Here you’ll find travel reports about Syracuse. Discover travel destinations in Italy of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

49 travelers at this place:

  • Day4

    Sleeper to Sicily

    June 7, 2018 in Italy ⋅ 🌬 26 °C

    At 20.10 last night, I boarded the overnight sleeper train from Milan all the way to Sicily. A marathon journey of some 19 hours 38 minutes. And if I was expecting a luxurious travel experience, I was about to be sorely disappointed - the Venice Simplon Orient Express this was not. The train resembled the kind of graffiti-decorated transport that you might expect of Italian railways on a short local journey from Roma Termini to San Pietro. My 2 berth 1st class compartment had certainly seen better days with little by way of creature comforts. Unlike the meticulously uniformed crews of the Polish and Russian trains last year, with their peaked caps and efficient welcome, this train attendant resembled an overweight and unkempt Reg Varney from On the Buses. With an ill-fitting uniform and grubby shirt which was too tight to fasten, he sported at least two days of grey stubble.

    And if I had expected fine dining in the restaurant car washed down with a glass of Valpolicella, again it was not to be. Not a buffet car nor even a trolley appeared to exist - and on a journey which was to take the best part of 20 hours. How glad was I that I had had that McD’s earlier when accessing their free WiFi. All that was left for dinner was a half eaten packet of crisps, a bag of Mint Imperials and a bottle of water so warm I could have easily have made a cup of tea with it - if only I had a tea bag.

    My travelling roomie embarked at Genoa. He was a tall, bearded Italian who spent some time rearranging our tiny space, with a great deal of moving luggage, ladders, toiletries etc, while parading around (if one can parade in such a tiny space) in his briefs - why have Italian men never heard of boxers?

    Our Trenitalia ‘Welcome Pack’ included amongst other bits and pieces, an eye mask. After being dazzled by the evening lights outside our blind-less window, I decided to make use of them to get to sleep. The underside of the bunk above me was covered in a full-length mirror, and when I awoke I was startled to see who looked like Lady Isobel Barnett from ‘What’s My Line’ staring down at me.

    In spite of this, my lower berth was remarkably comfortable and I got a reasonable night’s sleep. After devouring the last of the Mint Imperials for breakfast, I was amazed to discover by accident that refreshments were available from a cubbyhole at the end of the compartment. A long-life apricot croissant and an espresso later and I began to feel human again. Even Reg Varney came up trumps in converting our two berths into a relatively pleasant sitting area with a few clicks and pulls of levers.

    My Italian friend disembarked at Rosarno in Calabria at 10.00, and I had the compartment to myself for the remaining leg of the trip. The train hugged the coast all the way with terrific views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This wasn’t so bad after all.
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  • Day4

    Is it a train? Is it a ship?

    June 7, 2018 in Italy ⋅ 🌬 26 °C

    On arrival at the ferry terminal at San Giovanni, there was no need to disembark - the train rolled on to the ferry in two halves - one of the few places where this actually happens. It was exciting to watch, with the train rolling on, then our half reversing off and then travelling back on to lie parallel with the front half. We were able to leave our belongings and go up on deck as we crossed the Straits of Messina to one of Sicily’s main cities, Messina. It was good to get some fresh air and a walk about. The crossing only took about 30 minutes, just like going to Bute, although Messina had a bit more life about it and a good deal more sunshine than Rothesay usually does.

    The train reunited, we journeyed down Sicily’s east coast, passing the lovely Taormina and the shadow of Mount Etna, the most active volcano in the world, apparently - I think I’ll just stay on the train. Olive and orange trees and giant cacti lined the tracks here. As we pulled into our final destination I felt, like that Rodgers and Hart musical, one of ‘The Boys from Syracuse’.
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  • Day242

    Augusta & the craziness of Catania

    February 23, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    We descended from Mount Etna via the southern slopes, which proved quite different to the ascent. Evidence of the most recent lava slick was prominent, with vast areas covered by nothing but craggy ridged black basalt. No trees grew and we even saw a submerged house. We were delayed by a few minutes while we waited for a herd of goats being driven along the road - great entertainment for us!

