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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 22, 2014

Tuesday - excruciatingly hot but I kept on keeping on

Never, ever, ever come to Sicily in early to mid October.  I mean, maybe this is freakishly hot weather but what if it isn't?  What if it's always like this this time of year?  I'm dying here...

Anyway, aside from dying, yesterday I decided I would go to the Parco Archielogico or however they say it and I'm too comfortable right now to get my map that would tell me.  This is where he pride of Siracusa's Greek and Roman ruins are to be found.  And I'll just say right up front, overall I wasn't real impressed.  First I'll tell you why by the time I saw anything, I wasn't in the mood to be impressed and even though by the end of the outing and especially after getting back here, taking a shower, getting a good dinner and wine(!), I typed this up yesterday in my phone while sitting in the shade after I finally got into the park (which was a feat in itself!) so that I could also post it as a review on Trip Advisor. I started off fine - had to cross the bridge into Siracusa got myself to where you turn in to get to the entrance of the park and get a ticket and that's where the anger started to build. My review follows which doesn't even begin to give all the aggravating details of getting in, getting the ticket, then finding my way to any ruin mentioned on my guidebook map.

Park BIG disappointment mainly because of lack of a decent map and almost non existent signage. I saw (after asking) one sign for Greek theater after I had already passed the little path you had to get onto to see the sign.. Dionysius' ear was up above the theater but the first sign I saw for ear was before any sign for the theater and had an arrow pointing away from theater. Those were the only signs I saw except for signs for Archcimede's "tomba".  My guidebook map had a circular route  in which you were to see five sites. The only two I KNOW I saw are Theater Greco and the ear. I probably saw Latina del paradiso but with no sign who knows. I also apparently passed another of the five without knowing it although the book says it's closed indefinitely anyway. There are four more sites in the park not on book route one being tomb of Archimede. May try to find that although I do wonder how they know it's his. Save your 10E for a couple glasses of wine and hope that a visit to Agrigento will be a whole lot better.

After listening to my rant, I'll show you a couple of pictures I took on my way there.  I walked from the hotel in Ortigia to the park in Siracusa - I would say probably about a mile and a half or more by the time I backtracked a bit a time or two.  But that was okay - I was up for it then.

I took another picture of Apollo's Temple from a different side and it looks more like the ruin of something now, I think.

 Taken from the bridge when I crossed over to Siracusa.

 And this is in Siracusa where this big main street was lined with these pretty flowering trees.  Plus they have benches all along the street which is friendly, I think.

 The name of a bar but also good advice for a sometimes frazzled traveler.
 I was sitting in the one shady spot I could find after my I bet at least half a mile trip to the place where you buy your ticket (with signs posted on each pole of the tacky souvenir stalls you're passing saying "bigleteria 50M" meaning tickets - every one you passed said that.).  So I took this picture of what the guidebook calls "the modern ugly church" and it is. I did manage to think to try shortening the strap on my cross-body purse to as short as it would go and wear it around my waist which probably looked a little strange but beat having it bearing down on my shoulder. So I sat and let the breeze blow around me with my back turned towards where people might be walking to the ticket hut and lifted my shirt a little to get the full effect.  I just can't describe how hot it is.  It's like mowing the lawn in July but at least then you know you'll be done in an hour or so.  Then I walked the half mile back out and with no signs to tell me which way to go (and I mean no signs) I followed a tour group for quite a ways and when I began to have doubts stopped to ask a guy and he said "no, they're going to the museum, you need to go back where you come out from the ticket place".  Which I did and then wandered this way and that, asking here and there, and finally found the path up to the theater.

 It really is quite impressive and is still used in the summer for presentation of ancient Greek plays (in Italian).  You could see some installed sound equipment and such down to the sides of the stage.

 What stunned me looking at it (aside from just it) was the fact that it was I guess all just hewn out of the quarry.  I didn't see any signs that the rows of seats were blocks.
 Trying the panorama thing again - not too great.  But thank heavens I had my phone - I started out using my camera and it just couldn't deal with the blinding sun - just was all white with no detail.

Also, and this isn't the park's fault, when you're viewing the Greek theater, there is no way to avoid being in the sun - that constantly burning, heating, blinding sun.  But I did see the Greek theater and Dionysius ear (because it's a cave that looks like an ear on its side and apparently Dionysius kept prisoners in small caves on either side of it and some strange acoustical phenomenon enabled him to hear what they were saying.  .
And if you decided you weren't all that interested in the play, you could come up here and look out over the sea although hopefully, they didn't put on the plays until well after the sun went down.  And having said that, I suppose they wouldn't have had lighting would they so they had to put them on in the day?? Egads!  There  is also a Roman Theater somewhere outside the main part of the park and guess what it was used for.  Right, gladiatorial contests and circuses.  Ah, the decline and fall...Now if you turn around here, right in front of you will be Dionysius' ear.

