This was to be our last stop in Sicily, so to commemorate the occasion, Risa wanted to spend it surrounded by a little style – we’d heard good things about the luxury and style of Ortigia in Syracuse. Leaving Modica, we skipped a few other smaller towns and detours in order to arrive early enough to see the island in daylight. We’d gotten quite lucky with a last minute hotel booking at B&B Five Rooms too, picking up something that would generally be far beyond our budget.
As with all cities that we’ve visited, the first, and most difficult challenge, was finding a place to park our car. Not truly understanding what the traffic signs mean (how else would you interpret a sign with a picture of a truck towing a car), we didn’t risk parking on the street, and used the €10/day Levente underground park at the very north of the (very small) island – I believed that I had to use exact coins to pay the fare when we exited, however there was one or two machines hidden that accepted notes and cards, which is handy because it was a challenge to get that much small change!
Our first impression wasn’t great, with the main road leading in to town lined with luxury clothing stores, but walking back to the hotel, and purposely taking the alleys off the main routes, we found plenty of charming little houses.
The Temple of Apollo is almost impossible to miss as you arrive on the isle. Now that we were free of our car, and able to give it more than a passing glance. Though, now that we were able to really look out over the site, we’d realised there wasn’t really much there to be able to see! The entire area is fenced off, and there is very few of the original elements remaining – and having just come from the seriously impressive ruins at The Valley of Temples, it wasn’t long until we got on with the rest of our exploration of the island.
We had a few hours to kill, so we just wandered in the general direction of a few sights we wanted to see. This took us along the tree-lined west coast, which I later realised is about the only greenery on the island. All signs seem to lead to the Duomo di Siracusa, which when seen from outside is truly special, with more of that period’s opulent details. Ortigia is similar to Modica, in that they both experienced widespread damage during an earthquake in the 17th century, and have been rebuilt in that beautifully lavish Baroque style.
However, it just looked too clean, like a modern day recreation, and I personally preferred the equally beautiful Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla badia that seemed to still be in its original state.
There were countless alleyways, small piazzas, churches (including an open air one), and a coastline that was prettier than either of us had expected. But, there was only so much aimless wandering we could do before the aches in our feet stopped being background noise, and started ringing bells.
We returned to the hotel to have a rest, however I realised that we hadn’t actually booked anything for ferry to Malta tomorrow, and instead spent an hour or two realising that we’d made a bit of a mistake… but I’ll save that for Malta.
I’ve been craving pizza every day while we’ve been here – which is understandable when it’s this good! It was a bit cheeky, but rather than pay the €5 service charge for a €9 pizza, we opted to get it take away and eat in our hotel room instead – even if it look really cool inside Pizzeria Schiticchio. Risa fancied something not-pizza, so after I’d finished my meal, we went to an actual restaurant, and sadly were underwhelmed by their service and the food itself.
Eating is one of the great pleasures of travelling, but the constant search for a decent meal gets tiring, and we’re both looking forward to travelling with a campervan in the future, where we can cook our own meals if we need to.
Our last day started early (for us) and had a quick look around the morning markets, as it was en-route to our car. We’d been told about a famous sandwich restaurant that we’d be able to recognise by the queue that stretched around blocks. We hadn’t seen anything of the like yet, but this guy was drawing quite a crowd, so we figured this was the spot. We queued to get one of his sandwiches, only to be served by another member of the staff. Our first reaction was a touch of disappointment, as we believed that the older man was the sandwich master, and anything else would be inferior, which was being childish. Our guy stacked generous amounts of smoked buffalo mozzarella, some prosciutto parma, sundried tomatoes, olives, cos lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil and some orange rind into a really fresh crusty bread roll. We’d just stuffed ourselves at breakfast, so this was saved until lunch – my only regret was now being so far away that I couldn’t buy another! €5 well spent indeed.
Otherwise, the markets were much like any other local market, with selections of super fresh looking fish, and all the usual fruits and vegetables. This was our last day in Sicily, so we didn’t bother stocking up on fruit.
We weren’t entirely impressed by Ortigia, and were a little confused about the praise that people give it. I can only assume its because most tourists don’t have access to a car, and don’t get the opportunity to visit some of the other amazing towns on this beautiful island.
We had to drive back to Catania to return our rental car, but there was just enough time to sneak a quick trip to see Mount Etna up close!