Where were we – oh yes, in the Buonivini Vineyard. Now onto Syracuse, site of an ancient city, the most powerful Greek city, west of mainland Greece. Greek Dionysus 1 the tyrant, made Siracuse into the powerhouse it became. Now, the ancient site is an archeological park. Think I expected the walk around a park full of jostling tourists (like me!), and find it a bit of a robotic experience. Quite the opposite in fact. The story connected to the ‘Ear of the King’ cave is : King Dionysus was an absolute ruler who co-opted both poor and rich people to be his slaves, for life. He was paranoid and thought they were all complaining about him. No doubt they were ! So he had a hole drilled through the rock between his area and the slaves so that he could eavesdrop on their resentments.
We walk through the caves, emerging into the bright sunlight, and breathe in the scent of aromatic shrubs, it feels mesmerising. Also I learn a little about the history. The contemporary crowds are absorbed into this ancient space, I feel I am in my own trance. I really like the fact that there are modern stage hands preparing for a production in the monumental Greek theatre. I like that the modern set is red, so vivid against the bleached old stone seats.
Onto Ortygia, an island joined by a bridge to the mainland.
Time to eat an arancina- an ‘orange’ shaped croquette, filled with savoury rice and ham. Favourite food of Salvo Montelbano !
No time, no time to explore to explore the alleys – it’s time for a boat trip around the island. The sailor is also a fisherman, handsome and charming, adept at steering into caves. The boat unsettles birds nesting inside the caves. Inside the cave, you can see subtle veining of blue rock within the dark, damp walls.
The sailor says: this cave has Odysseus’ ghost in it….I can imagine that. Maybe he got fed up with his odyssey, and wanted to retreat to a quiet cave?
And finally, as fits a trip to Montelbano’s Sicily, we visit ‘his house’ in Punta Secca, on the sea shore, where he is shown striding from the sea after his regular morning swim. Punta Secca is a quiet, small and beautiful seaside town. In reality, the sea in front of ‘his house’ has perilous currents and a warning not to swim there. So he must actually swim in the sheltered bay around the corner. It is fiction after all !
I am so glad to be here – hope you have gained a sense of Sicily’s beauty and extraordinary history.