Food and Antiquities in Siracusa:
Our visit to Siracusa somehow didn’t seem to last long enough. Although we started early and arrived in Ortygia, the old town, by around 10am there seemed to be too much to see and not enough time to cover everything.
We started our trip by visiting what Livia, our guide, described as ‘a real Italian food market’. By which I think she meant that although there were plenty of tourists, the food being sold there was for local people to cook and eat. Whilst I’ve been to larger market in Europe (in Barcelona, Florence and even in London), this one was charming and vibrant.
Plentiful fish stalls, selling a wide range of fish from red mullet to octopus, wonderful cheeses and stall after stall with sun dried pachino tomatoes, mountain oregano and bags of almonds. Of course we bought. In my case smoked mozzarella, a tub of sundried tomato paste and the largest bag of almonds in the world (well, ok, the largest bag that I thought might fit in my case for the return trip!). I also bought garlic – having discovered the stuff you can buy in Spain and Italy tastes very different to what I am used to from the supermarket here.
Next a bit of cultural sightseeing. Like much of Sicily, Siracusa is a collection of ornate, baroque buildings which replaced the city that was destroyed in the Earthquake of 1693. There are fountains and perfect baroque squares. There are also remnants of this city’s heritage – the temple of Apollo as you cross into Ortygia seems out of place in the City Centre, surrounded by shops and houses but is a reminder that this city was founded in 734 or 733 BC by Greek settlers and remained an important outpost of both the Greek and Roman Empires
A little further into the city, the most perfect fountain in Archimedes square leading to the cathedral (Siracusa is the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer)
Siracusa is a Unesco world heritage site, but I believe it is the Greek and Roman ruins that have earned the city that accolade. Nevertheless, both the approach to the Cathedral and the building itself are stunning…every bit as much as the baroque heritage towns of Modica, Noto, Ragusa and others in the Noto valley.
Or perhaps it is just that the sun was shining, there was music and the wine was flowing!
We left Ortygia to visit the World Heritage Site on the outskirts of the city, visiting those ancient steps
The Ear of Dionysius is part of the same site, a strange cave that was original dug to store water, but later used for holding political dissidents, where means of the perfect acoustics according to legend, Dionysius could eavesdrop on the plans and secrets of his captives – or if you prefer the more gruesome version listen to the screams of prisoners being tortured in it.
This is a city with a complex history evident whereever you go. From the Ancient Greeks and Romans, to Byzantine Emperors to the Spanish and then finally to Italy with the Unification in 1865. Whilst the impact of tourism is evident, Siracusa or Syracuse is still relatively unspoilt and should definitely be on the agenda of anyone visiting Southern Sicily.