Dwight Peck's personal website

Sicily in December 2012

On the track of the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, Italians and Commissario Montalbano

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

More of Syracuse

The 17th and 18th century Piazza Duomo in the daylight, surely one of the greatest urban piazzas anywhere

The Palazzo of the Archbishop in the centre, the Duomo behind it. Off to the right is the entrance into the network of tunnels running under all this and out to the sea, bombshelters for the poor citizens when the Allies' bombers felt they had 'actionable intelligence' about suspected Germans.

"Operation Husky". Sounds really stupid, but it's a lot better than "Operation Enduring Freedom". During the Allied bombing of Syracuse in 1943, the good folks of the city retreated underground. Like the London Blitz in the underground stations . . . except that those were German bombers. These were American bombers.

But as Gen William Tecumseh Sherman said after devastating the civilian infrastructure of the American South, "War is hell". Repeated by probably every American national politician since then. "Aw shucks!"

After all, if we want to make an omelette, we have to break some eggs. (And you're the eggs.)

Or as the US Secretary of State said on TV in 1996 when asked by Lesley Stahl about the wholesale deaths of half a million children under the sanctions against Iraqi civilians . . . "We think the price is worth it."

Let's get out of here.

Sometimes, Kristin collects. And one of the themes that she collects is the realistic terra cotta Nativity crèche or presepio accessories that are a Neapolitan specialty. These gentlemen have come from Naples to try to catch the Syracuse Christmas crowd, though they say that business has been awful this year.

One has purchased a small one and already begun dreaming about a larger one >>> the dream matured overnight, and we were back the next morning for further discussions.

Eh voilà -- the two in the front (not that Peruvian stuff in the background). Good at their work, those Neapolitan artisans.

The Piazza Duomo

The Cathedral, with the façade more or less by Andrea Palma in the early-mid 18th century

The Via Roma

The Piazza Archimede and its Fountain of Diana

-- Don't let him make eye contact! Once he makes eye contact, you're stuck.

Goofy stuff in the Piazza Archimede. The Fountain is by Giulio Moschetti in 1906, meant to illustrate the goddess Diana transforming the Nereid Arethusa into a freshwater spring. Some elements of the story would probably benefit from the artist's notes.

Big fishes and drug-crazed horses in Ortygia

And a classic automobile rally in the Piazza Archimede

Lovely old cars (like Hugh Laurie drove when he was being Bertie Wooster)

The Puppet Theatre in Syracuse, just next to our B+B (we missed the show; though we've seen a Don Giovanni in Prague)

The Piazza San Filippo, and our B+B on the right

Street scenes

More street scenes

A seafront B+B, according to the sign out front

The Manhattan sandwich shop

The bridges connecting Ortygia to mainland Syracuse, whither we're bound

Kristin waves hello from the Jolly Palace Hotel. When her friend was confined in hospital here a few years ago, she spent a week in the Jolly Palace and remembers it fondly.

The hospital just up the road (when Kristin tried to pay the bill on check-out, the hospital folks said "what are you talking about? This is a hospital, there's no bill!")

Quarries at the Archaeological Park of the Neapolis -- we've walked out here from Ortygia during the opening hours, and it's not open. At the front gate, nothing, what a mystification; we walked a few kilometres round the whole establishment, and on the back gate we found a handwritten note saying "No, not today after all, sorry."

Quarries, presumably where the 7,000 lads from Athens languished unto death. They were originally underground quarries but over time they've collapsed in upon themselves. This is all photographed from outside the fence; we'll have to try again tomorrow. Maybe some of the staff will come along and let us in.

What on earth is that Blot upon the Landscape? It's been marring our photographs all day.

Like this! It's always there.

Actually, that is the Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime, the shrine of Our Lady of Tears, where we can, if we want to, celebrate "the event of the lacrymation".

So let's celebrate the Lacrymation Event: for 3 days in August 1953, a plaster souvenir of the "immaculate heart" over some young couple's bed started leaking tears for some reason, and "microscopic analysis verified: 'They are human tears'". Then the leaking stopped, but now we're in business.

Oh, knock it off!

After such a remarkable Divine Intervention, what's one to do? Build an "Our Lady of Tears" worship and fundraising complex, of course, with a Star Wars design that looks, from everywhere in the city of Syracuse, as if it's poised to blast off back to the Source of All Miracles at any moment.