The ear in the first photo and three of the supposed "cells" in this picture.  If these were really cells, the prisoners must have been very docile because how would you keep them in here?  And anywhere I read about this they mentioned the acoustics and how if you whispered in the cells you could hear it in the ear but I didn't see anyone doing it and I had no one to try it with so I can't swear that it's true.

And here's a picture of a cactus what am a cactus.  I was really impressed with its size and also wonder why cactuses grow here - granted it sure is hot and sunny enough, but it's not the desert and I would think especially at the higher elevations where this cactus was, winters are probably fairly chilly.  It doesn't look really healthy - maybe they just cling stubbornly to life.
Are you noticing the sky?  It really is like that.

Aside from pictures of the tree to top all trees, I only took this one lonely picture as I followed the plethora of signs to Archimede's tomb. 
I posted this original size because I wanted to show that little bit of white building that looks like it's being pushed off the top by the tree behind it.  When I saw that I wondered if they left that bit of ruin just to show how deep the excavation was.  You can't see it in this photo, but the current surface of the streets and such around the park is way, way higher than the lowest elevation in the park.  And after I had been there I read somewhere that the Greeks and probably others after them(?) had quarried stone here for their various buildings and supposedly or I guess factually since Cicero wrote about it, after their victory over Athens, they threw the prisoners down in the quarries and left them to die. 

The trek to the tomb finally became kind of hilarious, because after no signs to speak of anywhere, every turn (or even curve) you came to on this path now had a sign with an arrow "Archimede's Tomba". And underneath those signs began to also appear exit signs and I thought to myself "they're herding everyone to an exit by using the tomba as a carrot.  I can't guess how long a walk it was except it was long. But it was mostly shade, I had stopped trying to figure out if I was looking at something that mattered and I was on my way out so I was a pretty happy camper.  But sure enough, when you do finally get there, there is a man who, if you're English-speaking, points out what I had already assumed was the tomb and says as he shrugs his shoulders "maybe" and grins.  I just grinned back and said "exactly" and we chuckled.  Although an Italian couple who arrived when I did got a long, intricately involved speech from him and it would have been interesting to know what they heard that I didn't.Now you get to see tomb too.

With all the openings scattered all over this hill, it's easy to imagine it being a cemetery and the bigger oblong opening over to the right with the pointed pediment over it is obviously the one that is claimed to be Archimede's.  I was so dedicated at this point that when I left (through that exit that had been promised so frequently) that I even walked up the street till I could get a more straight on picture.
And this post is way too long already, so I'm going to post pics of the tree of trees separately.  They'll be below this post.

And I almost forgot my unforgettable dinner.  I went to Caravaggio's again because I had seen their blackboard with the special on it when I walked back to the hotel.  I got myself showered and cooled down and went back and had a succulent plate of caponata.  And I looked that up on Wiki to see what they say about it and right away they say it's a Sicilian dish featuring eggplant but can have numerous variations.  Mine had the eggplant, zucchini, a little bit of carrot and celery, sweet red pepper, small pieces of swordfish and really delicious small chunks of potato that had soaked up whatever wonderful things the dish was seasoned with. 

The aroma when he brought it to the table was incredible.and, again, it arrived steaming hot.  I about made myself sick but I cleaned my plate even to mopping it up with a little piece of bread.  That's where I had the delicious pizza.  I feel sorry for them because it's never very full at all when I've been there and catty-corner across the street from them is the place where I had the plateful of spaghetti with anchovies, pine nuts and raisins and it was certainly quite good and tasty but I haven't and won't be going back there because their service bordered on rude mainly because there was just no contact between them and me. The main guy (the owner probably) never spoke to me from seating through paying.  When I paid, he turned away to run the card, turned back sliding a pen and the ticket across to me, took them back when I was done and never said a word the whole time.  I stood and waited and when he finally turned partially around I did like we sometimes do in America and said "prego" which is thank you, meaning "you were supposed to say grazie you nerd" and he grunted something that wasn't grazie.  But they're always filled up, so go figure.  Anyway, I'm going to try and remember caponata when I get home.  Although I imagine all his ingredients were fresh from the market down the street...

1 comment:

Christopher said...

That is one impressive amphitheater, and one delicious looking meal! Perhaps back in the day, they had some kind of fabric shades on poles, or at least a constructed backdrop and 'roof' over the performance area... it would be kinda brutal to see a show back then, in full sun, with no speakers, etc... ;)

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