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Island of Ortigia
On a tiny island jutting off mainland Sicily, Ortigia is a little Greek bubble in Italy, dotted with 2,000-year-old ruins of Greek temples. It’s easy to lose yourself here ambling about the sleepy alleys lined with pretty pastel-coloured houses, topped with ageing balconies over-run with plants. Visit the impressive Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, built over a 5th century Greek Temple of Athena, whose Doric columns can still be seen incorporated into the walls of the cathedral. Take a short bus ride to Neapolis in Siracusa (on the mainland) to admire the well-preserved ruins of an ancient Greek theatre surrounded by the Latomia del Paradiso, an old quarry filled with citrus trees.Visit the Ortigia food market, heaving with local produce and the freshest catch of the day, then feast on the best seafood pasta at the nearby Ristorante L’Ancora (ristoranteancora.com). Caff è Apollo (Largo XXV Luglio 13; +39-0931/185-2656) is your best bet for an espresso and a ricotta-fi lled croissant. Stop over at the Puppet Theatre (teatrodeipupisiracusa.it) for a late-evening traditional Sicilian puppet show.
This is a beautiful island and the Arabic influences just can’t be omitted. It is also not a small island so you will need time to get around it. Given the road conditions in parts, multiply that by a factor of 1.5 for route time. They are NOT as bad drivers as the Italians from the north will make you believe, the people are not uncouth or savage compared to the north, ad the mafia is definitely not waiting to slaughter you, you are not that important, or dangerous, get over it. Definitely do Menfi for the coasts; they have a nice beach run all the way to Sceccia. In the north the beaches are also nice (near Palermo) but far if you are this side or the island. The West is mostly rocky so save the beach time for here. An earthquake destroyed most of the city (circa 1960’s) so most you see was reconstructed albeit to look like the old times.