Boring City?


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Europe » Italy » Sicily » Siracusa
August 24th 2017
Published: August 25th 2017
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We drove a lot yesterday, so we decide that today we will stay closer to home and do some relaxing. The clouds and rain of the last two days have cleared and it is sunny again. We get the car and set off for a beach area on the opposite side of the bay from Ortigia. This is supposed to be a short ten minute drive, but again we get caught in a traffic jam. This is a result of another road rule here which relates to what to do when you need to pick up or drop off passengers or goods in a street that is only wide enough for one lane of traffic. In these situations it seems that it is mandatory to suddenly come to a complete stop in the very middle of the street, and then to take as long as you possibly can to pick up or drop off whoever or whatever you need to pick up or drop off. It seems to be important to take even longer than you would usually if you are holding up a very long line of traffic.

We stop to fill up with petrol. The petrol station has bowsers, but no buildings. The attendant needs to give me change, which he gets from a bus driver whose bus just happens to be parked near the bowsers. I wonder what he does if people need change and the bus isn't there.

We drive on to the beachfront area. There are a lot of very fancy looking villas between the road and the beach, that look like they belong to the Siracusa elite. It is possible that some of them also belong to relatives of Don Corleone, and I think that we must remember to be careful not to trespass. I don't think that the owner of our apartment would be very happy if he had to clean up a horse's head after we leave. It is not obvious how to get through the villas to the beach. We drive down two dead end streets. One of them leads past a luxury five star hotel, and the street outside the hotel is lined with bonsaied olive trees. We park opposite a narrow path that looks like it might lead down to the beach. The beach is very pleasant. It is sandy, and is on a small cove. We relax and swim.

We decide that this afternoon we will catch Siracusa's hop on hop off tourist bus, which takes us from Ortigia into the main part of Siracusa. We pass the very distinctive and modern conical shaped Church, the Santuario Madonna Delle Lacrime, which is visible from all over Siracusa. We also pass the so called tomb of Archimedes. It seems that Siracusa was colonised by the Greeks, and Archimedes is its most famous citizen. He was born here is 287 BC and died here when the Romans captured the city in 212 BC. It is apparently unlikely that this is his real tomb, but as it was the most prominent ancient Greek tomb in the city, the locals decided that it would be nice to assume that its most famous citizen must be buried there.

We were given headsets as we got on the bus so that we could listen to commentary as we drove around. The commentary is interspersed with classical music. There is lots of classical music and very little commentary. Siracusa has been here for more than two thousand years, yet the operators of the bus tour seem only to have been able to put together a few minutes of commentary on those two thousand and more years of history. We wonder if Siracusa has been a very boring place. If it was that boring we wonder why anyone still lives here.

We get off the bus at the massive Siracusa Archaeological Park. First stop is the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre which dates back to the third century AD. We then move through to the Ear of Dionysius. This is a very large cave which was carved into the rock during Greek or Roman times for use as a water storage, and is in the shape of a human ear. It was named after Dionysius I of Siracusa, who was apparently a tyrant. The original cave had excellent acoustics, and it is said that Dionysius used it as a prison so that he could hear the prisoners' screams as they were tortured. He sounds like he might have been a good person to stay on the right side of. We move onto the highlight of the site which is a massive and very well preserved Greek amphitheatre which was built in the third century BC.

We catch the bus back to Ortigia, and eat at a restaurant in a courtyard near the Piazza Duomo. We have started to note a very distinct pattern when we order drinks. Issy usually orders whiskey, and I usually order beer. The drinks are usually brought out by a different person to the one who took the orders. They usually give both drinks to me and none to Issy. We wonder why this is. Waiters must think that it is more probable that a man would order both a whiskey and a beer, than it is that a woman would order either. I don't think that too many of the waiters here have been to Australia.


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