| Part 7: Ragusa,
-> Modica -> Siracusa
Hotel Teocrito, Siracusa. 80 Euro for a
large, nice room elegantly furnished, actually almost lavishly
furnished considering that this is a three star establishment. Big
bathroom with shower in the bathtub. Small fridge available, small flat
screen TV with satellite receiver. Fast WLAN in the room. A/C unit
which doubles as a heater. Friendly staff, who advises on the
highlights of Siracusa. Electronic safe in the room.
Weather: sunny with some clouds the
whole day. A bit fresh in Ragusa due to the altitude (520m), warmer in
Siracusa. No rain.
We check out of the hotel at 11:10am, then drive towards Ragusa Ibla,
the historic centre of Ragusa. This is the city rebuilt by the wealthy
inhabitants after the earthquake at the end of the 17th century.
We initially stop on the roadside from some panoramic photos of Ragusa
Ibla, then drive closer to the city and park the car right under the
historic centre. It's easy to find a free parking spot.
Shortly after 12pm we reach the main square in front of the San Giorgio
church. We spend the next hour and a half walking around the streets
exploring the place. There is a mini-train offering rides for tourists,
but we decide to skip it.
Ragusa Ibla is a relatively small place, which can easily be visited in
a few hours. The highlight is the San Giorgio square and church. Ragusa
Ibla is built in baroque style and is clean and pleasant to visit. All
buildings are well maintained. Lots of tourist shops and lots of
restaurants offering not so expensive meals. Essentially this is a
tourist hotspot, with a good tourist infrastructure. Ragusa Ibla is
At 1:30pm we stop for lunch in one of the places we spotted before, the
U Saracinu restaurant. Surprise, surprise, all dishes here are much
cheaper than elsewhere in Sicily. Pasta dishes starting from 5 Euro,
meat dishes for 7 Euro, half of the average price level in Sicily. In
addition the dining room is welcoming and nicely decorated, the food is
not bad and the staff is very friendly. After 10 days of junk food,
Chinese restaurants and overpriced Italian restaurants we finally run
into a good place.
At 2:40pm we head back to the car and then drive to nearby Modica,
arriving there at 3:20pm. Modica is another of the baroque cities in
the Noto valley, listed in the UNESCO world heritage list for its
Italian baroque architecture.
Some quick research on the smartphone and in the guidebook to find out
what the highlights are. We then drive to the San Giorgio church. This
has a beaufitul facade which in the late afternoon light looks simply
great. The church interior is also richly decorated.
Shortly after 4pm the last sunrays disappear behind the hills and we
start driving to Siracusa, where we'll spend the night. It's an 80km
drive, which we complete in about 1h 30min. The road is initially
limited to 50km/h speed, then becomes a motorway for the last 30 km
After checking in we drive to the historic centre of Siracusa on the
island of Ortigia (about 2km from the hotel). There we wander around a
bit, until we run into the Conte di Cavour restaurant. Unbelievably
inexpensive dishes, e.g. pizza starting at 3.50 Euro, cheapest I've
ever seen in Italy. We have a dinner there between 7 and 8pm and are
the only customers during this time. The food again is not bad and the
is moderate for Italian standards.
After dinner we walk around a bit and get a glimpse of the baroque
architecture of Siracusa. Also here there are beautiful buildings,
squares and fontains. Shortly before 9pm we head back to the hotel.
Hotel Teocrito, Siracusa. The breakfast
is buffet style and rather unimpressive. Slow Internet connection in
the evening of January 5th.
Weather: sunny blue sky in the
morning, with a few thin, high altitude clouds stripes in the sky.
Quite warm, no wind, I walk around with a T-shirt. In the afternoon a
cloud cover gradually builds up and the temperatures drop markedly.
After 3pm overcast, but no rain for the whole day.
We leave the hotel at 11:20am and slowly walk towards the Neapolis
archaeological area which is not far from the hotel. On the way we
briefly stop at the Madonna delle Lacrime church, which has a
characteristic cone shape.
We reach the archaeological site at 11:45am and get the tickets (10
Euro/adult, kids don't pay). We then walk towards the Greek theater.
The Neapolis site (ancient Syracuse) is relatively big, but the really
interesting things are only a few: the Greek theater, a Roman theater
and a large cave (Dyonisus ear). Otherwise there are several stones
lying around here and there, caves carved into the rock, and
miscellaneous ruins from which one can imagine that this place must
have been quite big in antiquity.
The Greek theater is nice. It's by far not as well preserved as the one
in Taormina or the Epidaurus one in Greece (in fact it's quite small
compared to these), but it's still interesting.
On the top behind the theatre there is a water spring and several small
caves and niches, sort of rooms, cut in the rock. I wonder what these
were used for. There are also rectangular carvings in the rock, which
must be man-made. Again here I have no explanation why on earth people
would put in the effort to make these carvings.
After the theatre we proceed to the ear of Dionysius, a tall man-made
cave. This must be 20-30m tall and is a quite impressive view.
