Siracusa / Ortigia

So. Everybody tells me, Siracusa is soooo beautiful! Well… the first impression is at least ambivalent.

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As with most things in life, it seems to be a matter of timing. Huge parts of Ortigia, the baroque peninsula of the city, must have been fabulous around 1705, when the buildings were brand-new. Nowadays it rather looks run-down – just like us during the one rain shower that gets us, jumping athletically under the parasols of the very next restaurant.

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Fading Beauty in Ortigia / Siracusa

While the afternoon enfolds, Siracusa shows more and more facets of beauty, tourism and weather. The sea turns from grey to blue and buildings get brighter, especially when approaching the historic core of Ortigia.

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When we reach the Cattedrale metropolitana della Navità die Maria Santissima, we put aside any scepticism and stare fascinated at the mixture of Greek and baroque style, Catholic symbols amid Doric pillars and the dignity ascending behind scattered tourists.

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The atmosphere is particular. Peaceful and strange, dark and bright mixing up, somehow pure and decorated all the same.

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From the outside, the cathedral is not less interesting. Behind the baroque portal you find the ancient pillars from Greek eras with the later Christian church built in, creating a unique symbiosis of architectural styles.

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Greek meets Baroque

We continue our way and follow the travel book’s guidance straight into the next church: Santa Lucia alla Badia. It contains a huge painting from Caravaggio that attracts far more people into the small church than it can swallow. Consequently, masses of people shuffle through the aisles, all aiming to get a good selfie in front of the painting, accompanied by the constant megaphone reminders that it is absolutely forbidden to take pictures inside the church.

Further down the road we reach the next highlight which is the phenomenon of a fresh water well located only inches from the salty sea. It attracted settlers already thousands of years ago and still is famous for being the source of European papyrus.

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Papyrus plant growing at the Fountain of Arethusa

You do not have to drink the water directly from the well though, there are enough bars and restaurants around. A glass of aperitivo and some rays of sun are all it takes to finally convince us of Siracusa’s qualities.

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We stroll along some further for the rest of the afternoon, detecting wide space and relaxed students around the Castello Maniace, a studio filled with sensual modern paintings where we have a nice chat with the artist and a local festival where they celebrate stalking men (= men walking on stalks, joking on naïve tourists).

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We conclude the evening with fantastic food at Divino Mare and come to the opinion that Siracusa may not be as charming as Taormina on the first glance, but definitely has a special flair.

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