    One thing we do differently to many motorhomers, is to avoid motorways when travelling from A to B. We sometimes come across good wild camping spots but we always feel we get a better experience of the character of an area. Well Catania, Sicily's second city certainly has character! We drove through at school pickup time. We'd previously seen small children travelling on adults' laps in the front of cars and even a baby being held to the driver's chest. Catanians went one step further by riding their mopeds with their small child standing on the footrest in front of them. Without any helmet.

    The market was on and by on, we mean on the main road. Stalls were set up on the carriageway where you would expect to see cars parked and customers simply pulled up beside or in between them to shop. People popped out from behind these parked cars on either side to cross the road while scooters overtook us on both sides and wove in and out of the traffic ahead, somehow managing to avoid the cars reversing out into the thoroughfare. We were tempted to stop and sample the delights of the market but our delicate English sensibilities prevented us from finding a 'suitable' place to park.

    Away from Catania's clamour we pulled up for the night on a strip of land between the sea and a lake, near the port town of Augusta. It was around 5pm and the passagiata was in full flow. We joined the locals who were strolling, striding, cycling and running along the promenade.

    The car park we stayed in was well used but quiet (apart from the lorry that emptied the bins and bottle bank at 2am!). There was a pack of stray dogs that kicked up a fuss whenever poor Poppy came out, but they had moved on by the morning. The van was adjacent to scrubland with a wonderful variety of wildflowers that we weren't familiar with. The lake had a rundown hide and as we were leaving we saw a few people with huge telephoto lenses taking pictures of the reed birds and spoonbill that was sifting through the water for something tasty.
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  • Day245

    Viewpoint nr Cava Grande Nature Reserve

    February 26, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    The Grey Gappers who we met at Giardini Naxos had recommended finding parking spots on surfing websites and so Will had entered several in the sat nav. Rolling up at the one in Avola, who should we meet but the German couple we'd seen only yesterday! They'd stayed there the previous night with two Italians but had returned from a ten minute dog walk on the beach that morning to find their quarter light window smashed! Apparently a fisher had been casting close by, but there was nobody near when they returned. They'd reported it to the police but were now going to get it fixed and return to Germany. We were able to give them a roll of duct tape to stick over the gaping hole and wished them luck. It brought home to us how quickly things can change.

    Vicky had read about Cava Grande del Fiume Cassabile, a huge gorge that had stunning walks descending to the river and natural swimming pools along its floor. On the journey we passed the now common lemon groves and climbed back and forth up the terraced and striated hillside. Passing into the cloud layer we eventually arrived at the start of the walk, 513m above sea level. However, looking over the precipice of the gorge, all we could see was a small bare tree against a background of light grey cloud vapour. The entrance to the walk was behind a locked gate and it wouldn't have been sensible to attempt the hike in those conditions, so we put the kettle on and brewed us up a cuppa. By the time we'd finished, the view had cleared. The precipitous sides, dotted with caves, dropped down to what looked like a relatively small river hundreds of meters below, its pools a beautiful blue.

    Moving on, we drove along the border of the national park surrounding the gorge. Along the way we met a tractor driving four horses towards us but with a bit of shuffling we just managed to pass on the narrow road. Although the scenery was pretty, the views and opportunity for parking were limited and so we doubled back down the hill to a viewpoint jutting out from the road that we'd seen earlier. It offered a fabulous vantage point of the valley, where rock strata accentuated the stark relief, before it opened up and flattened out to the peach coloured buildings of Avola and the grey Ionian sea beyond.

    Vicky donned a fetching fluorescent vest and walked round the hairpin bends to take an overnight photo of the van from above. She passed a wide variety of wildflowers and saw the apple trees beginning to blossom. The air smelled like a mixture of nectar and goats! Back at our viewpoint we watched the clouds rolling over the sea, casting their dark shadows over its rippling steel coloured surface, while other spots were highlighted in sparkling silver by the sun. We watched a weather front roll in and boy what a front it was! Rain lashed the side of the van while gail force gusts blasted it, creaking the suspension, chinking the glass bottles in the cupboards and causing the tape that held the canoe to vibrate loudly. We slept very little but that's what you get for choosing to spend the night at an exposed viewpoint half way up a mountainside and it wasn't so bad that we'd not do it again!
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  • Day246

    Portopalo, 8 months away!

