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Life on the Island of Ortigia

It was up and at ’em early today. After a good breakfast, we set off for our first chance at exploring Sicily. Our destination — Ortigia, an island connected to Siracusa by a handy bridge. Ortigia is not far from our villa, and with the exception of having to disturb our road dog (who lies in the middle of the road, and then looks at us with a long-suffering “seriously?” when we need to pass before getting up reluctantly and moving to the side of the road), we made it to the island without incident. Parking was a breeze, once we realized we were parked in a “residents only” spot and found the public parking ramp. A few euros later, we were off to explore.

Streets narrow enough to shake the neighbor’s hand

Ortigia is a warren of cobbled streets so narrow a person in one house could lean across the street to hand another neighbor a glass of wine. The usual motorcycles and tiny cars keep pedestrians plastered to the walls until they pass. There are either no stores in Ortigia, or they weren’t open when we passed, and like all Italian stores, they disappear when they are closed. How do they do that?

It was really hot today. Or maybe it wasn’t. We are from Minnesota, after all. First stop was the Temple of Apollo, which was a bit humbling, being that it’s been here since the early 6th century BC. It was “discovered” in the 1800s, which we don’t understand at all. How could they have missed it? We stood and imagined sandaled feet climbing the three stone steps that surround the ruins.

Hello, Archimedes

We found the Archimedes Museum (old Archie was born here) and performed each and every one of the various geometry experiments available there. We displaced water, calculated areas, created parabolas and hyperbolas, figured out combinations and permutations, sat on chairs that looked like latrine holes, and wondered at the fact that apparently, Archimedes also invented the football. Did you realize that the large 1-meter wheel on the earliest bicycles rolls out to exactly the value of pi? Us neither. (We neither? Me, too, neither?) We toyed with the idea of visiting the Leonardo Invention Exhibit, but instead went to the sea wall to look out over the Ionian Sea. The breeze there was lovely and we were all soaked through from sweating. We looked out over clear blue-green water over volcanic rock, and a flat platform of sun-baked people lying out like crisp fish on the grill.

ortigia

Beautiful boy with concertina

On the way back to the car park, we wandered through the Piazza Duomo and climbed the steps to the baroque duomo, but opted not to go in being too cheap to pay the entrance fee. Instead, we stopped and listed to a beautiful boy playing a concertina for the tourists on the church steps. His recognizable tunes included Why, Why, Delilah and the theme from The Godfather, to name a few. We dropped a Euro in his cup. He seemed to be making quite the haul, which he stopped to admire between songs. A block later, a man was playing a concertina at the next church. His music was klezmer, and he had the same kind of cup for donations. Perhaps father and son? They were both really good.

The street market

Ortigia has a street market every day, so we were not disappointed. Peppers, fish of all kinds, spices, satchels from Africa, onions, tomatoes, peaches, pears, every possible kind of bean, and all beautiful to see. Seated on the curb were two men shucking sea urchins. We bought nothing, being overwhelmed by it all. After a quick trip through, we collected the car and made an on-the-way-home stop at La Familia for more bananas, peanut butter (FYI, a tiny jar of Skippy costs $8) coffee, water, beer, wine, crackers, vegetables, hazelnut candy, and bread. We made our way back to the villa where swimming, resting, and reading happened followed by a bittersweet Skype with our long lost travel partners, whom we miss very much.

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Life On The Island Of Ortigia

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