Friday, March 16, 2012

Museum day in Siricusa

Today was spent exploring Siracusa. After our drive yesterday, we were happy to walk everywhere today, but first of all we needed to find an ATM. The first machine said that my card wasn't equipped to do international transactions. The second and third machines wouldn't work either and one was the Bank of Sicily. Finally, we found a bank that would take our cards and we were back in business.

Our first stop was the Archeological Museum, which contains an enormous number of exhibits from all over the Siracusa area. It is divided into sections with the first part looking at the geology of Sicily and the prehistoric cultures; the second part is given over to the Greek colonies and the Landolina Venus and freizes from the Temple of Apollo and finally statues, mosaics and pottery from the Roman times. It is quite interesting to see how all the pieces of pottery have been put together like jigsaw puzzles. The giant funerary pottery is most impressive. Much of the pottery isn't really too dissimilar from our clay pottery today. The museum is most impressive if somewhat overwhelming.

Then we walked a bit further up the road to visit the Greek theatre, which dates from 500 BC and could hold up to 15,000 people and was one of the largest ever built. Plays are still performed here each summer. Behind the theatre are the remains of the old stone quarries in what is now a lemon orchard. Of most interest is "the Ear of Diosynius", a twenty metre high arch that tapers at the top and extends 65 metres in to a very dark cave. Apparently it was named by Caravaggio in the early 1600s.

The nearby Roman amphitheatre is one of the largest anywhere and is still in good repair. It was used for the typical Roman entertainment with wild animals and gladiators. It is said that the large rectangular hole in the centre was used to drain the blood.

After a pizza and a mandorola or almond gelato we staggered back to the hotel. I had a swim and met some very interesting ladies, two from Russia and one from Romania, who had moved here and now have Sicilian husbands. I didn't want to ask what they did when they came here but we did have a very entertaining conversation.

Tonight we visited the Temple of Apollo built in the early sixth century BC to listen to a concert about the history of Siracusa. The temple has quite a magnificent setting in the middle of Ortigia, which adjoins Siricusa, and is where we are staying. The local symphony orchestra, a choir and a lady relating the history were all part of the concert. We were standing in the square above watching but we eventually decided to move on; it was getting chilly and the music wasn't to our taste.

Tomorrow we are looking forward to exploring more of Ortigia.

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