What I did not like: not having done everything that had been planned. Having a cold . Having little contact with the Sicilians (other than Alessio). Palermo Airport and Air Italia. The camera that did not behave and forgetting the camera the day I went to the capella palatina (even if the camera would have been unable to capture its beauty).
What I liked: Everything! The cities, the sea, the mix of cultures, particularly in Palermo. The Sicilian identity, which seems real to me, although I am unable to describe it. Markets, shop windows in Palermo which are like works of art. When I get rich, in another life, I will go to vintage shops, antique shops and art galleries in Palermo.
Ortigia is the historical heart of Siracusa (a small island joined to main land with 3 bridges) where I spent more time than Siracusa, partly because I lived there and I had less energy but also because I loved the atmosphere. I live at Lynette’s, an adoptive Italian who left South Africa are more than forty years ago. She lived in Florence for thirty years and came to settle in Sicily after the death of her husband, to be closer to the sea. She did not know where she wanted to live in Sicily, but as soon as she saw Ortigia, she knew it was where she would settle. I understand. What a nice mix of Greek and Italian history, architectural splendour and natural beauty! The Baroque architecture which characterizes Siracusa and Ortigia was born from the reconstruction of the city after the earthquake that destroyed everything in 1693. The recent events in Italy recall the long history of Italy with natural disasters. The remains of a Greek temple dedicated to Apollo, the only or rare example of Greek columns in one piece were uncovered. In Piazza Duomo, the cathedral has an baroque front, but once inside, the impressive columns of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Athena are mind blowing.
There is also a lively market, but when I visited, my camera was playing up and I could not take pictures, but it is a genuine market, where vegetables are imperfect and full of soi. I was later able to get some pictures in the city, but it is not easy to capture the majesty of the buildings with a single lens that can not take very large angles. There are few tourists and Sicilians gather in the many cafes after the siesta. It comes alive in the evenings.
Lynette loves Italy but has the impression that the government abandoned this part of the world, which partly explained the poor state of public transport. She swims every day with her dog George, a beautiful basset who has a bad temper.
I had been warned about the unreliability of regional trains in Italy, but since my decision to use public transport is unwavering, I try to take the train to Siracusa. Plan A: leaving Taormina-Giardini at eleven o’clock (the travel agent has confirmed the time and print the ticket), arriving at 2pm in Siracusa, taking the bus to Noto soon after my arrival and returning in the evening in Ortigia (close Siracusa), where I live, to take a walk “in town”. The next day, going to Raguzza and Modica) and visit Siracusa and Ortigia in depth on the last day.
Plan B: Planning to leave Taormina-Giardini at eleven o’clock but leaving at Taormina 2:10 p.m., for reasons that I do not come to understand. Waiting for the train on platform one , as indicated on the board, then having to run to platform two at the last minute, with all the other passengers (and vice versa for the passengers of platform two) to catch the train and arriving in Siracusa at four-thirtypm. If one must wait for a train for hours, Taormina-Giardini station is ideal, it is one of the most beautiful train stations I have ever seen, with sea views. Each time that a train arrives, a passenger or two is expelled by three armed, and always elegant, police officers. One might think that the expulsed passenger will be ashamed, but each expulsion is followed by a hectic debate fuelled by the passenger who seems to think he is absolutely right to be on the train. Another passenger yells into a phone (we know after a few minutes there is nobody on the other end) while waiting for his train for an hour.
Lynette is comprehensive and does not blame me for being late. I am immediately seduced by Ortigia. The small studio is quite strange, located in a street where you can hear everything happening at the neighbours. In this part of the world, one has little choice but to live one’s life more or less in public. Anyway, it is too late to go to Noto. Lynette adds that there are no buses on Sundays. I am disappointed, but I am in favour of a day off for workers and I find it nice that Sicily does not yield (for now) with tourists, but it means Ortigia, which was meant to be a base many visits, will not fulfill completely its purpose. To make matters worse, I am more or less paralyzed the next day by a bad cold (air conditioning in the train to Taormina) and I hardly get out. In the end I will only see Siracusa and Ortigia, but both are worth it.
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