Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Honeymoon Day 5: Syracuse: Archaeological Park and the Museum Archeologico

Teatro Grecko in Syracuse
It was searingly hot day in Syracuse and we decided to spend the morning and early afternoon out in the heat. Only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun they say.

Our objective was the Archealogical Park which is located a good thirty / forty minute walk across town from where we were staying on the island of Ortega. When we arrived at the park we headed to the entrance gates, where we thought we’d be able to buy a ticket, only to discover that they had to be purchased across a busy road and one the far side of the coach park. It defies logic why you’d have such a layout, but it must be amusing for the locals to see all the tourists trekking backwards and forwards.

Once we finally had our tickets, and had made it safely back across the road, we decided to top up our water bottles at fountain before heading into the park. Water which was pretty unpleasant to drink due to the high mineral content, but there weren’t any shops in the park to buy mineral water so we were stuck with it.

Inside the park, armed with a small map that didn’t really seem to resemble reality on the ground, we were free to wander around. We first made our way to see a number of caves. The cave of Dionysus' Ear was ruly dramatic in scale and it was nice and cool in the cave, a welcome relief from the heat outside. I think my attempts to test the echoing qualities of the cave might have embarrassed Becks a little, but I wasn’t alone in testing the acoustic qualities.

Outside the cave I, unwittingly, sat down on a broken bench. As the German tourists sitting at the other end of the bench stood up, I plummeted towards the ground without the counterweight of my German friends at the other end!

Dionysus' Ear
After the caves we headed for the most famous feature of the park, the Teatro Grecko. Far larger than the Greek amphitheatre we’d seen in Palazzolo Acreidi this really was on an epic scale. Unfortunately they were preparing the theatre for the summer series of performances and had boxed in many of the seats so you couldn’t see it in its original splendour. However, the scale was truly epic in itself.

Suitably hot and tired by this stage we went to rest under some trees and sipped our rather ‘delicious’ water from the fountain. When it was time to move on, I was keen to see the Roman amphitheatre that was mentioned in our guide book and shown on our map of the park. There was no obvious path to the amphitheatre so we asked one of the staff at the entrance how to get there, only to be told it was closed for refurbishment and ‘might’ open next year. I knew the Roman amphitheatre wasn’t supposed to be as stellar as the Greek theatre, but was disappointed to miss it all the same.
The archaeological park felt like a window on all Sicilian tourist attractions. Fascinating in their historical interest, but a little flawed in the execution.

Having covered what was open we decided to leave the park and head in search of some lunch. Our afternoon target was the Museum Archeologico which wasn’t located too far away. I thought we’d spot lots of cafés between the two major touristic attractions, but the residential rounds were devoid or tourists or cafés.

Spotting an unpretentious looking café, down a side street, and in the middle of some housing blocks we decided to try our luck and had one of my favourite lunches of the holiday. The small café had a counter / bar on onside filled with savoury snacks, and on the side of the café were two huge fridges filled with desserts. We ordered a couple of cold drinks and sat down at a cramped table and chairs. From my perch I could see into a pretty large pastry kitchen out the back which I guessed was the source of all the cakes in the two large fridges.

After spotting a café which sold only arrancini in Noto, both Becks and I had been keen to try one so it seemed like the obvious choice for lunch. Becks ordered a ragu arrancini and I ordered a spinach flavoured one. Mine didn’t get close to filling my up so I ordered a second ragu flavoured arrancini and it was really good. I can see why they’d be a popular snack.

Ragu arrancini
It was fun to people watch while we were eating and cooling down. The owner / manager seemed to be enjoying himself strolling around his little café and helping himself to a lick of ice-cream. A gentleman came in for a brioche ice-cream sandwich (immediately to our list of things to try) and there was a group of guys who just seemed to come in and hang out. From the reaction of the manager, I suspect they might do it a lot.

We couldn’t leave without trying something from the dessert fridges so, very modestly, selected a small semi fredo each. A disc of cake at the bottom, then a ball of ice cream all covered covered in a topping which had set hard. I went for pistachio and Becks wild strawberry, both local flavours.

Semi fredo
They say that you can’t help but support the mafia if you visit Sicily as their influence is so pervasive. I didn’t wonder a couple of times, with no real basis apart from my imagination, if this was our time supporting.

After our lunch we headed across to the Museum Archeologico. It was a museum like no other I’ve ever been to.

Sicilian archaeologists seem to have sought out EVERY pot of historical interest from across the entire island of Sicily and bought them to museum. The archaeologists were focused though, if it wasn’t a pot, it wasn’t making it through the door. We must have walked past a good few thousand pots by the time we’d finished. Tiny, enormous, medium sized, intact, broken, reassembled, plain and painted they had pots of every type and it quickly became quite mind numbing. I would have quite happily skipped the upper floor, but we stuck at it, not wanting to miss out on the room which contained something other than pots. If there was on, we didn’t find it and it took us a good three hours before we managed to escape the world of ancient clay pots.

Museum Archeological
Before we did escape we headed to the basement to use the facilities. In half opened crates, which it looked like were being prepared to be loaned to another museum, or I suspect returned from a loan and just left there, were a number of ornate mosaics. Relegated to the basement as being completely the wrong format for the museum upstairs I was shocked that they were just left their unguarded.

Over the road from the museum was the church of the weeping Madona. A modern brutalist, but intriguing church that we walked through on our way home. Built in the round we walked down one of the ramps and into the church, arriving on a circular passage way / balcony that looked down into the main body of the church below. The church was quite apart from a few nuns tending to the alter. Quite interesting architecturally, we walked around one third of the way round the church before heading back into the sunshine outside and making our way across town and back to our hotel.

Church of the Weeping Madona

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! Its looking lovely place for visiting.I Will certainly make some plan for this place as I heard lots many good thing about it. Thank you! :-)
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