Ortigia, the island of Plato, Archimedes and Caravaggio.
So this is my first week on the island of Ortigia, and I feel as if I’ve settled into life quite quickly. With a beach and sea lifestyle and a smattering of Italian, it’s easy to see how.
My arrival in Catania was simple enough, and the airport was fine, modern, with styled marble flooring, English and Italian language everywhere. Getting to Syracuse provided more unexpected difficulties. In my naivety and positive thinking, I expected transport to be frequent and easy for this popular, beautiful and once city rival to Athens. However, it’s Spring, so there is a limited amount of public transport.
There were only three more buses for me, and no trains, so I sat and waited for 3 hours for a bus. When it arrived, people were helpful, and I sat at the back of a no air-conditioned bus for 1 & 1/2 hours. So hot was the bus, I didn’t take in the views and quickly passed out. I awoke to a, “thank you”, I think. Finding a young Italian man next to me, also passed out and his friends behind, leaning in to take photos of both of us, I believe with eyes closed and mouths wide open. I did not know Italian for, “Fuck off.” I’ll be adding that to my list.
Upon arrival in Ortigia, I was picked up by my host and taken to my apartment. As we drove to the island city, the buildings became more ancient, and romantic, with an intense butter and cheddar coloured sandstone soaking up the spring sunshine. We circled through the buildings and streets in his car until we got to the closest parking point, and then it dawned on me how old the city was. Words paint a picture, but there is nothing like venturing into the painting.
The Ortigia streets are narrow, and filled with plants, which climb up the ancient sand coloured crumbling walls. Palm trees and ivy, and flowers draping down from the balconies. The balconies are thin, rustic, with intricately patterned buttresses that hold up the platform and overhang onto the street. I’m yet to see a free runner abuse these narrow streets or a scene from Romeo and Juliet take place upon the balconies…
As it was early afternoon, the sun shone through the streets and gave off a warm glow. As we walked, you felt you were in a lovely residential area, but quickly realised it was more than that. As you looked left and right, you could see family shops, selling food, clothing and puppets.
The puppet theatre it turns out is a historical speciality for Ortigia and I believe Sicily. I’m yet to see a show.
Finally arriving at the flat, I find there are two pizzerias just next to and directly under my balcony. “Perfect.”
The apartment was booked through Airbnb and seemed just a rustic as the streets. A rusty steel gate, twice my width, a double wooden door, and then up some stairs to front entrance. It’s was simply designed, tall in height, a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, but inside the toilet was a spiral staircase, leading to a terrace. Complete with table, chairs and garden canopy.
Welcome to Italy, Sicily and Ortigia, I thought as I settled and unpacked into my new home.
If you would like to know more about my adventures in Ortigia I have written a book now available on Amazon.
If you are interested in seeing where the journey to Ortigia began, click below.