Supposedly this was used in ancient times to store water.
We then briefly visit the Roman theatre, which is even less well
preserved than the Greek one. Here the rows of seats are now partly
covered with grass and only few rows of seats are left.
By 1:20pm we are done visiting the Neapolis site and slowly walk
towards the hotel. Once there we get into the car and drive to Ortigia
island, where the historic centre of Siracusa is located. We could
walk, but the small one is now a but tired and it's already late, i.e.
we have to rush a bit for lunch before the restaurants close.
For lunch we go again to the same place where we had dinner yesterday,
the Conte di Cavour restaurant. Different staff this time, but again
very, very friendly. For the dessert the lady only charges 2 instead of
4 Euro for the panna cotta. Although actually 4 Euro for a small
portion of panna cotta would be quite overpriced.
When we get out of the restaurant at 3:10pm the weather has changed.
The sky is now overcast and it is markedly colder.
We spend the next few hours exploring the historic centre. There is
actually not that much to see. There is the fountain in Archimede
square and Piazza Duomo is beautiful, with all those building facades.
Then there is this Maniace castle, which is closed in the afternoon and
that's it. The remainder are mostly plain square block buildings. In
addition, most buildings are of this yellowish colour.
By contrast the city of Kromeriz in the Czech republic, also a city
with plenty of baroque architecture, is much, much cuter than Siracusa.
There the building shapes and facades are more interesting and better
decorated, and there are lots of colours.
Shortly before sunset the sun manages to peek through the clouds for 10
minutes and I make use of this time to shoot a number of photos of
Siracusa, because now the light is as it should be. Later, during the
blue hour I shoot some 360° panoramas of Piazza Duomo.
In the evening we just have a simple dinner in a cafe at 6:40pm,
because we had a late lunch between 2 and 3pm. Then we get back to the
-> Catania -> Munich
Home, sweet home
sunny & blue sky in Siracusa, quite warm (warm enough at noon to
walk around with a T-shirt). Little wind. Same weather in Catania,
although there is some wind on the motorway.
We leave the hotel at 11:30am and then drive to Ortigia island, leaving
the car in the usual parking. Lots of people on the streets today, lots
of activity, many shops are open. On the main Piazza Duomo people sit
in cafe chairs enjoying the good weather and the great day. It feels
like a warm spring day.
We walk to the Maniace castle, arriving there at 12:30pm. The tickets
cost 4 Euro (kids don't pay). The castle lies at the southern tip of
the Ortigia island. It's a bit of a disappointment because renovation
works are ongoing with scaffolding visible here and there. There are
few halls, all empty. Most of the rooms we see are broken. No
decorations, artifacts, no spots with nice views. Had we known that the
castle is like this we would have skipped it.
At 1pm we start walking back to the car. With the kids it takes about
half an hour to walk from one end of Ortigia island to the other one
(including the stop to buy the ice cream).
We then drive to the hotel in Acireale where we forgot the children
blanket. At 2:30pm we are there. Then the idea would be to get to the
airport asap, refuelling the car along the way.
I key in the airport into the navigation system, choosing the longer,
but faster motorway route. What happens is that the navigation system
sends us instead on the rural route, on all dumb roads through all
villages. It's as if fate wanted us to remember how much it sucks to
drive in Sicily.
Instead of 20 minutes it takes an hour to reach the airport, because we
drive across all tiny narrow streets of all villages and of Catania. In
Catania we try to refuel the car, but all petrol stations we check out
only allow to fill in fixed amounts of 5, 10, 20 or 50 Euro.
We continue driving to the airport hoping to find a big and "good"
petrol station. It turns out that there is no petrol station near the
airport, so we have to drive back towards Catania. Then when we arrive
the petrol station, there is a long queue of cars. Since we are already
late, we just drive back to the airport, arriving at 3:45pm.
There we return the car and proceed to check in for the flight. There
is not so much queue at the Air Berlin counter. After checking in we
rush to the Autogrill restaurant for some meal (we haven't had lunch
After this meal we head to the security check. There we meet the mother
of all queues. Apparently there are not enough security staff today
resulting in too few open security gates. But it's also so that the
security staff works painfully slow. I must say that the people who
manage this airport have no brains, because it's well known that
today is a peak fly back day and the staffing of the security gates is
totally inadequate. Only half of the security gates are open.
After some queueing, at 4:45pm I discover that there is a fast track
for families. We use that and after about 15 minutes we have finally
passed the security check. We rush to the gate (last call status) and
finally at 5:15pm board the plane.
The plane takes off at 5:35pm with a 15 minutes delay. The aircraft is
quite full, almost all seats are taken.
We land at 7:42pm in Munich, which is curious because the flight now
took 2:07 hours, while flying from Munich to Catania on December 22nd
took only 1:45 hours. Apparently the plane flew at a lower speed,
because we didn't make loops over Munich. We are back home at 9:20pm.