|A very early start as we had to leave the hotel at 5 am to catch the ferry in Valletta for a two hour crossing to Sicily where we were met by our bus driver and guide.
The first impression of Sicily was of citrus orchards, olive groves and vegetable growing, as well,as many trees and freestanding houses surrounded by gardens. Very easy on the eye after Malta which had little vegetation after a very dry summer other than prickly pear.
Our first stop was Noto, known as the Baroque town, the original town having been destroyed in1693 by an earthquake. We strolled the Main Street going into the Church of St Clare and the Cathedral. Attached to the Church of St Clare was a Convent - a building less Baroque than the convent opposite with its bulging balconies which was for the daughters of the noble families who would put a number of their daughters into a life in a convent at maybe only twelve in order to protect the family fortune.
The Cathedral suffered a recent disaster (1996 I think) when the dome collapsed so the present day Cathedral is less Baroque although frescoes have been painted and various pieces of sculpture etc added. One very modern cross seemed a little out of place until it was explained that the wood was from boats bringing refugees; they continue to pour into Sicily. Obviously the Cathedral community was trying to support these people with a collection box near the door.
The bulging balconies and the intricately carved figures supporting them are a feature of many of the buildings.
A lunch of a sandwich made fresh and some cold tea infused with lemon and lemon grass was very welcome as breakfast had been minimal. A 40 min drive had us in Syracuse or Siracusa where we visited the Neaopolis Archaeological Park where we spent much time at the Great Altar of Syracuse, the park established in what was the quarry for the Greeks, the Greek theatre and the Roman amphitheatre.. yes, today we have been looking at the time of Greek and Roman settlement here. At one stage Siracusa was the largest Greek city with a population of about 700,000 many more than the population today.
After dropping our bags at our hotel the hardy amongst us set out for a walk of the old Siracusa, finishing with a puppet show with marionettes over a metre in height, beautifully costumesd and used in five acts to tell an old story.
Quick showers, then dinner not far from our hotel at what was obviously a family run restaurant and the meal finished with what was voted the best tiramisu enjoyed and handshakes all round as we left the restaurant.
Looking forward to a big sleep!