A feeling of being fleeced in Siracusa,Sicily


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Europe » Italy » Sicily » Siracusa
April 8th 2013
Published: April 9th 2013
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Todays gelato flavours - GMB - Ice something?(can't remember the name but it was pink and sweet) GLB - Mandarino

OK,the location of the Best Western Hotel we booked, is a little outside of Siracusa city, but it is certainly quiet and we both had another greats nights sleep in the biggest King size bed we have ever had the pleasure to sleep in.

The hotel is modern with excellent furnishings and a shower that actually works well. !

The breakfast was also great with all the usual cereals,croissants,juices,fruit yogurt and also scrambled eggs and bacon,which was a bonus.We topped up and found we didn't need a formal lunch stop during the day so good was the breakfast.

Without the benefit of a newspaper to read over breakfast we played guess the nation of the varied guests also taking breakfast with us and we decided it was a real United Nations.We even spotted a guy with a Rotorua t- shirt on and tapped him on the shoulder and said we were a city ear where he supposedly got his t-shirt from.We think he was Italian and he called his daughter over and we had a brief chat in broken English with her.While we were doing this another woman noticed our accent and in a French accent said her favourite team was the All Blacks !

The old town is on an island joined to the mainland by a short bridge and it was here we headed to do a couple of hours sightseeing.

Armed with a map we picked up from the hotel front desk that looked like it had been photocopied too many times we decided on one of three car parks available close to all the attractions in the old city area which is compact and makes for easy walking.

We probably chose the wrong one of the three!

Entry was easy and there were plenty of parks.However the ticket machine looked like it hadn't worked for a long time and as we were trying to make it out a fellow tourist directed to a guy back near the entrance,that we must have driven past as we entered,who was giving out the parking tickets for a fee.He also appeared to be selling oranges too for himself and really didn't lokk like he was 'official' !

However the ticket he had in his hand looked genuine so we asked for enough for 3 hours which should have come to a total price of €1.80 or €0.60 per hour.We handed over €2 expecting to get back €0.20 change.But there was a lot of waving of hands and words(none in English or any Italian we could understand) and he didn't seem to want to give any change.

Now the BBA V2 doesn't pay any more than it needs to especially when there is a stated price for parking.So we decided we would go and park elsewhere and hopefully there would be a machine to buy a ticket from.

Then Gretchen decided to go back to him with the exact coins which we had back in the car.

She was gone for a few minutes and I could see getting the tickets we needed still wasn't being an easy task.

She arrived back with two one hour tickets which should have cost €1.20 but said she had paid €1.60 to complete the purchase as she couldn't still make out what he was saying.

This was our first feeling of being fleeced of the day and although it was only an extra €0.40 he was clearly making the money for himself as the charge was more than the permanent notices around the car park stated.

One positive thing this morning was that all the attractions in the old town were free of any entry fee and there was certainly some outstanding historical sights to see.

First up was what is left of the Temple of Apollo built in the 6th century BC.Not that there is a lot left of it.What had been there is reputed to be the island's most ancient Doric temple and had been transformed over the years to a Byzantine church,then an Arab mosque and into a church again under the Normans rule.

We wandered through the narrow streets of the town where the locals lived watching out for motorcycles that ripped past us every so often.

In the centre of the town was the grand looking Duomo set in an expansive piazza.

The inside was amazing and down one side you could easily make out the twelve fluted columns dating back to the fifth century BC from a temple that originally stood on the site.It was hard to tell what was supporting the other side of the church as there had been small chapels built which hid the outside walls on that side.Unlike many other churches of this type the ceiling was constructed of wood rather than plaster.

We were ready for a gelato after exploring the Duomo and it was time to feel fleeced for the second time today.

We spent €2 for a gelato in Rome and thought that was probably fair enough for a big tourist city price while elsewhere our geltos have usually only been €1.

However,the owner of Ocean Ice Cream must have seen us coming because our standard size cone cost €3 each!We should have given them back but it is a bit difficult once the gelato is in one's hand.

We did enjoy the gelato but not the price!

We continued to wander back through the fascinating narrow streets and came across the photographic Fountain of Diana inanother piazza before we got back to where we started.

We enjoyed a delicious cappuccino(Italians do make great tasting coffee) and this time did not feel at all fleeced at €1.50 each cup,and sat watching the passing crowd including the locals greeting each other with kisses on both cheeks including males to males.

We made a brief stop at a Greek Theatro nearby as we headed for the Archeological Park,a stated major attraction in the city area.There was not much to see and it looked like there was still some excavating to be done to put more on show.

The Park was to give us a feeling of being fleeced for the third time today.

At the entry fee of €10 each we felt it was overpriced given that half the park appeared to be overgrown with some of the paths closed off.There was also a lack of a map from the ticket office to help find your way around and there was noting in English giving history of the 5 main sights within the park.

As you enter you pass the third century BC Ara di Ierone II an enormous alter from the Greek era of rule.

A disappointing feature of our visit was that the very impressive Greek amphitheatre had workmen everywhere with machines building seating over the terraces for what we presume will be outdoor shows during the summer.What would have been the stage area had had a wooden floor already constructed over it so you couldn't get the full historical sense of the place.

What was intact was the Ear of Dionysius a huge cave which was supposed to have been used as a prison.We walked about 50 metres inside the car which apparently went back even further but it became too dark to see your hand in front of your face so there wasn't much point in going further.The acoustics were interesting though with a true echo evident when you clapped your hands.Hearing someone sing in there would be interesting but as neither of us have good voices we thought otherwise in trying.

We dropped in on the Roman Theatro on the way out.This was not as well preserved as the Greek theatre as they obviously don't use it during he summer for shows.Mind you it looked like it had been used more for gladiator battles rather than people singing as it was laid out differently.

By now,2.15pm, we were ready for some food and so before we left the car park we had a fruit lunch watching a guy hawking packs of tissues to cars stooped at the traffic lights adjacent to the car park.He was pretty casual about it and only really got down to work when more than 2 or 3 cars built up when the light was red.In the 15 minutes we were there he made one sale so it was going to be a long day for him.he looked like a gypsy so perhaps it is hard for these people to get other work and if he is not a local perhaps there is no unemployment benefit for him.We don't know how lucky we are in NZ !

On the way back to the hotel we made our first self service diesel purchase and our feeling of being fleeced today ended as we got a 'bargain price' for the product compared to other petrol stations we passed with the price being at least €0.06 per litre cheaper.It took two turns to work out how the system worked before the diesel came out of the pump for us.

We called into the Auchan shop on the way home to top up our groceries and get dinner for tonight and also see if they had the toaster brand we purchased in Naples as the toaster didn't work last time we had it out.They didn't have the brand so we shall have to look at the next Auchan shop we come across.

We ended the day after dinner of ham salad and desert of strawberries(they are in season,cheap and much sweeter than the early season ones are back in NZ) with a showing of the movie 'Shirley Valentine' a film about a woman who realises later in her life afer the kids leave home,that there is a big world out there,well at least Mykonos,Greece,to explore.A story not dissimilar to our own.

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