This past few months have been crazy and have flown by so fast – how is it already end of April!? Since the start of 2018, my job has taken me to Gran Canaria, London, Hungary and now southern Italy, more specifically – Sicily. Italy may just be my favourite country… especially when it comes to food. Hands down.
This time last year, Bryan and I were touring around parts of Sicily, visiting some beaches, some cute coastal towns and tasting the local flare (to an extent…) and hiking up Etna! When I realized I would be going back to Sicily for a second time, I was so excited because it was in the beautiful area of Siracusa! I had heard plenty of amazing stories from family and friends who had traveled to this area – I couldn’t wait!
Last Saturday, 25 minutes after flying off the Maltese soil, I landed in Catania and within an hour I was within the ancient walls of Ortigia. This walled city is also known as ‘Città Vecchia’ and is a small island of Siracusa. For those who have been to Malta, it reminded me of a bigger Mdina, but a smaller Valletta. Inside the walled city you can get lost within the narrow windy streets, eat your heart out at the various cafes and restaurants and find the street empty in the late hours of the evening and the early hours of the morning. The largest and most beautiful area within the city is the Duomo piazza and the boardwalk outlining the perimeter of the island is beautiful as well.
Since I was in Ortigia for work I was inside for most of the day… but we still used our free time very well… making sure to taste all the food, coffee and granita. To compensate for the time spent in the classroom looking at a screen, I made sure to wake up early and go for a run around the perimeter, visit the daily market for fresh produce, sandwiches and spices, go for two morning swims (even though the Med sea is still freezing) and relax with a nice, chilled glass of limoncello in the evenings.
On the last day of the course, we went for a sunset boat cruise of the Siracusa Bay, passing by Castello Maniace, the fortress at the tip of Ortigia. The night ended with yet another large Italian meal and Passito (the local digestive, similar to a port wine) – highly recommended. And since there is very little food and drink moderation in Italy, we continued the night at a local wine bar where we had more digestives. Question: Does drinking more ‘digestives’ make it seem a bit healthier? Asking for a friend….
I had a day to explore the surrounding area on Saturday, which included some food, shopping (Italian shoes are irresistible) and a visit to the ol’ Greek Amphitheater of Siracusa! It was a bit of a walk from Ortigia to the Neapolis Archaeological Park, but it was easy to do with such beautiful weather. The park costs 10 euro, which allowed you to visit multiple sites. The Greek theatre was very impressive but pictures just never do justice and it doesn’t seem like it could host 15000 spectators, but apparently it can! I was lucky that it wasn’t very busy and I was accompanied by maybe 15 people…. so I was able to appreciate its history with some peace and quiet. Just outside of the theatre is a “secret garden”, which seems very counter-intuitive with the large sign at the entrance. In this garden you can find a cave known as the Ear of Dionysius. This ear-shaped cave (weird shape for a cave if you ask me) was named by Italian painter Caravaggio and had a variety of uses back in the day (I bet Matthew just rolled his eyes at this and said the correct time period). Some photos for you!
And as usual, a little recap of some of the sights and restaurants and bars I stumbled upon during our time in Ortigia and Siracusa:
- Daily market
- we went here for lunches and to buy spices and other goodies
- Sandwiches: Caseificio Borderi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n70vbnGWGag) *WARNING* Do not watch on an empty stomach.
- Walk around the boardwalk of Ortigia
- La Casa Delle Farfalle Modica – butterfly museum. Equal parts beautiful and humid!
- Visit to Castello Maniace
- Neapolis Archaeological Park
- Greek Theatre and Ear of Dionysius
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Tears (church of Siracusa)
- Cathedral of Syracuse – Greek columns are still visible on the outside
- Temple of Apollo
- Sunset harbour cruise (this was organized for us, but is ~ 10 eur for an hour or so)
- JUSTveggie – Dinner spot (burgers, vegan carbonara etc)
- Caffe Minerva – Best for granita (** Highly recommend)
- movimentocentrale Bike cafe – Lunch spot and bike rentals & very nice owners!
- Voglia Matta – Gelato
- Comari – Vegetarian Italian dinner (**Highly recommend!)
- Biblios Cafe’ – Books and wine, wine and books
- Zenzero – Lunch spot
- Irma la Dolce – Lunch spot
- Enoteca Solaria – Wine bar & Passito
- Piano B – Pizza
- Arancina Gluten Free – Lunch spot: gluten free, vegan options for Arancini
I am on my way back to Malta today, but will be flying back to Italy on Friday for the next adventure in Siena! Stay tuned 😉
thanks for listening!