Frank and I love his cousin, Enza, so much that we kidnapped her for our roadtrip to Siracusa to visit even more relatives. The picture above is a typical gas station along the way – they all come with an espresso bar!
We rented an apartment in the old town of Siracusa, called Ortigia. It is an island connected by a short bridge to the mainland. It was settled over 2500 years ago and has remnants from Greeks, Romans, and Arabians. The streets are a cobblestoned maze full of restaurants and shops, all along the seawall.
The town definitely was built before cars, and you have to have a special “ZTL” pass to drive here. We do, since our apartment is here, but that does not make it any easier. Needless to say, it was a bit of a challenge finding our way and getting settled in. As Enza said, “Mamma Mia!”
But our apartment is spacious, beautiful, and in the middle of everything. We have two balconies overlooking Via Santa Teresa, right over an excellent pizzeria, and a half-block from the seawall. Our parking woes were worth it.
Enza and I have already taken a passiagetta along the sea wall, where she introduced me to a new drink I love called Crodino. It is orange and very refreshing (non-alcoholic). We walked to a cafe, ordered Crodinos and potato chips, and had a wonderful time trying to speak in “poco” Inglese / Italiano.
The Siracusa Side of the Family
We also got to visit with another of Enza’s and Frank’s first cousins on the Buccheri side – Tina. Tina’s daughter is Evelina, who came with her son Antonino to visit us in Venice. They live in town in a 4-story building with the whole family on different floors – Tina (the matriarch), her three children, and their families. They had us over for a delicious lunch of fresh spada (swordfish) and gamberi (big shrimp). (Fortunately for us, Evelina’s sons, Antonino and Diego, met us via motorcycle to lead the way, so we didn’t get lost.)
Evelina’s husband also has a sporting club a little ways out of town, where they have a huge lemon and orange grove (2,000 trees!), along with soccer fields, swimming pools, and tennis courts. They have a home there as well. It was peaceful and beautiful. They sent us back with an armload of oranges and lemons.
When we tried to drive back to our little island of Ortigia, traffic was backed up, and a policeman said we could not get in, even with our pass. It was the procession of Santa Lucia, which only happens twice a year. Santa Lucia is the patron saint of Siracusa. She was a young woman who vowed to follow her own way and help the poor, rather than marrying the husband that was arranged for her. This did not go down well, but she persisted, performing miracles and helping the poor. Eventually, she was martyred and made a saint. However, the Venetian doge took her body, which still rests in Venice. Frank and I went to see it because we knew it meant so much to the relatives in Siracusa. So it is just her tomb and statue that are here. She is very much loved – especially by women. They have a big festival in December for her, but during May, they take her out and parade her through the streets.
Well, for us, after driving around, we finally ditched a car in what we think was a real space (we hope it is still there) and made our way on foot to our apartment. We turned a corner, and lo and behold, there comes Santa Lucia. Talk about timing! There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of people lining the seawall. We joined them and soon the procession went by, accompanied by a band. Everyone fell into line to follow after it. What a wonderful sight. That night, they had fireworks, which we could watch from our balcony.
Of all the places we have been in Italy, I am starting to think Sicily is the best by far.