tour of the Catacombs and our final night in Sicily

Siracusa Travel Blog

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Carl in the Albergo Domus Mariae, Ortigia, drinking the only bad wine in Italy - leftover from lunch at Ristorante Le Dune

I woke on Friday, our last full day in Sicily, and opened the terrace doors to greet the cool morning air.  From our small balcony I looked out at the convent across the street and reveled in the esthetic views up and down Via Vittorio Veneto.  I took a shower and went down to the dining room for “breadfast” as we had come to call the ultra-continental, complementary breakfast provide by the hotel.  It consisted of bread, cereal, more bread, sometimes an orange, and a few other leavened, baked, grain-based, bread-like items.  Visiting Melissa’s room after, I soaked up the sounds and sights from her terrace as well and took a few pictures of the Ortigian coastline while listening to the waves lapping up against the seawall below.

decorative arch along the street in Ortigia

We’d been set free to go off on our own all day, so Andy, Carl, and I finally returned to the ruins of Basilica of St John the Evangelist in Siracusa and toured the Catacombs of San Giovanni.  It was a very interesting subterranean cave with burial niches hollowed out from the stone walls.  Sadly photography was not allowed inside the catacombs.

Following our tour, we returned to the Domus Mariae to join up with Melissa and Karen.  With my four School of Business friends, I went back out to wander around Siracusa some more.  Andy had run out of film and still needed to take some pictures of “infrastructure” for his assignment, so he asked me to take some for him and we had fun touring around town as I picked out subjects that I thought might fit within the category.

Joe, Behn, Ory, & Amy on the Albergo Domus Mariae roof, Ortigia

Karen needed to make a withdrawal, so we found a local bank.  I would have waited outside with the others, but when I saw how cool the security system was, I had to give it a try.  A man in uniform stands guard outside the single, semi-cylindrical, glass door.  When a customer needs to enter the guard presses a button to open the door, which revolves into the wall.  I passed through the outer door and faced the concave side of the next.  Before the second door would open, allowing me to enter the lobby of the bank, the door behind me had to close.  Momentarily I stood completely enclosed in a glass flute; I imagined I was in the capsule of a pneumatic pipeline and could be propelled by air pressure through a network of tubes any second.

Melissa, Karen, and I went with Andy and Carl to help them pick out leather jackets.  I bought my Remy before the trip, so I didn’t need another jacked.  I did, however, find a nice pare of high fashion, handmade, Italian leather shoes at Spatafora.  Having visited several other stores, I found the price very reasonable at 110,000 Lira (around $50 US).  My friends were heading back to the inn, but I stayed in town and hopped on the Internet in a bookstore to check my e-mail and do a little work on the concrete canoe report.  I then bumped into Dr. Tracy and we sat down together at sidewalk café for a while to chill out with some light snacks and tea as we took for granted the perfect spring weather.  I felt so European.

That evening Dr. Tracy and the business students all went to CCSU’s Sicily campus to have dinner with their Italian counterparts.  My group, as well as the Art and History groups, all had our “grande” dinners at Gioia (the Italian word for “joy”) on Via dei Tolomei.  It actually turned out to be quite an unpleasant event.  The wait staff spoke no English and I couldn’t understand the menu, but expressed that I wanted to try something I hadn’t had before when I solicited assistance from my tablemates.  I asked Joe if he’d try to find out from the waiter some description of the dishes on the menu, but the DeLauras bitched at me to “just order something,” as though my desire to understand my options was unacceptable.  Mike, the oafish, 40-something student in our group who had been getting on my nerves over the past few days, was throwing out his argumentative two cents in his loud, bellowing voice.  Ory didn’t really pay attention, he was busy laughing and joking across the table with Jen and Floretta while Behn and Joe sat rather quietly trying to figure out what they would order.

Growing ever more annoyed and frustrated with my sarcastically unhelpful dinner companions I conveyed that I wanted “pesci” (fish).  Our waiter brought out a cart of fish to choose from and Dr. DeLaura recommended the spig, so I agreed and the waiter went away with the order.  I asked DeLaura to describe the type of fish and he reminded me that I’d just had it a couple of nights before and I had liked it then.  Ugghhh!  No one listens!  I’d specifically told him that I wanted something different, so I called the waiter back and changed my order, finally settling on crayfish, with the assistance of Joe’s eventual translation (once he had relaxed enough to read the menu and speak with the staff).

