Robin March 26 -27

Community Highlights Europe Robin March 26 -27

If you all remember your history, you know that Syracuse was a very powerful city/state of the Greek empire. The name in Italian is Siracusa. The city was, and still is, divided into 5 sections, the only one that retains any ancient history is Ortigia. We reached it by crossing a little bridge as, of course Siracusa was/is a great port and surrounded water. Every time we go to a new city, I say ,"this is my favorite one", but Ortigia is definitely up there. Seaport, Greek ruins, Baroque style architecture, modern architecture, artistic boutiques, cafes, birthplace of Archimedes . It is a great wandering city with so much to see and explore. So much to see and explore, and not enough time.
Some highlights were:
the remaining facade of a synagogue from before the inquisition and the hidden remains of a prosperous Jewish section from that time,
A Medieval Church built within the columns of a Greek temple.
We drove on to Catania, which does not have much to offer historically, but served as a base for day trips. We loved the city. It is more of a real city that people live and work in, rather than host tourists. It is a patchwork of Baroque and modern, gritty and elegant, graffiti, ethnic and economic diversity. There are winding streets and neighborhoods to explore and discover.
The patron saint of Catania is St Agnes. Her story bares telling. She was a beautiful young woman of 20 who had devoted herself to God. She was relentlessly pursued by a rich, powerful man and repeatedly rebuked him. He became enraged, had her imprisoned and her breasts cut off. Miraculously, they grew back the next day. He repeated the mutilation, and I forgot whatever else he did to her, but ultimately she became a saint. She is widely celebrated and there is a yearly spring festival in her honor which draws thousands of people to enjoy a procession in her honor. In addition, there is a local sweet, a green disk with a cherry in the center ( in honor of her breasts!) - it is important to eat 2.
I realize I have not had much personal reflection on what we have seen and experienced this trip. I am wondering why. A few thoughts. I made a lot of observations, assumptions, hypothesis on past trips and wonder about their accuracy since they are based on such limited experience and observation. Also, while I have enjoyed traveling with a group: it is much easier and less stressful, offers much more information, and it is nice to have other people to talk to (no offense to Steven), it does put another layer between us and the country. We don't have to figure things out for ourselves, make arrangements, ask questions, get lost. We don't have the time to wander and explore, watch school children or families on the street, chat with a shop keeper who speaks a bit of English. We are missing these experiences. So group travel is a real trade off for us. Some real benefits, and some things we miss.

A few observations, thoughts and observations though. I have been so pleasantly surprised by the beauty, diversity, layers of history and richness of this Island. One doesn't really think about the fact that it is very close to mainland Italy, Africa and Greece, and the impact of this location in past and current history. The optimal location, important ports, and agriculture made it ripe for domination. This has created a fatalistic, but also relaxed attitude among the people. The physical separation from the rest of Italy has provided a very different experience for Sicily and I can really understand why Sicilians think of themselves as Sicilian first.

My impression is that the Italian people we met were open, affectionate, content with what they have, want to enjoy their lives and are proud of their heritage. They clearly like to eat, and we have had some very good food. Although some of the group meals at restaurants have been disappointing, all of the home cooked and agritourismo meals have been great! And the restaurant meals we have had on our own, mostly pasta and pizza have been delicious. The overall feel of Sicily has been very relaxed and easy, although I am so glad we came just before tourist season started. I imagine a very different experience in the summer!

This featured blog entry was written by robinbezark from the blog Sicily Adventure.
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By robinbezark

Posted Mon, Apr 01, 2019 | Comments