Exploring: Ortigia

March 2, 2010

Last Thursday we headed south to Siracusa and spent a delightful afternoon exploring Ortigia. A historic little island of stone buildings which seem to shimmer against the intense blue colors of Mediterranean. A tasty seafood lunch. A walk by the water. Meandering little streets which were remarkably pristine and relatively free of the graffitti that seems to cover most of Sicily. And then we came to the heart of island: the Piazza Duomo where a man wandered around playing an accordion, lemons cascaded over the stone walls, and the Cathedral beckoned us inside with her frilly white Baroque exterior. It felt like we were stepping onto the pages of an ad for Italian tourism. But when we entered the church we quickly left that scene and did some time traveling back to the time when Otrigia was a Greek settlement. It was hard to ignore the enormous Doric columns that bear the weight of the building. The building that was originally built as a Greek Temple honoring Athena and is now the main Catherdal honoring the town's patron saint, Lucia. It is a good example of the historical and architectural mix that is Sicily and her multi-layered history.

After that piece of time travel, we headed towards the water where we discovered the Fonte Aretusa and we learned the story of Arethusa. According to Greek myth, Arethusa, a nymph, was attempting to escape the amorous pursuits of a river god. Artemis intervened and changed Arethusa into a fresh water spring. But the pursuit did not end there. The River God, Alpheus, found her and their waters are said to be permanently intermingled in this lovely little area by the sea wall. It is now a popular site for tourists, local teenagers, and a happy family of ducks that live in the huge clump of papyrus growing on the edge of the spring.

Winding down and around the spring area we found the The Aquarium. It is very small, especially by American standards for aquariums, but it is a good place to get a better peek at some of the creatures living in the surrounding waters. The Aquarium and the little park areas on both sides of the Aquarium are also ideal spots for escaping the heat because of the large shady banyan trees. After checking out the sea life, we headed back up the sea wall for gelato which is always the perfect ending to a day of Siclian exploration. Actually I take that back; gelato is the perfect ending to any day, anywhere.

House Mother said...

Sounds like a wonderful day of exploring. Thanks for sharing!

I'm in Ireland exploring with my family for a year (or more). We also LOVE letterboxing but haven't found much opportunity here, so far.

Laurie said...

As I was reading, before I got to the last sentence, I was about to ask if there was ANY day for which gelato isn't the perfect ending! :-)

likeschocolate said...

The town looks beautiful! Thanks also for sharing about Purim. I never knew anything about it. Have a great week!

boatbaby said...

I so love exploring Italy via your posts! Like a mini vacation. You had me at lemon trees, oh how I love lemons.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful!

Jan

Heather said...

Isn't the graffiti surprising? I was totally surprised and saddened by it. I think Venice was were it hit me the most.

Loving your adventures.

Kate G. said...

I'm loving your Sicily posts. I remember Siracusa fondly and am enjoying living vicariously! What a great adventure for you all--

Lost in Sicily said...

having been wanting to make a trip back here, and your description reminds me why! fantastic adventures.

aimee said...

italian gelato...OH!...nothing better!

Corinne said...

oh i would love to be with you there :)

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