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Siracusa

As the bus pulls in to Siracusa, I feel at home. I know how to get to my hotel (always a comforting thing, I have stayed there before), and wait for the navetta, which will take me near there for one euro, rather than the €15 taxi fare.

And then I remember, the grumpy navetta drivers. You would think they had the hardest driving job in Italy! Perhaps it's driving in circles all day, but most of the drivers would not be welcome on a RS tour!

I get off the navetta and walk a couple of blocks to my B&B, Via Della Giudecca, where I have stayed happily before. To my surprise, my "room" is a split-level apartment with a kitchen, dining area, living area, half bath on the lower level; and a loft bedroom and huge bath upstairs. It feels decadent to have so much space! It's great to have an area to work on the conference presentation I will give in Catania in a few days; but I am seduced by Ortigia, and go out rambling through the ancient, narrow streets of the old Jewish neighborhood. After Ferdinand expelled the Jews in 1492, this area was largely deserted. The church across the street from my B&B was built over the site of the synagogue, which can be seen on certain days of the week with a guide (hard hats provided).

While I am waiting for the navetta, I notice real estate listings for Ortigia in an office window across the street. I think about living here. But it's far from Roma.

Posted by
6211 posts

Hi Zoe,
Can you explain what a navetta is? A small shuttle?

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Agnes. I was meaning to explain. A navetta is a small, usually electric bus that goes through a city's historic center in a circular pattern. It's literally a "little boat". Many cities have them, lots are free, some cost less than a regular bus ticket. Some are shuttles between a parking facility and a port.

Continuing with Siracusa, there was an attorneys' conference, so most of the B&B guests were attorneys. I found this out later. My first morning, as I was looking at the excellent breakfast buffet, I heard a man reply to two women who invited him to share their table, "Thanks, but someone will come along." Then and there, I decided to get over my shyness, and approached the man, saying, "I will sit with you, if that's okay." And that's how I met Daniel from Chicago, who knew everyone else in the dining room (his fellow attorneys).

Later that day, I took a regular bus out to the suburbs of Siracusa. I like untouristy neighborhoods, seeing where people get their cars fixed and their pets groomed. Later I returned to Ortigia, and went to look up Filippo's son and daughter, who are working at a restaurant, Monzu, near the Duomo. The look on his son's face was priceless, his daughter abandoned her station for a few minutes to greet me. I got great service that day!

A note about the strata of waitstaff, when the place is large enough to employ several people: there are people to greet, seat, and bring you a menu. A waiter will take your order and bring your food. Busperson or waiter will remove plates. Waiter will bring you the bill, owner/manager or cashier will make change.

Siracusa has one of the best ancient archeological zones and a world-class museum. I know people who have tried to do both in one day. It's a Herculean task. The outdoor site is very hot in the afternoon, so do that in the morning if you only have time for a short visit. Museum in the afternoon. There is also a papyrus museum, and a puppet theatre and museum (separate sights). Founded by colonists from Corinth, Siracusa became one of the most important cities in the classical world.

One of my favorite things to do is walk through the market, buying nuts, dried fruits, other snacks (so many choices, so few ziplock baggies), and watching the buyers and sellers perform their transaction ballet. The market sells all kinds of things, but the food stalls are my favorites. The market starts breaking down at about 1-1:30pm, the dance begins again the next day.

I love Siracusa!

Posted by
6211 posts

Zoe, you're my kind of traveler. I too really enjoyed the archeological museum (what an absolutely amazing place, but could have used a bit better signage and explanations) and the food stalls - as well as areas outside the main tourist zone. I stayed both inside and outside Ortygia and enjoyed the local flavor of the latter, including some local food places where not a lick of English was spoken (I can get by luckily since I studied Italian for a few years). I didn't even know about the small bus/shuttle circulating about until after the fact, so I ended up just carrying my things myself from the bus station. Everything was really close by and easy (I just printed a Google walking map and followed it), and it was a great place to visit and a good base to cover some other towns - Noto, Ragusa, Modica, etc. I wish I had more time there than I did...there was a wedding going on at the Duomo so I didn't even get to see the inside! Really sad about that. I remember the beautiful creme, off white colors of Siracusa and the golden glows of Noto during the late afternoon.

I wonder what you think of this recent article on your favorite city...
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/travel/rome-italy-classic-beauty-culture.html?hp&_r=0

Posted by
11613 posts

Agnes, I read the article, thanks for the link. I love Roma so much, nothing deters me, and like the writer, I get surprised by her beauty every time. I was in Napoli at the worst of the mob-controlled garbage crisis, so I am curious as to how Roma is handling it (I will be there in July).

Posted by
1804 posts

A navetta driver was our savior in Siracusa. We had had a long day of travel by bus from Taormina, through Catania, to Siracusa. I had stuffed my money belt (I know, I know!) into an inside pocket in my jacket. It had both my husband's and my passports, all but one credit card and debit card, about 400 euros in cash and $100 American dollars.

We got on the navetta, exhausted and hot. I slipped off my jacket and was holding it when the bus stopped suddenly at an unmarked stop. I got up to ask what was happening, and the driver said, "Off! Off! New bus" so we grabbed our suitcases and got off. As it was driving away I was horrified to realize I didn't have my jacket.

We waited for the bus to make its 20 minute circuit, but it came back with a new driver and no jacket. We waited for one more circuit and this driver told us "polizia." We found a police station down the street and sure enough, there was the jacket and all of the contents -- the money, passports, cards. The driver had turned it all in. A police lady said, "You are so lucky!" We agreed.

The next day we made a donation to a children's fund in a church in Siracusa (which was an adventure all of its own!) to restore our karma. And I stopped taking off my money belt.

Posted by
11613 posts

Glad to hear your story, Charlene!