Most of my group practiced the frustrating communication technique of speaking English to the locals and when the Italians couldn’t follow they would simply repeat themselves verbatim, though more slowly and in louder voices.  Each time I witnessed that embarrassing behavior, I thought to myself, “They’re Italian; they’re not deaf!”  So apparently between my colleagues’ lack of effort to exchange comprehendible information with our foreign-speaking hosts and all of the debate around our table, we had apparently confused the waiter.  When our meals arrived there was one plate too few; Behn’s dinner was missing and had apparently been canceled by a misunderstanding.  Behn was very agreeable and accepting (much more so than I would have been) when our “leaders” told him not to reorder because we didn’t have time to wait for another dish to be prepared.  A few people did have side dishes along with their entrees and they were nice enough to share them with Behn, so at least he didn’t have to go hungry.  My crayfish was very good, but not too filling.

I’d been walking all day and it was hot in the restaurant, so during dinner my feet began to swell.  The leather of my new shoes was still tight and they didn’t breathe well.  My feet had started to hurt, so I removed my shoes under the table to let my toes relax while we ate.  By around 10:30pm when the meal was over, I was unable to fit my shoes onto my swollen feet, so I had to carry them in hand while walking in my socks along the pavement half a block to the inn.

Everyone would need to up early to check out at 6:00am the following day, but Ory, Andy, Amy, Melissa, and I couldn’t miss one last night out in Siracusa.  We walked the tiny streets and alleys like we knew where we were going.  Our spirits were high and we were eager to see what the night would bring.  Over the course of the week, I’d tried to learn a few words in Italian and found the little bit of Spanish I knew from two courses I’d just taken came in very useful.  I discovered that with the languages being so similar, if I spoke Spanish to the Italians, they would understand me well enough to correct me with, “No no no, è Spagnolo; in Italiano è …” and then they’d direct me toward whatever I was asking about.  When we crossed paths with a couple of local guys, I stopped to ask them in a broken blend of Spanish and Italian, “Scusi.  Dove beber cerveza è bilar in la discoteca con las chicas?”  The guys were amused by my sloppy attempt to ask where we could drink beer and dance in a nightclub with girls and they ended up hanging out with us.

Ricky was the name of one of the guys and I believe the other one may have been Ricky as well, but none of us was certain of that.  The Rickys were fun guys and we all had a good time walking around, trying to communicate, and joking with the little dialog we were able to exchange.  I’m not sure how the theory emerged, but we came to believe they might have had ties to the Sicilian mafia.  Ricky (the one whose name we were more sure about) showed some interested in Amy and it was entertaining to watch them flirt across the language barrier.

Our two “connected” friends then led us to a posh, exclusive nightclub located through a door in an arched masonry hallway off a courtyard, which itself was hidden from public view by a dark tunnel off one of the Siracusa, narrow streets.  There were no signs of any kind to suggest that such a place was there.  It seemed to be one unit among a cluster of private residences.  There were several rooms in the club and each had a different, hip style from the next.  Very few people were in the large, windowless abode when we arrived because it was still too early for the in crowd to arrive.  The scarcity of bodies, however, afforded us plenty of time to check the place out, mingle with the Rickys and other locals who had come in early, and get our buzzes started at the bar.  By 1:00am every room was packed with people dressed in Euro sheik black and dark gray.  Everywhere, they were dancing, laughing, drinking, and celebrating life.  We had an incredible time at that place and met a lot of great people; it was so much fun and a perfect way to end our excursion in Sicily.

wangwei says:
Posted on: Jul 09, 2010
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Carl in the Albergo Domus Mariae, …
Carl in the Albergo Domus Mariae,…
decorative arch along the street i…
decorative arch along the street …
Joe, Behn, Ory, & Amy on the Alber…
Joe, Behn, Ory, & Amy on the Albe…
photo by: Vlindeke