Ragusa to Noto, Syracuse and then Catania

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September 6th 2018
Published: September 9th 2018
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We all wished we could stay another night in Ibla, Ragusa but unfortunately it was not to be. This morning we were back on our bus and our first stop was the town of Noto. Noto had once been destroyed by an earthquake and when the town was rebuilt, a conscious decision was made to rebuild it all in the baroque style, which made all the buildings fit together really well. The result of this is Noto is now one of the finest baroque towns in Sicily and another UNESCO World Heritage site.

We wandered up the main street, marvelling at the grandeur of all the buildings. There was the cathedral Catterdrale dei San Nicolo which has a special story to tell. The Main dome actualky collapsed into the cathedral in 1996 and it took 9 years to rebuild. We then walked passed the Palazzo, which is now the town hall and the Teatro, eventually venturing into the Chiesa de San Carlo, which was aone of the many churches but has a tower you can climb for views of the city. Sue and I decided to tackle the narrow, spiral staircase made out of marble to climb to the top. We were both hoping we didn't meet anyone coming down, as there wasnt much room for more than one person. All good - i think people could hear us chatting so they waited until we got up there. The view was great and gave us a real sense of the scale of the town. We waved to Paul down below before eventually making our way back down.

Our next destination was Syracuse and in particular, we walked onto the Island of Ortygia and met our local guide. Ortygia dates back to 734 BC and in its time, was considered one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world, rivalling the ancient Greeks for power and prestige. After looking around the harbour area, where there is a natural spring that fills a little lagoon containing papyrus, we walked up to explore the cathedral and the church of St Lucia. The reason why this church is popular is because it contains an original Caravaggio - the burial os St Lucia. This painting was completed the year before his death. According to tradition, she is buried on the spot where this church was built.

We then did a very short ride to the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis. What an amazing park this is. It contains both a Greek Theatre and a Roman Ampitheatre and we were able to wander around both. We heard the tales of how the bulls were sacrif here by having their throats cut and the blood that flowed pleased the gods. Then the hides and entrails were burnt as offerings and the meat was used to feed all the people who attended. There are caves with water flowing from them (Cave of Nymphaeum) as well as the tomb of Archimedes. We then wandered down into the garden area and along to the "Ear of Dionysus" - this is an artificial cave that was carved out of limestone that is about 23 metres high, between 5 and 11 metres wide and 65 metres long, with an S shape that also makes the place an acoustic sound amplification. Legend has it that Dionysus used to be able to listen in on what all the workers (slaves) were saying about him, from a spot up above where there was an aqueduct. Whatever the case, it is hard to understand how they were able to build this cave - it is huge! It was also a nice relief from the hot sun outside.

We then drove to Catania for our final hotel and farewell dinner. We learnt the hard way that the traffic in Catania can be very unpredictable and it ended up taking us a lot longer to get back than Michele had hoped. We still had enough time for a quick freshen up before meeting downstairs at 8:15 to walk to our Trattoria for our final dinner. The trattoria was a quaint little place that we quickly filled up. And then the food started flowing! Our entrees were prawns (both fresh and marinated), marinated octopus, mussels cooked in white wine, the local asparagus, anchovies that had been lightly fried, bread, olives ..... I feel I have forgotten something! It was all so lovely and fresh. And then we were given our main meals! I had picked seafood risotto so I certainly had a seafood feast tonight. We had all this with some of the local wines and then were given a slice of some nice cake for dessert. What a fun night! At one stage we were joined by a wandering band playing local music (who then asked for a tip at the end) which all added to the atmosphere. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and may have had a nightcap 🍷.

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