Well as you might surmise, we started making plans to travel to Siracusa/ Ortigia. Again, the hotel hostess was very helpful. For a reasonable rate, she arranged for us, car service with a driver to transport us from Taormina to the Siracusa. This trip was confirmed with Sicily-tours.com, also known Sicily Life tours which is located in Taormina, Province of Messina; phones listed on their pamphlet are :0039 333 269 5149, 0039 328 404 6658, web site: http://www.sicily-tours.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, see link below. This decision to do a tour in the Siracusa region to help us become familiar with navigating through the town, while then having the driver drop us off with luggage at our destination, made our transfer more palatable.
On our final morning at Villa Schuler, we were sad to leave. Shortly, after a leisurely breakfast on their sea view terrace, we were met on time by our gracious and professional driver/ host, Gianfranco who was well attired in suit and tie. After he introduced himself, both he and the hotel personnel helped us with our bags while we were escorted to a newer well maintained sedan. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our host from Sicily Life tours spoke English.
We were content to be traveling in comfort and luxury by our competent driver/ host, Gianfranco who was informative in sharing details about Sicily. During our conversations, we learned that Gianfranco had served in the Italian military, had been employed as a technical expert for a well known company and had traveled extensively throughout the world.
Before we knew it, an hour and 1/2 had passed and we were in Siracusa (Syracuse) which is a large town including the island, Ortigia and mainland districts, The picturesque, attractive island of Ortigia is inundated with tourists, but for access to museums and archaeological sites you have to be on Siracusa’s mainland.
Gianfranco drove near the Viale Paradiso to park. He explained that we would be touring the premier attraction in Siracusa which was in front of us, the Archaeological Park of Neapolis. He provided information and instructions, and then we agreed to meet him back where he parked after we had ample time to survey the archeological site.
So before crossing the street, we had to pass by a series of gaudy stalls displaying souvenirs, and foods before finding the ticket booth to purchase our entry tickets. Then we were on our way.
The following commentary about this Greek/ Roman archeological wonder is from the “Italy Heaven” blog:
“Siracusa’s Greek theatre (Teatro Greco) is one of the finest and largest of its kind. Cut directly into the rock, it was enlarged and modified several times over the centuries, and is still in use today – Greek plays are performed here in May and June each year (note that if you visit around this time you will find the theatre disfigured with wooden seating and stage sets).”
“Up above the Greek theatre is a low cliff with several caves cut into it, including a nymphaeum, where statues once surrounded the water feature.”
“The deep quarry to the east of the theatre is called the Latomia del Paradiso (Paradise Quarry), and it’s a peaceful and green spot, filled with vegatation and lemon trees. The most famous sight here is the huge cave called the Ear of Dionysius (Orecchio di Dionisio). Apparently it was Caravaggio who coined the name; the connection with Dionysius is the story that this ruler of ancient Syracuse used to eavesdrop on his prisoners incarcerated here, thanks to the cave’s acoustics. A second cave nearby, the Grotta dei Cordari was used by the rope-makers who gave the place its name.”
“Further along past the quarry – you’ll need to leave the archaeological park and follow Via Romagnoli around – are more quarries and a dramatic necropolis, with burial-niches cut into the rock – the most grand of these was traditionally supposed to be the burial place of Archimedes.”
“Outside the main park, but included in the ticket, is the Roman Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Romano), a wonderfully evocative spot, more so because unlike the Greek theatre, this is overgrown, covered in flowers and often overlooked.”
The following write up is by http://www.italianways.com:
“At the center of the fountain he created in Syracuse, Giulio Moschetti (1847-1909) portrayed Diana, the goddess of the hunt, in all of her calm and pride.”
“At her feet, Alpheus looks on in amazement as his beloved Arethusa turns into a fountain: appalled by the river god’s erotic pursuit, the nymph had asked for Diana’s help, leading to her metamorphosis. She sunk into the ground and emerged on the island of Ortygia, the oldest part of the Sicilian city. According to legend, that is the origin of the spring named after Arethusa.”
“The reinforced concrete sculpted group in Piazza Archimede includes Tritons and Pistrices, and was built between 1906 and 1907.”
Again, Gianfranco continued to escort us from the Piazza Pancali area to a major shopping street, Corso Giacomo Matteotti which is in the direction of what has to be the most stunningly beautiful square in the world, Piazza Duomo. At this point, we were presented with a map and instructions so that we could discover Ortigia on our own.
We took our time becoming accustomed to this gorgeously ornate town. We were very pleased that we ended up coming here. We strolled through the Piazza Duomo section before we headed down to the waterfront for a quick lunch. After we felt that we were adequately familiar with the local streets, we returned to a designated spot to meet Gianfranco.
Gianfranco then drove us to the “Algila Ortigia Charme” Hotel. Upon exiting the car, we were met by hotel personnel who assisted us with our luggage. We thanked Gianfranco for making this tour a very pleasurable event for us. I will discuss more about the hotel and Ortigia in my next blog.
Sicily tours, Sicily holidays and Etna tours www.sicilylife.com/ Sicily Life tours offers customized private Sicily tours, Mount Etna volcano tour, Taormina, Syracuse and Agrigento day tours by personalized service.