Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Siracusa & Mount Etna

Siracusa June 16 – 27

As stated earlier, we’d sailed 63 hours non-stop from Brindisi to Siracusa. At first, Siracusa was thought to be a base for stop-over while we toured Sicily. But Siracusa – particularly - the old town, Ortigia, is so captivating that we’d decided to stay for a longer time, while we’re waiting for the arrival of our friends, the Stephens.

Ortigia is a small island, laden with history, connected to the mainland by three small bridges, represents the pulsating heart of the city. All the civilizations that left their mark on Sicily are represented here by fascinating remains still visible within the urban network where different styles and atmospheres mingle. The entire island is one mile by one and half miles, surrounded by a seawall. There are beautiful ancient churches, pleasant town squares (piazzas), warrens of neat alleys where one can get delightfully lost, and, of course, plenty of resturants and shops for gelatos and pastries. It is perfect for strolling, people watching, and of course, gelato sampling! Our boat is docked at the town dock, right by the Ortigia. We have stayed here for over a week now, thoroughly enjoying the ambience of this mid-size Sicilian city. There’s an open air market every morning with plenty of fresh produce at good prices. The temperature is still pleasant, at about 26C, although under the fierce Mediterranean sun, by mid-day everyone slows down and tries to hide under a shade. After supper on the boat, we often go out in the evening and stroll around the ancient roads, sit at the town square by one of Europe’s oldest churches, listen to people playing accordion, and watch the world going by.

        Siracusa harbour. The town dock is to the right.

       The 'Dumo', Siracusa Cathedral at the town square

             The beautiful town square

            Ben getting his long-needed hair cut in a neighborhood hairdresser

              One of our favorites, Cannoli, a Siracusa specialty

On day 3 that we were here, we went to Mount Etna with a fellow cruiser, Francois, from France. We took the 6:20am Interbus to Catania, from there, caught the 8:30am ATS bus to Etna. We’re dropped off at the Rifugio Sapienza (1923M), and from there, took the Funivia dell’Etna (cable car, bus & guide), and the bus couriered us up to the official crater zone (2920M). It was really interesting to walk around the craters of an active volcanoe, with steam coming out of the crater, and the black volcanic sand is hot to the touch!

                Hiking up the crater

               This volcanic sand is still warm!

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