    February 27, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    We've been away from home continuously for 8 months today. As the crow flies we are over 2200 kilometres from where we started and have pretty much reached the most southerly point we'll get to, before starting our journey north for summer. Despite the number of new experiences we are having, we've found a rhythm to everyday life. There are the regular necessities such as emptying the toilet and grey water, finding fresh water and somewhere to buy the food we need. We've also adopted routines to best suit Poppy, each other and ourselves. Living so closely, if a small thing isn't right, it affects us all more than it would back home and so we've learned through experience to take the time, deal with it as early as possible and make changes to improve the way we do things in the future. There is still a lot of fine tuning to do but we are blessed with the time to do it.


    Leaving our exposed overnight spot, we wound our way back to the coast and found a car wash big enough to give Martha a much needed clean. Despite the number of campervans in Italy we haven't seen many facilities large enough down south and she was getting pretty filthy!

    Today's main point of interest was the Vendicari nature reserve where the Rough Guide book said we might see Flamingos! We never know what we are going to find so try not to get our get our hopes up by doing things like exclaiming excitedly that we were going to Flamingo Land! The road that led to the reserve was single track and so overgrown that peculiar driving strategies needed to be employed, such as deciding which type of tree foliage might inflict the least damage to the side of the van when it was necessary to scrape against trees on both sides. There was no turning area at the end other than an entry to a field that had a barrier across it. All it took was a 9 point turn and we were facing the right way and tucked in as much as we could be.

    Although the nature reserve was at a beach, the hides looked out onto salt lakes set back from the low dunes.
    The first revealed a mixed group of Great white Egrets and Spoonbills, large white birds with long distinctive spatula shaped bills, all standing on a strip of land in the foreground, most of them dozing in the afternoon sunshine with their heads tucked away. Behind them and more difficult to distinguish were a group of large black birds that could have been mistaken for Cormorants. We'd come prepared and through the telescope we could see that they were Black Storks, a species we have never seen in the wild before. Moving on, Vicky spotted another salt lake and from the hide looking out over this one, we could see literally hundreds of Flamingos! It was an amazing experience to have driven so far that we were seeing species like this in the wild! The sun was behind them which made visibility difficult but we spent a good long time watching them sleep, strut, fly and even mate. They were spread out in several flocks over the large lake and Vicky wanted to go on and see how far the track could take us. It was at this point Will admitted he had twisted his ankle and needed to go back. Vicky went on for a little while, but would have had to go a long way to get better views than we did in that hide.

    We found home for 2 nights at the harbour of Portopalo di Capo Passare, another place Will had found from the surf website. We parked up behind some old land ridden wooden boats bigger than Martha, some of which had been destroyed by fire. A walk up the small headland allowed us to watch a few surfers at sunset. The last persistent one waiting for his final big wave and being rewarded after 10 minutes or so by a long smooth surf inwards.

    The next day we used the van as a luxury hide to watch little Bonelli's Warblers amongst other small birds feeding in the profusion of yellow wildflowers in front of us. Will fished while Vicky relaxed indoors, resealed the shower tray and attempted to fix the problem of water dripping through the hob into the drawer below.
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  • Day244


    February 25, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    Several people had recommended that we visit Syracuse, a coastal town with Greek, Roman, medieval and Baroque influences. We arrived before midday at the campervan stopover in the heart of town. It was €22 for 24 hours which was more than we'd usually pay but because the main sights were so close we didn't need to leave Poppy for too long, so we thought it was worth it.

    Grabbing some lunch before heading out, we looked through the window and saw a German couple and their dog who had stayed at the Giardini Naxos site with us! We chatted in broken English and German awhile before donning our sunhats and strolling downhill through the straight grid pattern streets to the old town, situated on a small island.

