Sunday, 19 June 2016

Sicily - Avola


In the apartment courtyard
New favourite Sicilian town! This is a “real” Italian town, not at all for the tourists, neither the beach-going Italians nor the historical crowd (both in age of what is looked at and what is looking). And it has got wonderful old things to look at and beaches too.  Perhaps we are a little biased in that we are staying in a very central location – just a few metres away from the central piazza – in a very smart and modern apartment inside a beautiful old building. High ceilings and marble floors everywhere, modern and stylish furnishings, and a private balcony looking over the main street. Plus cycles. Our host, Antonio, is/was an impressive cyclist. In his garage there are a several good road cycles and mountain bikes (plus some old bikes for guests, an electric bike and a couple of scooters), plus a huge collection of trophies. Each day, either morning or at lunch time he is out in the garage getting a bike and heading off for a ride.
hanging out the washing ... a bit of a stretch
... and not for those with a fear of heights

we discovered this hidden garden on our wanderings and were invited in
these flowers fell from the trees in a local piazza and were swept up each morning

waiting for the train

the local noticeboard

avenues of Jacaranda are in flower, and carpet the ground below

Lonely Nigel doing what the local gentlemen do of an evening,
except for the bit about who is accompanying him

We really enjoy the evening passeggiata, the time when everyone gets out for a wander and a sit down to gossip. Each piazza is full of elderly men sitting down on the public benches or the outdoor cafĂ© chairs talking - not buying food or drink. Not sure where the women were. Even a local couldn't really answer that question for us.  It is a lovely temperature to be out, mid-20s.

The town was rebuilt in the late 17th Century after an earthquake demolished the previous town. It has been designed as a hexagon with two main roads crossing each other (and numerous little lanes). A piazza has been built in the centre and at each end, five in all. These provide a safe area in case of another earthquake. Also, each building has two exits, one onto the road in front, the other to a courtyard behind. The town now spreads way beyond the original hexagon with “different” building standards. The town has the usual complement of glorious enormous churches and a beautiful theatre. What makes Avola stand out to elsewhere in Sicily is that it is [mostly] clean and tidy! We borrowed a couple of bikes and headed down to the beach area. Nice sandy beaches, lots of little lanes full of rubbish between the houses. Each house surrounded by high walls and huge gates, and many have barking dogs behind those gates. Security is obviously a priority.

Cattedrale di San Nicolo
We chose to stay at Avola as it is a short distance to one of Sicily’s premium tourist attractions – the town of Noto. Again this was destroyed in the same 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in the Baroque style.  There are 50+ churches and convents within the town which, along with municipal buildings and a theatre, are spectacular. Well worth a day’s outing, even if getting to and from there was a little time-consuming. The train only runs a couple of times a day and the bus schedule is 'elastic', which can be hard work when standing around waiting in the heat for an hour.

another cheap and yummy lunch awaits us
- not sure about those chip butties though
the ceiling of Cattedrale di San Nicolo's central dome

Free Wifi, so Nigel skyped Izzie :-)

Noto's Teatro [theatre] seating
Noto's Teatro (theatre) ceiling

part of an exhibition of the art work for the Cattedrale di San Nicolo

An old Moto Guzzi on display outside a restaurant

Heading in the opposite direction (north east this time) from Avola is Siracusa/Syracuse. This made for another interesting day trip. Siracusa is ancient, having been founded by the Greeks around 2,700 years ago. It rose to be one of the major powers in the Mediterranean even after the Romans finally conquered it despite the efforts of Archimedes and his ingenious war machines. It rivalled Athens in size and quality. Of course most of that is now buried under the modern city but you can still get an idea of what it must have been like as it sits across a short bridge on an island which would have been completely walled. It has very interesting lanes, buildings, one of the prettiest fountains anywhere and the highlight – liquorice gelato. We’ve been looking for this everywhere and this is the first time we’ve found it in Sicily.

Vicki checking out the local [artistic] talent

the Siracusa waterfront

the Fountain of Diana

Syracuse Cathedral

local lads harvesting and eating shellfish at the bottom of the city's walls

So, we were sad to leave Avola. It has been our best stop so far: best accommodation, most interesting town to live in, and good destinations in the nearby area.

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