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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 37.0851, 15.273
Ancient Greek ruins, atmospheric squares, beautiful architecture - Siracusa has it all, giving tourists numerous reasons to come visit this wonderful place, especially Ortygia, an island neighbourhood separated from Siracusa by two bridges. This is my second time around in Siracusa, but I didn't come back for any of what is listed above - I came back to eat, and eat well, damn it!!!
For me, Sicily has always been the place where I felt I finally found Italy - Hollywood has sold us a lie, giving us all a vision of what Italy is, even before setting foot here. The canals of Venice, the statue of David, the Trevi Fountain - these are the stereotypical images burned in our minds by the movies, representing ideals which can never be achieved in real life.
Girls imagine sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Rome, while a GQ model decked out in Versace rolls up on his Vespa, offering to take her on a tour of the city's sights. Then they have a whirlwind romance, get married at St. Peter's, and live happily ever after in their Tuscan villa, stomping on grapes all day long and having ten-course meals well into the
Catania's Fish Market ...
... some pretty awesome produce is available here, too. The quality in Sicily is unbelievable, due to the fertile volcanic soil.
night. Guys fantasize about walking into a clothing store and finding that Monica Bellucci is the sales girl, and she ends up ravishing them in the back room. OK, OK, so that's my fantasy, but that's beside the point - the point is that none of it is real!
Don't get me wrong - Northern Italy is a wonderful place to visit, full of history and sights. But therein lies the difference - you go to the North to see Italy, but you come to Sicily to experience Italy. Sicily is full of great places to experience, but perhaps Siracusa was the best of them all, with a certain magic in the air, something almost indescribable. Of course, my memories of Siracusa are greatly coloured by the wonderful food here - the best gelato I've ever had, amazing granita, and an unforgettable panzerotti prepared in a squid ink sauce. For the price of a pizza and coke in Rome, here you can have a multi-course meal with wine. What's not to love about that?
So I was really looking forward to taking Benita to Siracusa to experience its charms, but a funny thing happened - it wasn't quite the same magical
place it once was. Of course, it was now a different time of the year, smack dab in the middle of the hot Sicilian summer - today the mercury must have hit the high 30s, and there was hardly a soul in the streets of Ortygia in the afternoon.
But no worries, because Gelateria Bianca, home of the best gelato in the World, was only a few steps away from the hotel - almond granita, almond and ricotta gelato, everything they made was wonderful! Gelateria Bianca is the reason for our pilgrimage! So we dove into their gelato and found it to be ... not quite as good as I had remembered. Hmmm ... what's going on in Siracusa?
The sad truth is that six years is a long time, and that we've both been spoiled on this trip, having already had some incredible meals and experiences in Southern Italy and Sicily. Gelateria Bianca was probably as good as it used to be, but we've lucked out and had some better granita and gelato elsewhere.
I would never say that the return to Siracusa was a disappointment, because it wasn't - after hiding out from the heat for a few
... the heart of my pilgrimage, Gelateria Bianca in Siracusa. Last time here, a local told us that it was run by the mafia - I'd never support organized crime, but in this case, I'll make an exceptiojn.
hours like the smart locals do, we ventured out once more after the sun had gone down, and found Ortygia bustling with people. A bit of that old Siracusa magic was in the air once more, and we ended up having an excellent meal with some equally-excellent wine on a terrace gazing upon Ortygia's supremely atmospheric Piazza del Duomo.
So though the return to Siracusa was different from what I had expected, it still wasn't a disappointment - because honestly. we're so incredibly fortunate to be in a place like this, stuffing ourselves full of incredible Sicilian food! Gelato Selections of the Day: A great pineapple granita at Gelateria Bianca, as well as their almond granita, which didn't seem to use any almond extract at all, only finely crushed almonds - Benita wasn't a big fan of it, but I thought it was delish. It seems that Gelateria Bianca has expanded, as we came across a smaller second location just off Piazza del Duomo, with me opting for exactly what I had six years ago - almond and ricotta, which were both delicious, though not as mind-blowing as I remembered. Benita got the Fior di Latte, which neither of us thought
was very flavourful, and an excellent hazelnut.
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