Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ragusa, Modica, Noto, Siracusa and Catania--and then back "home"

On the road from Ragusa to Siracusa, we stopped at the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in Modica, the oldest chocolate factory in Sicilia, dating back to 1880. Chocolate came to Sicilia from the Spanish, who ruled this island from 1734 to 1860. Sugar and many spices were brought by the Arabs, who ruled from 827 to 1061, and this combination of tastes has developed numerous dolci, or desserts, that have contributed to Sicilia’s fame. We learned about the processes and ingredients and then viewed a demonstration, but of course the best came at the end, when we were given free samples of 17 different varieties.


Santa Lucia
After Modica, we stopped at Noto and explored its main streets and grabbed some pizza and gelato for lunch. We stayed two nights on the island of Ortigia in Siracusa, taking a walking tour, visiting the church of Santa Lucia (one of the town’s patron saints), an archeological museum and taking the bus to see the ruins of huge Greek temple, a Greek theater and a cave called the Orecchio di Dionisio, or the Ear of Dionysius.
Orecchio di Dionisio
The latter is a limestone cave in the side of hill when workers extracted limestone blocks for construction of buildings in the city. 75 feet high and extends 213 feet back in the cliff. It is tapered at the top like a teardrop. Because of its curved interior shape, the Ear has extremely good acoustics, making even normal voices resonate throughout the cave. According to legend, the ruler Dionysius used the cave as a prison for political dissidents, and he could eavesdrop on the plans and secrets of his captives because of the acoustics. We listened to two impromptu musical performances in the cave, one by the same quartet that entertained us at Segesta and another by our local guide, Liliana, who sang a verse of Santa Lucia.

We also had a memorable lunch at a tiny restaurant at the Siracusa market before getting soaked in a downpour on the way back to the hotel.
Lucy and I show our Seattle Seahawk pride at the Greek theater of Siracusa.


Alstolfo meets St. John in the afterlife and asks how he can
help his cousin Orlando recover from his madness.

That evening, we were treated to a performance of Orlando Furioso at the Teatro dei Pupi in Siracusa. Pupi are puppets, and the performance we saw is a continuation of the Sicilian tradition of cantastor├« (singers of tales), rooted in the Proven├žal troubadour tradition from the time of the reign of the Holy Roman Empire in Sicily during the 13th century. The puppeteers explained that theater has been restored in traditional style, with comfortable padded benches and red drapery in order to “evoke ancient times, when the theaters were crowded with people ready to acclaim the champions.”
After the fleeing princess Angelica helps this simple soldier back to health, they fall in love and marry, driving the paladin Orlando, already half-crazy for his love of Angelica, over the edge and into complete madness.
On our final full day, we drove to Catania, making a stop at a World War II museum, where our guide Alfio treated us to a thorough and masterful explanation of the Allied landing and conquest of Sicilia. The next day, Lucy and I flew from Catania to Pisa, and from there we would return to our normal life in San Salvatore.


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