"Click here and write your prayer requests . . . " (Let's keep the line moving along, ladies.)

It's rude to poke fun at people, and we won't, but we've got to see inside this huge money-making machine. Our hostess at the B+B said that the Madonna cried in 1953 and the citizens of Syracuse have been crying about it ever since.

Even if they're saving souls from Hell and boosting them aloft all day and night, what an inexcusable thing to do to an ancient city's skyline! (The regional government had to kick into the kitty to finish the awful thing in 1995.)

It reminds me of those ridiculous "Cathedral of Tomorrow" megachurch TV shows they used to put on the telly in the USA in the 1960s.

The view straight up (to Heaven?) is pleasing . . .

. . . but the gazillion fundraising "chapels" all round the circumference seem . . . disconcerting. All kinds of semi-related causes and organizations are renting out chapels from the Tearful Madonna management and offering simple fiscal opportunities to smoothe your path to the great beyond, or lend a hand to your departed loved ones.

That's the Shroud of Turin, the true face of Jesus on a burial shroud, and a box for donations. It's a copy, actually (the Holy Shroud is, not the donation box). The real Shroud is in . . . Turin.

Drop your euro in, light up another fake candle for Our Lady of Tears!

-- Really, we don't mind if you're not a Believer yet, but we're praying for you. Ciao for now.

Back to La Via della Giudecca B+B

WiFi in the rooms and two PCs for guests who travel light

Kristin on the rooftop, checking up on the day's events if any

Sundown over Syracuse

Street scenes

I'm idling about on the e-mail, and Kristin's watching the Italian news.

Holy Saint Lucy!! That's Saint Lucy, and those green-hatted thugs are stealing her right out of her niche.

Oh, the poor old girl. All silver, crafted by Pietro Rizzo in 1599, she must be worth a fortune, what will the ransom note look like?!?!?

Oh, please!!
Oh Lucy!!

What's that? "Processione delle Reliquie e del Simulacro della Santa Patrona dalla Cattedrale alla Basilica di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro." The "Association" has lugged her off all round town and then to the Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia at the end of the street, for some grey purposes of their own, and will have to bring her back when they're finished, now that it's been on the television news.

Syracuse rooftops, with Etna looming

The working people will not be denied. But the time is not really right yet.

In the cathedral

The Duomo of Syracuse: the basically Norman nave

An excellent church, this one; it makes you think elevated almost religious thoughts in the right light.

We're approaching the divinity

Norman era, but checked for safety by government authorities every hundred years or so

Oh no, more bones. There's a roomful of saints' private bones over on the side, and they let everyone in to leer at them.

A lovely quizzical little lion under the pulpit

Another St Lucy with a shiv in her neck. She's the patron saint of the city that's been sustained by garish sensational images for centuries.

Kristin with misshapen pillars

The Bosses' "austerity" programmes continue shamelessly, but the workers' time will come. Not today, though.

Here's a congratulatory pose outside Il tempio di Athena, near our B+B, where we dined well and happily during our stay in Syracuse.

A parting view of the Castle of Maniace

On our way out of town, hey, the Archaeological Park staff has decided to open up. That's the well-preserved Greek theatre, where it's recorded that Aeschylus' lost Women of Etna was first performed in 476 B.C.

The Greek theatre, dating from the 5th century B.C. and rebuilt by Hiero II in the late 3rd century B.C.

The grottos of the Muses, on the terrace above the theatre, and the Tearful Madonna's spaceship looming. That nice family walking along ahead of us are New Jerseyites staying in our B+B who . . .

. . . consented to take our photograph, as we did theirs. In front of the empty tombs.

The "Ear of Dionysius", a cave 65m long, 23m high, and supposedly given its name by Caravaggio.

The Roman amphitheatre

The third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world (after the Roman Coliseum and the Verona Arena), until the Spanish came along in the 16th century and stole off most of the stones to build more fortifications.

We're on our way out of Syracuse now and bolting westward inland over confusing secondary roads in beautiful countryside past Caltigirone to Piazza Armerina, near where we're expecting to see remarkable mosaics.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 27 January 2013.