Avoiding the madness…

Posted by on 9, Mar 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Europe, Italy, Tilly the Tandem

Avoiding the madness…
Original Roman mosaic insitu
Noto Town Hall

Noto theatre
Ancient caves where stone for Amphitheatres mined, Syracuse
Syracuse Greek Amphitheatre
Syracuse Cathedral
Aperitivo… ????

From Pozzallo we headed to the south east corner of Sicily and had some of the nicest cycling we’ve had, lots of quiet roads interspersed with the usual poop you pants moments, but all in all very nice.

Our northward leg from here took in the Roman Villa Tellari with some wonderful mosaic floors where we had our picnic lunch – cheddar cheese (from Malta) rolls! One of these mosaics was huge and still in situ and we gazed at it willing a TARDIS to appear and whisk us back in time.

We had planned to stop in Noto a baroque hill town and UNESCO site, but Tillys sprocket being unwell gave us a great excuse to stay on the coast and get the train up instead which itself was like a TARDIS had whisked us back to about 1950 with a train that if it was possible for it to have human emotions looked worn out and longing for retirement. It was covered in graffiti (well at least it’s not rubbish) and you couldn’t see out of the windows for it

There’s no station ticket machines and no ticket office so we had to buy our ticket on the train – where we promptly got fined for not buying our ticket in a tobacconist! Even so it was still only €7 for us both, which became even better value on the way back where we had to buy our tickets on the train as no tobacconists sell tickets in Noto and the guard couldn’t be bothered to charge us the €2!

Noto was amazing. The town itself was built in the 1800’s on a new site 13km away from the old town which had been destroyed in an earthquake. So it’s all one style and untouched by modern architects and their, as our new King would say, carbunkels….We loved it.

The guide books had warned us the place was tatty, but they’ve obviously not toured the rest of Sicily, where B&Q would go bust within a week!

Syracuse – after some dreadful roads and entry into the city, where apparently we became completely invisible to the morons behind the wheels – was a real shock, and not just because we are still alive!

We arrived just after lunch and headed to the Archeological park to see the ruins. We left a fully loaded Tilly in front of the ticket office where the staff said they’d watch her for us and wandered around some of the most incredible ruins we’ve seen in Sicily so far.

The site is typically Sicilian. The ticket office is signposted on the opposite side of the road to the site, but is in fact hidden in the site and not where the sign post points! You eventually enter and get a great map on the information board that says pick a red, blue or yellow walking route that are various lengths taking in various sites. Red route, we think, so set off. Well that’s the last time you see any colour mentioned anywhere!

But fret Yee not, there’s a QR code handily placed for access to a walking map. That I surprisingly doesn’t work and in any case half the walkways have ropes across them and are closed, but we did get to see the most important bits and only missed Archimedes tomb.

We’ve seen ancient stone quarrys before but never this size. It was enormous and the caves where the stone had been cut out of the cliff face would house a cathedral, fortunately we’d brought our bike front light with us, which is as bright as a lighthouse, so we were able to explore the dark vaults and see the chisel marks and cuts as fresh as if they’d been done yesterday. Remarkable.

Adjacent to this was the Greek Theatre which is currently being restored, and that thought alone probably has Archimedes turning in his grave. It’s huge and we had lunch at the top gazing down on the stage area where the work is going on, well, obviously not going on whilst we were there as like many public works here there’s plenty of evidence of it having been started but little evidence of it actually being done anymore.

You wander on from there passing the biggest sacrifical altar in the Greek world – this is the size of 3 football pitches end to end and is a raised flat platform, this is next to the Roman Amphitheatre which again we just stopped and stared at for ages. The ancients seemed to have a busy life going from Theatre to altar to Amphitheatre!

Tilly was waiting for us at the ticket office and we headed down to the main city which was a real shock. It was clean, well maintained and a real gem – you’d think you were in Spain or France or anywhere thats not in Sicily and again we loved it. Narrow winding steets, stone buildings, plazas and all on an island surrounded by the med and connected to the mainland by two bridges, one even had cycle lanes! Obviously these were used as a place to park your car so cyclists had to cycle on the main road…

The cathedral in the central square has an ornate baroque exterior and a realtively plain interior with a Norman ceiling and Greek columns as part of the exterior walls. There’s been a temple on this spot for in excess of 2500 years and these columns have been here that long, seeing worship of the Greek Pantheon of god’s, through Christianity then Islam and then back to Christianity again.

We couldn’t work out if the columns had been Insitu for all that time, but they did look like it and we’ll let you know when the TARDIS arrives…

The castle on the end of the island was a tranquil place surrounded by lapping waves and virtually no written guides. It was a actually really nice just to wander around and peer through the gun ports at the azure blue sea and think not a bad place to be as a squadie…

Syracuse is definitely one of our favourite cities here, thoughs it’s best bit the island Ortigia is more of a small town and perfect for waterside ‘Aperitivo’ while watching the sunset… I wouldn’t want to be here in August though, so put it on your bucket list for a spring visit.

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