Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer holidays in Syracuse

For the first time ever, we decided to slighty change our summer plans and take a small detour, only for us, in order to actually have some form of vacation.
We looked for sandy beaches, with shallow and warm water, not too far off our usual destination and, considering that Mattias had wished for years to visit Syracuse, we thought that the area was the right place for us.

After some minor search, we booked at the hotel Valle di Mare, also because, choosing as period high season, it was hard to find a place in any place.
The resort was dislocated in a peaceful area, was not too bad, but left us disappointed in some aspects.
If you are interested in reading all the details of our staying there, you can check out my Tripadvisor Review.
We looked at this hotel because it was closed to Fontane Bianche, a small town 20 minutes away from Syracuse, with the type of beach we were searching.

Fontane Bianche, looking south

Fontane Bianche, looking north
The beach was the high point of our little holiday. Especially in the morning, the sea looked almost caribbean (not that I have been to the Caribbean, but...). Of course, it was a bit crowded during the weekend, but especially early in the morning it was wonderful to be in the warm water.
Lido Fontane Bianche
The majority of the people at the beach were definitely locals, there were few foreigners and this, according to me, was a quite good aspect (even though, during the weekend, it became a little bit too noisy for our taste).
We used the services offert by a "Lido" (an organized beach), simply because we had no clue of how things would look like and I think the choice was ok, considering.
It was also entertaining, since every day, around 10:30, two people from the Lido staff, would organize an acquagym. One of the two, a guy was just a pleasure to watch dancing, since he had an amazing rythm sense.
We also had the lunch at the Lido, which was possibly not the cheapest solution, but the most practical one and afterall, we managed to find something to eat for all of us. Isabella, for example, wanted to eat the local salsiccia....

One day, we had to withdraw some money, but there would be no cash dispenser available in Fontane Bianche and we got redirected to Cassibile. The place looked almost like the Far West and, although afterwards, I have found out that it is a quite crucial place from an historical point of view (a WWII armstice was signed there), it looked desolated and terrible. We didn't manage to find any cash dispenser there either, since the only bank had been robbed recently (...).
We finally got our money in Avola, which from the car, looked very pretty and I am sure we will try to visit it more in the future.

The last day of our extra holiday, we went to Syracuse, aiming at the Ortygia island. I had no idea really what to expect, but we got recommended to go there from the hotel receptionist (the other alternative was the archaeological park).
We were really not disappointed by our choice since Ortygia is amazing and we were happy we managed to pay a short visit there - I am sure we will try to return also there!

We found that there were plenty of archaeological sites also there and the whole island is full of beautiful streets, were old and new buildings melt in a quite harmonic way (90% of the times, which is a quite high rate), despite the heat and the sun, everything looked pitoresque and it was a pity we didn't have too much time because there would have been a lot more to explore.

Apollo's Temple
We looked at some ruins, like some rests of the ancient wall and the Apollonion, Apollo's Temple. From there, we moved towards the cathedral, walking by ancient buildings and beautiful squares.
Piazza Archimede with Diana Fountain
A narrow street
The whole place gave us a great sensation, with a decently peaceful atmosphere (ok, it was a monday and there were 700 degrees, but still, I would have expected tons of tourists challenging the weather), clean street and some cute cats.

The cathedral is on the left
A column from V century A C integrated in the church
The only visit we paid was to the Cathedral, which was in an high point of the island, facing a wide square, in company of other beautiful buildings. Unfortunately, the lack of vegetation made the stay there quite painful since the sun was unmerciful.
The cathedral is on the right, now.
Part of the cathedral facade. I managed to catch the same tourists in two pictures.
The inside of the Cathedral was quite interesting and beautiful. It is a pity we didn't have any guidebook or any major information because it seems that its history was quite interesting. The coolest aspect was that it was built over the Athena's temple and its column were integrated in the church construction.

Piazza Duomo
We aimed then at find the Fonte Aretusa, a very peculiar sweet water source, which is just next to the sea. There, there were a lot of small restaurants, and although we knew we were entering the domain of the tourist traps, we sat at the first place.
The restaurant, Spizzica al Vecchio Lavatoio, was very average and offered very warm seating, however had a great view.
We really didn't have the luxury to seek any better place, so we got a quick meal there and we took bravely the way back at the warmest hours of the day.

View from the restaurant
 Although quite short, we did enjoy our walk in Ortygia and we hope that we will have the opportunity to visit it few more tiimes!

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