May 9, 2016
We have sailed, or more truthfully, mostly motored, from Licata to Siracusa, on the east coast of Sicily, with a couple intermediate stops. The high point the intermediate stops was our visit to the very old town of Ragusa, perched on a mountaintop. Like Licata, Ragusa was occupied at various times by Greeks, Romans, Cathaginians, Arabs and Normans. But in 1693 a huge earthquake destroyed most of the city, killing some 5,000 of the inhabitants. The old part of town was then rebuilt, mainly in Baroque style, and a new town was founded across a deep chasm. “New” Ragusa has now, unfortunately, fallen prey to the worst kind of urban sprawl. Like much of Sicily, a prominent part of the scenery in the new part of Ragusa is abandoned factory buildings.
Serafina is now in the marina attached to the island of Ortigia, the ancient heart of Siracusa (known in English as Syracuse). The area has been populated for thousands of years, but in 734 B.C. Greek settlers founded the city. A lot of it is lovely, dotted with Greek and Roman ruins, and famous as the birthplace of the Greek engineer and mathematician Archimedes. Archimedes was killed at the end of the siege of Siracusa by Roman forces in 212 B.C., in one of history’s major “oopsies.” Orders had been issued by the Roman generals that Archimedes was to be taken alive, hoping his genius could be used for the advantage of the Romans. But a soldier apparently didn’t recognize him and killed him. I haven’t seen anything on the subsequent fate of the soldier, but I suspect it was not good…
Like a lot of Sicily, Siracusa has been the scene of many battles, including heavy fighting in 1943, as the building below suggests…
Unlike Licata, Siracusa is a major tourist destination, and it shows it. Mobs of northern Europeans teem in the streets, cruise ships park in the harbor, and prices are adjusted accordingly. Still, it has a wonderful public market, of which some photos are posted below. I walked through it this morning, and remembered Marcella Hazan’s dismay, arriving in the US from Italy, upon seeing shelves of frozen vegetables in a supermarket – “those cemeteries of food, whose contents are sealed in waxed boxes, marked, like some tombstones, with photographs of the departed.”
Birgit has made a week-long visit to Germany for the 70th birthday of a good friend, for the “Rum Regatta” of classic boats in Flensburg, and to take care of a variety of necessary tasks. I’ve done an oil change, replaced the cooling water impellor on the engine, done a few other odd jobs, and read and entire Andrea Camilleri novel in Italian, one that has not yet been translated into English!
Wednesday we’ll set off for the mainland of Italy, the “sole of the boot,” on our way towards Albania. The weather looks good for it, and this time we’ll get the sails all working.