A historical location ready to see in 2013

Sunset over south Ortygia

Dave the motorhome is parked up by the small port on the island of Ortygia (N37.06636 E15.29185), a former Greek settlement overlooking Syracuse – the leading power of Europe around 400BC!

With no howling gales blowing Dave around and our new hinge holding the door in place I slept quite well last night, only being woken a couple of times by Jay. His man flu has now become a stomach bug – never a good thing to have in a motorhome! Interrupted sleep meant we didn’t wake until 9.30 am. As Jay took Charlie for a play on the beach I gave Dave a good tidy and clean, removing two dustpans worth of volcanic rocks and grit that he’d picked up on evil Etna.

We finally hit the road about 11.30 and made our way through the narrow streets. While passing cars our folded-in awning clipped a couple of trees and needed an adjustment, an iPodded jogger tried her best to get whacked by Dave’s protruding wing mirrors – only a deft Jay swerve saved her noggin and I had to run ahead a couple of times to check if we’d actually fit down the road satnav was suggesting. Needless to say we were so happy to reach the heaven that is the wide, smooth(ish) auto strada.

Another great feature of the auto strada here is that the service stations have motorhome service points, so we popped into one to empty and fill our tanks. Another motorhome was already in place when we arrived so we parked a respectable distance away – it doesn’t pay to be too close to others emptying their loo. Another motorhome arrived and parked between us and the service point – cheeky. Then three lorries came in and totally blocked us off from the service point, so Jay turned Dave around and we parked up behind the second motorhome – the owners of which had now headed over to the cafe. The motorhome in the service point finished up and waved at me to move so he could get out (Jay was walking Charlie round the car park), so I took my opportunity and nipped in – after all we were there first.

When the owners of the second motorhome arrived they didn’t say anything, but did get their loo cassette out and left it next to Dave, it could have been a statement of ‘oi! you queue jumpers!’ or it could have been a request for me to say ‘are you just emptying your loo? please go ahead’. Whatever it was it was strange to watch them staring at us using the service point – that sort of behaviour would never happen in Blighty!

Back on the auto strada we soon came to a toll booth, handing over €0.50 for the section we’d just driven we realised the motorway from here on south was free – yippee!  In stretches it wasn’t quite as smooth as the paid bit, but it was a million percent improvement on the lava paved roads we’d driven over the past couple of days. Singing along to Christmas tunes we found ourselves on a new section of road; unknown to satnav, burrowing through the countryside in mood-lit tunnels.

Popping out at Siracusa (the new name for the place) we navigated unmarked road junctions where it was every man for himself to reach our place for the night. We’re right next to the sea and the best thing is – the parking meter is broken. No one had tickets, even though many people did try to get one. Fingers crossed for a couple of free nights!

I had a nap in the sunshine streaming through Dave’s windows while Jay looked out over the water and read up about where we are. The city’s most famous son is Archimedes – of the bath and Eureka fame and of course the inventor of the Archimedes screw (also known as the poo screw when we used to walk past them at the local sewage works, I’m sure Archimedes would be proud to know that). He was killed during a two year siege of the city by those pesky Romans, a lot of the place was flattened by an earthquake in 1693 and in World War II it was unlucky enough to be bombed first by the Allies then, after its capture, by the Luftwaffe.

Satnav's favourite type of street - so narrow you could pass stuff from balcony to balcony!
Satnav’s favourite type of street – so narrow you could pass stuff from balcony to balcony!
Sunshine and seaside, you can't beat it!
Sunshine and seaside, you can’t beat it!

Fortunately the island is one of the few late-medieval bits left. Shaped like a fist with the thumb turned down the island is only one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide. We strolled around its edge and through narrow, winding streets (thankful satnav hadn’t tried to take us further onto the island). Map-less we happened upon the Duomo which was built on a fifth centure BC Greek temple to Athena (Goddess of the 80’s postcard), you can still see the pillars now incorporated into the walls of the Duomo.

Ortygia Duomo built over the Greek temple using its pillars
Ortygia Duomo built over the Greek temple using its pillars

More strolling and we spotted the tourist information, the bloke sitting behind the tiny counter almost jumped out of his seat when I walked in, he looked so bored. The place was tucked away inside a courtyard and un-signposted, so it was no wonder he had so few punters.

I love how the posh shops put our red carpets for Christmas
I love how the posh shops put out red carpets for Christmas
Posh version of a chocolate teapot; a chocolate espresso maker!
Posh version of a chocolate teapot; a chocolate espresso maker!

Armed with a map we grabbed an ice cream (kill or cure of Jay’s stomach) each and set about strolling the length and breadth of the island. The place is alive with people also strolling around and eating ice cream, something we haven’t really seen for a while – maybe because for once we hadn’t arrived during the three hour lunch break!

Enjoying Ice cream in a modern polycarbon building thing!
Enjoying ice cream in a modern polycarbon building thing!

As we got back to Dave a huge Panini van has opened up near us, it looks like they also do chips – I could be in for a treat for tea tonight! The car park around us is now packed full, which bodes well for our hopes of finding something happening here tomorrow night helping us to see in 2013 (after we had to resort to petrol station bought beer last year in Evora, Portugal!)

Sunset over south Ortygia
Sunset over south Ortygia

Wherever you’re going to be, and whatever you’re doing have a great night tomorrow.

Ju x

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