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Geez, it sure looks like we made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Greece. Ah, that must mean we are in Agrigento, Sicily.

It was dark when we arrived, but the Doric temples dating back to the first, second and third centuries BC, are eerily lit and visible on the ridge that stretches from the town of Agrigento towards the sea. In the morning, we visited the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) which surely must have been one of the most magnificent settlements of ‘Magna Graecia’,

Some days I feel like everyone is speaking Greek. Being a Sunday morning we had trouble finding an open Tabacchio (tobacco shop where one usually purchases local bus tickets). We had huge hassles finding anyone who knew where to buy a bus ticket to the valley or where we could locate a bus stop once we had a ticket. Even the ticket seller at a random long distance bus company wasn’t sure where to wait for it.  So we thought ask a traffic cop.  She pointed us to the back of the new long distance bus station. Some old guy chatting with me said he didn’t think the bus came there.  So we walked to the train station because we had seen buses coming from there with the right numbers (1, 2, 3) and figured they would have to go back eventually. After about an hour of stuffing around, a bus came.  It was a 4 kilometre bus ride and we could have walked it in the time we waited…

You would think that one of the most visited sites in Sicily would be better organised.  If the UNESCO folks are reading this (unlikely), maybe some of the site funding could go to a bus stop sign near the train station? Thanks guys.

So, was it worth the effort? Oh yes indeed it was. And thanks to our fabulous hosts at camera a sud for a charming B&B stay. We had booked elsewhere online the day before, but when we turned up to the booked B&B we were told there was a problem. The lovely Marco escorted us to camera a sud. All’s well that ends well.

The remains of the Temple of Heracles

The well preserved Temple of Concordia

The remains of the Temple of Juno

The remains of the Temples of Castor and Pollux - re-assembled

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Sufficiently beautiful to repeat three times.

All up and down the hillsides,  a church with life-sized statues of all 12 apostles and one with 250 steps, chocolatiers vying for our trade.  Modica’s Spanish conquerors brought cocoa from their South American colonies. The chocolate has a slightly crystallised texture reminiscent of Mexican chocolates.

Quiet, pastel, rococo splendour.

Sampling time at the chocolate factory!

A sweet package – Cannoli

Chiesa San Giorgio, Modica

Modica Alta

During our 5 weeks together in Italy, my sister Annie and I were fond of saying  “This doesn’t suck”.  Well, Siracusa and Ortygia are truly deserving of this charming turn of phrase!

From the enchanting streets of Ortygia (island connected via a bridge to Siracusa), to the best spaghetti vongole I ever tasted at Spaghetteria do Schogghiu, to the Teatro Greco in the Parco Archaeologico della Neapolis, the Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi and the tiny bohemian-feeling Slow Food recommended Osteria La Gazza Ladra.

Siracusa is small enough to see everything on foot. We hoofed the length and breath of it and here are some photos we captured.

The narrow lanes of Ortygia, Siracusa

Morning market near Post Office, Ortygia, Siracusa

Fishing boats, Siracusa

Teatro Greco at Parco Archaeologico Neaopolis, Siracusa

Former temple of Athena, renovated to create a Catholic Cathedral, Ortygia, Siracusa

The trip across the strait from Villa San Giovanni, Calabria to Messina was eventful.  Before the train arrived in Villa San Giovanni a conductor came through the car to say there was a ‘problem’. The train would not be loaded on the ferry as normal then continue across the strait to Messina in Sicily.  Evidently the ‘problem’ was a strike, a ‘sciopero’. We were told we could board the ferry on foot then catch a regional train at the other end to our final destination.  Or we could wait with the train for the strike to finish.

So we got on the ferry and proceeded to the information window to see when the next regional train was going only to be told we would have to pay for the trip from Messina to Catania.  I argued that we had already paid to be taken, and on a higher-priced Intercity train, but the Ferrovia dello Stato officer insisted that we would not be allowed to travel with the tickets we held. In the end we waited for the strike to finish (3 hours total) then rejoined our Intercity train to Catania!

Our little hotel (Hotel Etnea 316) was welcome and Danielle the most helpful of hosts, advising us where we could get a light meal, seeing it was a bit late by the time we freshened up.

IKI Catania - nice salad meal with a packet of scamorza and ham plus wine

Catania seems so familiar but I can’t put my finger on it.  It’s a little bit Buenos Aires, a little bit Arequipa, a little bit Madrid (or Barcelona perhaps).  But definitely Italian. The seafood is fabulous, the people friendly, the architecture enchanting. Everyone stays up late to talk and eat and laugh. I could stay here a while…

Catania - La Pescheria - Triglia

Catania - La Pescheria on a Saturday morning

Catania - La Pescheria - Close up fish

Catania - La Pescheria - sardines to go from wooden tubs where they are salt-cured

Lunch at Osteria Antica Marina was a delicious affair.  The waiter asked if he could make a selections of antipasti for us then rocked up with eight little dishes ranging from roasted capsicum, to raw marinated little prawns to sardines split open, grilled then topped with caramelised onions. Each was unique and tasty with the local white wine. We devoured the next courses forgetting to take photos. The meal was topped of with a champagne flute of lemon sorbet.

Catania - Osteria Antica Marina - various types of fish and vegetable antipasti

Catania - Morning market next to La Pescheria

Catania - Morning market - pomodori

How could you be anything but delighted to be in such a beautiful place as the Amalfi Coast?

We had beautiful weather for the bus ride from Sorrento to Amalfi, where we stored our bags at the tourist office for the day. We had lunch in Ravello, high up the hill from Amalfi, then wandered around the gardens of Villa Cimbrone.

Got to Salerno in time for a walk around the shopping district where everyone was doing the evening passeggiata.  The Hotel Plaza was comfortable and most importantly, close to the train station for our morning train to Sicily.  But more on that later.  For now, here are some snaps of the Amalfi Coast.

Amalfi - Ceramic plates to suit all tastes!

 

Amalfi - From the marina

Ravello - Good enough for Wagner, DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, good enough for me!

Ravello - Villa Cimbrone

Amalfi - Fruttivendolo

Pompeii

It was strange to go to Sorrento again without Annie but I wanted to show Andrew some of our haunts: Bouganvillea for the amazing Profumo di Sorrento gelato, Inn Bufalito for the slow cooked Buffalo meat ragu, the Marina Grande where we spend many a fine hour, Sorrento Lingue where we spent a week studying, and various lookout points around the coast.

Andrew and I also visited Pompeii and were blown away by the scale of it all. Pompeii pictures follow:

Pompeii - decoration in entry hall

Pompeii - close up of wall decoration

Pompeii - narrow lane

Pompeii - Ampitheatre

Pompeii - Columns!

All good things must come to and end, and Annie’s time in Italy was over on Monday.  We left Sorrento on the Thursday before she flew out and returned to our lovely family in Rome. Here are a few snaps of our last few days together.

Piazza di Spagna, Annie and I laughing at something!

Market off Via Cola di Rienzo

Nothing says Roma like a Cinquecento

Giulia, Giovanni, Lou & Annie at Gianicolo blocking great view of Rome!