and the Roman ruins. More details can be found here (you have to scroll to find information in this link): https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parco_archeologico_della_Neapolis
Nearby were the ruins of an ancient Roman arena:
The Norman era church below caught my eye. It was built over an ancient Roman pool.
As an engineer and mathematics aficionado I took a special interest in learning that Siracusa was Archimedes hometown.
Archimedes studied the equations of circles and parabolas and discovered on his own the foundations of modern day integral calculus. I shake my head thinking what he could have accomplished with the tools we have today. I just recently saw an article about how the sun (instead of fossil fuel) could be used to produce cement from limestone. Archimedes would have been tickled to read this: https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/business/heliogen-solar-energy-bill-gates/index.html
Here is a biography on Archimedes that draws a picture of his brilliance: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes
Archimedes, approximately 75 years old, was killed by a Roman soldier in 212 BC after a 2 year siege of the city. The politics that triggered the war with Rome was as complicated. For more information on the siege and the fall and sacking of Siracusa see this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Syracuse_(213%E2%80%93212_BC)
Even though I spent four nights in Siracusa, there was so much that I did not see. I could not spend too much time away from the hotel due to my problem with eating the DEVIL FRUIT in Modica. My intestines were back to normal by the 3rd day, but it was a scary experience. Thankfully, I had only eaten one prickly pear or I would have needed to go to an ER for help.
The next city to visit is Taormina.