Thursday, October 18, 2007

This is very old. It was bigger before.

Harlot and I headed to Siracusa Wednesday morning. We managed to get a good bit earlier start than Chris and I had so consequently we got to see more stuff. The Greek theater and the ear of Dionysus are still amazing. Laura pointed out a row of writing that is largely still visible around the perimeter of a sort of mid way up walkway. We tried to figure out where the bathroom was.

We then hiked around to find the tomb of Archimedes. There is a necropolis that is part of the archaeological park but you can really only just look at it through a fence from a busy street with cars whizzing by. We were drawn there, of course, by the promise of seeing Archimedes' tomb, Archimedes being one of our favorite ancient Greeks, but found in a guide book that the tomb held in common lore as the tomb of Archimedes was built 200 years after his death and therefore couldn't actually be where they buried him. But it was a handsome looking tomb for whoever they actually stuck in there.

We then hiked over to the archaeological museum which turned out to be far more extensive than I would have thought concerning *pre* Greek inhabitants of Sicily. A lot of prehistoric stuff--more information than we could really absorb about various prehistoric inhabitants and the island's geological history and make up, especially with most of it being in Italian. Lot's of things made out of clay. Laura was most impressed by the prehistoric, bronze age safety pins. I was rather fond of the rain spouts from a Greek temple, myself. Right in the area right around the museum there was also a museum of the Papyrus, which the Professor had recommended to us, and some first century Christian catacombs from a community founded by the apostle, John. We skipped the former because we were pretty museumed out after the archaeological museum and the latter because it appeared to be closed when we dropped by.

So after that we headed down to the island of Ortigia, which is where the heart of Siracusa really is. This, really, is where this town really starts to get very pretty. And it also contains one of the highlights of Siracusa--the cathedral. The cathedral was built, literally, out of a Greek temple dedicated to Athena--they just filled in between the columns, which largely still stick out of the walls, both externally, and even more so internally. Walking into the cathedral, walking among the columns, is as about as close as you're ever going to come to walking inside an ancient Greek temple. It is, to put it mildly, impressive. As far as the rest of the island is concerned, it is pretty enough that it is a pleasure to simply walk through the streets and the alleyways, soaking it in. Laura also got in a little shopping at a store called Zara, which apparently is a treat. It's near the statue of the banana.

This morning we celebrated yesterday's victory in Siracusa by sleeping in late and then wandering around a bit in Catania. I took Laura to spot where I remember you could see traces of a Greek theater through a fence and found out that, actually, it was a Roman theater and that the EU was now funding some restoration work on it, and that it was partially open to the public, so we went in. As near as we can tell, this must have been one beautiful theater when it was built. It was pretty impressive even today, as it lies in ruins, people's modern houses built partially on pieces of its foundation. There was also a smaller performance space, an odeon, that must have been for more intimate engagements.

Then we ate lunch.

The end.