Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sicily Part 1: Syracuse

Ciao! As promised, here are some pictures from Sicily. We went to Syracuse first, for my research. Syracuse is a port city, as you can see. Although in Italy, it was first colonized by the Greeks, so it has an abundance of Greek ruins, many of them from the fifth or fourth century B.C.

Here's the view from the terrace of our B & B. It was nice to stay so close to the sea. Alas, it was still too cold to go swimming.

A typical Italian breakfast: toast and jam! The jam at our B&B was made fresh from the owners' own fruit trees.

Not too far from our B&B was a spot where we could climb on some rocks. It was particularly windy the day we took this picture; I had to hang onto my hat to keep from losing it! Behind me you can see a castle built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (a.k.a. 'Stupor Mundi,' meaning 'Wonder of the World.' Why was he called this, you ask? Because in the Fifth Crusade, he took the city of Jerusalem from the Turks without shedding a drop of blood. Not that he was particularly humble about it, as his nickname implies. . .)

Here's another view of the rock where I was standing (on the far right). The castle-looking sea walls were built by some Spanish rulers, called the Catalans. See how clear the water is?

Like I said, Syracuse is the home of several Greek ruins--they had the place well-established long before the Romans even thought of having an empire. Here's John on the upper deck of a Greek theater. You can see that they're rebuilding the seats behind him; this theater actually puts on shows in the summertime.

Not too far from the Greek theater was the quarry where Greeks enslaved Greeks for hard labor. The formation below is a man-made echo chamber called "Dionysius' Ear": the legend goes that the tyrant Dionysius had this rock grotto shaped thus so he could listen to what the slaves were grumbling about.

The Romans being the Romans, they eventually took over what the Greeks had and added their own special twist. Here's me next to a Roman ampitheatre; it's oval-shaped and on either side there are channels dug out so wild animals could come bounding out to attack anything in their way, much to the amusement of the onlookers in the stands. This is the third largest ampitheatre in Italy; the largest is, not surprisingly, the Colosseum.

Like I said, the technical reason for our trip to Sicily was my research. The church below is San Giovanni. Although the ruins you see are from the medieval period, the church was founded much earlier in the 3rd century A.D. You can't tell it from the picture, but underneath the church are extensive Christian catacombs (a network of tombs set up much like an underground city, complete with 'streets'). We were able to tour through these catacombs; all of the bodies are long gone but you cans till see the niches where they were put.

What's Sicily without its fish? We took an educational trip to the market in Syracuse and this is what we found. Any of this look appetizing? Can you figure out which slimy thing is which?

After a night and a full day in Syracuse, which is a big city, we were ready to get out of town for a while. A few hours of interrogating locals later, we found a bus out to the castle of Euryalos. It dates from at least the 3rd century B.C. and was partially designed by the great Greek mathematician and strategist, Archimedes. The ruins were pretty extensive and we had a great time scampering around the rocks.

In open rebellion of the weather, which had turned cold and nasty, we went to a beach. The water was freezing and what you see here was as far as we got into it! We did find a nice tidepool, however--our pet elephant certainly enjoyed it.

While John's contemplating this little sea cave, we'll leave you here and pick up with Agrigento for the next post. Ciao!


  1. Great pictures!! I love your very top picture taken at night - very dramatic. Right now tho - I'd like a shot of you guys in front of a midwestern barn!

  2. Aw, that's sweet. But I don't think they have midwestern barns here. -L and J