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Published: August 23rd 2017
We wake up late and hungry after the stress of yesterday's travel. We assume that there will be a supermarket nearby, but the Google machine seems to suggest otherwise. It tells us that there are some "Italian grocers" on the island, but we suspect that these are probably not going to sell Corn Flakes. The nearest supermarket seems to be a couple of kilometres away, and it is off the island. We hope that the Google machine is wrong, and that there will be something closer.
I set off. It has been raining, and soon it starts raining again. I take shelter under a balcony. I am quickly approached by an African street vendor who wants to sell me an umbrella. A few minutes later I’m approached by another one, and then another, all trying to sell me umbrellas. They seem to be very good at knowing what you need, and having a large supply of it on hand. Yesterday when it was sunny all they had were sunglasses and hats. I wonder where all the sunglasses and hats are today.
The Google machine’s “Italian grocer” is a large fruit, vegetable and fish market in the street outside a
shop that seems to sell mostly wine, pasta and olive oil, and I’m sensing that my search for the elusive packet of Corn Flakes is not going to end here. I cross the bridge onto the mainland and trudge on towards Siracusa itself. I am now a couple of kilometres from Ortigia and I'm not entirely sure I know how to get back. I see a shop across the road that looks like it is probably a hardware store, but when I look more closely I see that it is actually a supermarket. The Italian word for supermarket is "supermercado", but there's no sign on this shop that looks anything like that. I wonder why there are so few supermarkets here, and why even the ones that are here are carefully disguised as something else. I wonder if this is a cunning plan by the restaurant owners of Ortigia to make sure that everyone who lives or stays there always eats out. I hope that the bottom of the harbour isn’t littered with the bodies of people who tried to open supermarkets on Ortigia.
I think that Issy will probably be getting a bit worried by now, and I
haven't brought a phone with me. I get back to the apartment to find that she is indeed relieved to see me. She says that she wasn't quite sure what she was going to do if I was away for much longer. She says she didn't know how the Carabinieri would have reacted to "my husband went off to look for a supermarket a couple of days ago and I haven't seen him since".
We have breakfast and set off to explore Ortigia. We walk along the waterfront, and try to identify our apartment from the outside. Now that we know what an apartment in an old building looks like from the inside we start to wonder about all the other ones. Ours looks very old and tatty from the outside, but it is very nice inside. We walk through the courtyard garden that we tried to drive through yesterday while a lot of people were yelling at us. We couldn't have driven into it today, because there‘s a vendor's hat stall blocking the way. We wish it had been there yesterday. Some of the historic ancient paving stones in the garden are broken, and we wonder if they
were broken before we drove over them yesterday.
We pass a very small yellow sand beach with quite a few people swimming off it, and continue on past a group of waterfront restaurants. There is a fort at the southern end of the island, but there are signs saying that we can't go into it because it is a military area. We start to wonder what they're hiding there, but quickly decide that we’ll probably sleep better if we move on to wondering about something else. We cross to the eastern side of the island, which faces the open sea, and see signs to "solariums". These seem to be either very small beaches, or rocks or platforms for sunbathing. One of the platforms with lots of people on it looks like it is just being supported by scaffolding. It looks like a building site only the workers are all in bathers and they’re all lying down. I hope it’s not really a building site. We decide that the people here are very resourceful when it comes to sunbathing. We walk along the promenade which is about ten metres above the sea. The sea doesn't look very rough, but a
wave suddenly washes up over the railing and we are now drenched. It is overcast and humid, so at least we now feel a lot cooler.
We head back towards the middle of the island and pass the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, which we read dates back to the sixth century BC. We stop for a drink and wind our way back through the backstreets to the Piazza Duomo. The entrance to our apartment is directly off the spectacular Piazza, which is massive, and is surrounded on all sides by very old buildings which are all in the same style and colour. The most spectacular and prominent of these is the Cathedral of Syracuse, or the Duomo Di Siracusa. Issy goes back to the apartment for a rest while I visit the Cathedral. The facade is stunning. I read that there is evidence of a temple on this site from prehistoric times. The Greeks then built the Temple of Athena on the site in the fifth century BC, and this was supported by Doric columns. These columns were then incorporated into the current cathedral when it was built in the seventh century. It was converted into a
mosque when the Muslims conquered Sicily in 878, but was then turned back into a church when the Muslims were driven out in 1085. The current facade was added as part of a lot of reconstruction works after a large earthquake in Sicily in 1693. Some of the original Doric columns from the fifth century BC are still evident in the current structure.
We put a load of washing on before we went out. We decide that if we want to live like locals we should do what the locals do, and hang the washing on the line on the balcony that overlooks the waterfront. We decide that to be truly Italian we should make sure that all knickers, bras and underpants are prominently displayed. Having done this we decide that we are now eligible for Italian citizenship.
We dine at a restaurant in a square next to the Piazza Duomo. It is very pleasant. As we walk back to the apartment we pass a street performer juggling fire sticks in front an enthusiastic audience in the Piazza.
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