Today, we arrived in the first of our three Sicilian ports, Syracuse, and what a corker it was!
As the ship pulled alongside the quay at about 8am, the Old Town looked positively resplendant, bathed as it was in the warm morning sunlight, with Mount Etna steaming away on the distant horizon (we’re just down the coast from Catania). We really couldn’t wait to get ashore.
As always, though, we began our day with a leisurely breakfast before stepping ashore at approximately 10am. We’d been issued with pre-printed terminal passes that had to be scanned at the border gate, and then scanned again on our return to the ship, which was a new one on us.
It was very hot as we made our way towards the two bridges separating the small island of Ortygia from the mainland, and, essentially, the old town from the new. On our way, we took a sneaky photograph of a printed map on the back of a rentable electric car to give us some idea of which route might be our best, so as not to miss anything of significance.
Our first landmark was a ruined temple, known as the Temple of Apollo. This was followed, after a short walk, by an impressive fountain in a small square called Piazza Archimedes. We spent some time here, photographing and filming the fountain, before moving on to Syracuse Cathedral, a magnificent building fronted by a busy square and surrounded by buildings constructed in the the same architectural style. If pushed, I would have to say that it had the feel of Venice about it.
A little further on, we came to the fresh water Fountain of Arethusa. According to Greek mythology, it is the place where the nymph Arethusa was turned into a fountain by the Goddess Diana, to protect her after being caught skinny dipping by the river spirit Alpheus. She was transformed as she made her escape, and Alpheus was turned into an underground stream that flows into the Arethusa by the God Jupiter. As you would…
At the tip of the island is a fort – Castello Maniace – but we didn’t go in because I think we’re all ‘fort-ed’ out. Instead, we walked to little park where we sat down, ate the fruit we’d brought with us from our cabin and drank water. There was a small beach nearby, called Spiaggetta di Aretusa, which appeared to be popular with the locals. ‘Spiaggetta’ is Italian for ‘beach’.
We found more beaches when we crossed to the opposite side of the island; Spiaggetta di Cala Rossa being the most notable, and what was identified on the map as a ‘Solarium’ at Forte Vigliene, which appeared to be a man-made structure, attached to the rocks along the coastline, where bathers could lounge and access the water. There were even showers provided!
It soon became clear that this side of the island was what one might call the ‘less glamorous’ area of Syracuse. It did help to give us a fully-rounded view of the location, though, so we didn’t mind. Eventually, our route brought us back, via Forte San Giovannello – an arched bridge crossing the main road, back to the Temple of Apollo, where we sat down at a bar and ordered ice cream and drinks.
We were back at the ship by 3:15pm, thoroughly exhausted, but also fully satisfied by our visit. We decided that we really like Syracuse.