April-May 2005 in Italy and Malta

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April 17-22 Rome
Arrival in Rome,
Tourists in Rome

April 22-24 Bay of Naples

April 24-27 Capri

April 27-29 Amalfi to Maratea
Amalfi Coast and Paestum,

April 29-May 3 Sicily
To Sicily,
Sicily (Taormina)
Mosaics at Villa Imperiale di Casale,
Valley of the Temples,

May 3-6 On Malta
Blue Grotto and Temples
Valetta and Archaeological Museum,
Exhibits in Archaeological Museum
Hypogeum, Gozo and Ggantija,
Tarxien and Clapham Junction

May 6-7 Sicily, Scilla and Charybdis

May 7-8 Tropea (Capo Vaticano)

May 8-10 Puglia
Matera, Grotto, Trulli of Alberobello

May 10-12 Abruzzi National Park

May 12 Tivoli, Villa Adriana


Last day in Sicily — Siracusa

Our plane to Malta didn't leave until evening, so we took advantage of the time to do some more sightseeing, this time to the ancient city of Siracusa (Syracuse). Siracusa was originally an early Greek colony, but, as with all the others it was taken by the Romans. The event that set the capture of Siracusa apart from all the other Roman takeovers was that during the invasion, Archimedes, the Einstein or Leonardo of his time, was murdered by a Roman soldier.

Siracusa is more or less at the southeastern corner of the triangle of Sicily, and one might have expected it to be a natural place for ferries to Malta, but that's not where they go from. They go from Catania or from a small port further west along the south coast. And they don't go every day. We didn't take the ferry, because the travel days didn't fit our schedule. As it turned out, that was lucky, as the day we came back was very windy, and the ferries might not have been running.

Typical street
Siracusa harbour

Siracusa, according to the Green Michelin Guide, has a Greek theatre and archeological area, a modern industrial and office town, and an interesting island. We tried to find the Greek area, but couldn't. We did find the island, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow canal spanned by two or three wide bridges. We crossed one and immediately found a parking lot by the harbour, after which we explored the island on foot. That turned out to have been a wise move, as the streets are mainly very narrow, often one-way, and generally unsuited for cars, though car traffic is permitted on most streets.

At the highest point of the turtle-backed island is a large piazza in front of the Cathedral entrance. The Cathedral incorporates a 6th century BC temple to Diana, and much of the temple is still apparent in the Cathedral construction.

(Left) The Cathedral. (Right) an internal wall of the cathedral, constructed inside the peripheral columns of the Diana temple, just as in the temple-church in Agrigento. (far right) The peripheral columns of the other side of the temple are embedded in the outer wall of the Cathedral.
Temple columns in Cathedral, marking a side aisle. Temple foundation steps and peripheral columns

Archimedes was a practical engineer as well as a scientist. Like Leonardo da Vinci, he invented war machinery and defensive fortifications. It is said that some of the fortification around Siracusa was designed by him but was only partly built when the Romans attacked. The area enclosed by the city wall and fortification is several kilometers in diameter, well outside the modern city, and presumably well outside the ancient city as well. What is visible now is a kind of castle ruin on a hill called "Belvedere" for its fine views.

Part of the "Archimedean" defences of Siracusa. The city is barely visible in the distance in the left picture.
Mount Etna sunset

By the time we had explored the Archimedean defences of Siracusa, it was time to return to the airport in Catania. We left the car in the long-term parking lot, picked up a parking ticket, and checked in. After passport check, we waited in an ill-equipped gate area, long past the scheduled departure time, with no announcements. Somebody said that the Air Malta plane was late about two-thirds of the time, and eventually it did appear, near dusk. However, that was some compensation, as we got good views of Etna when we took off. What was not so good was that by the time we were leaving the airport in Malta, it was pitch dark.