    Across the stone bridge, we saw small wooden fishing boats moored in the harbour, their blues, reds, whites and greens shining proudly in the bright light. There was a gathering of market stalls in front of the railed off remains of the Temple of Apollo. Huge cylindrical pillars now lay horizontally but we got a striking impression of past grandeur.

    Vicky needed new sunglasses and there was a good range over several stalls. However, for anyone who knows Vicky, you know how picky she can be and for all but one of the pairs proffered by the stallholders 'mi non piace la' (I don't lile that) was one of the phrases they received back. Eventually, a good enough pair was found and we moved on to the food market. Here we got cheese, artichokes, garlic, some red mullet and prawns from an adjacent fish shop and one of the large Amalfi lemons we'd seen growing. The stallholder, as others had done before him, checked we knew how to prepare it (which we didn't). Apparently it is best eaten thinly sliced, pith and all, with salt in salad. When we tried it, it had the consistency of an unripe avocado but tasted very nice.

    Moving away from the market, we treated ourselves to some yummy icecream and sat in the sunshine in the Baroque Piazza del Duomo, on the steps of the cathedral to eat it. Many of the market stall holders had been African and a seller now appraoched us, trying to persuade us to buy some African wooden items. We said no thank you and he sat beside us, beating his drum and enquiring where we were from. After a while he got up to leave but wanted to 'give' us each 'presents' of carved soap stone frogs. We'd both been caught out by 'presents' before and politely declined. When pressed further, we politely declined more forcefully and were left alone.

    On the way back we dropped in to the Santuario della Madonna dello Lacrime, a modern church constructed out of concrete to symbolise a teardop. We could see the building from our pitch and whilst it wasn't the most beautiful of structures it was certainly interesting, with a ground floor cript displaying the life of Christ in a journey of mosaics and paintings in alcoves that radiated around the circumference of the building. Upstairs, the huge basilica was basically an empty space under the conical spire of the teardrop structure.

    Back at the van, our pitch was grassy and the area surrounded by the yellow wildflowers that seem to coat the ground out here, so we sat out in the late sunshine with Poppy and caught up with family back in the UK. The next morning, we paid up did what we needed to with the van. The €22 definitely went towards the location because the services were in a poor state, with the water hose duct taped together and leaking through the join!
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  • Day248

    As far South as we'll get!

    March 1, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    This footprint marks a turning point (literally) in our travels. Our 'Master Plan' is to head south in the winter and north in the summer. Isola delle Correnti, with its lighthouse, marks the most southerly point in Sicily and as far south as we'll come this year. We manged to find a beach car park and walk along the sand until we reached the island causeway. Unfortunately the causeway had been washed away so we balanced ourselves on the weed covered concrete foundation that projected out towards it.

    Although we've taken our time, we do feel that we've come a long way. When walking out in sandals we keep having to pinch ourselves to remember that it is only March here, not the middle of summer. There are a mass of unfamiliar wildflowers scenting the air and carpeting the ground in an intensity we've never seen and although we've grown used to the large cacti, succulents and palms, they are ever present reminders of the fact we are in foreign lands.

    When we finish on Sicily we will travel up the west side of Italy and spend a month in Slovenia before zipping up to Sweden and Norway for the summer. Now the weather is getting warmer we've got several friends and family coming out to meet us; something we are very much looking forward to!
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  • Day243

    Industrial Estate beach N of Syracuse

    February 24, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    Before we set off today we needed to mend one of the casualties of the Italian roads. We'd gone over a bump so big it knocked things off the shelves and popped our kitchen drawer open so hard it split the wood the runner was attached to.

    Drive time was less than an hour because we found a wild camp spot on a narrow strip of land leading out to a broader headland. The area was extremely industrial and close to the Esso refinery that emitted a stench as we drove past. It was regrettable to see so many big industrial businesses degrading the environment and without any evidence of direct investment in the area. (Roll on sustainable transport!) However, as unsavoury as it was, without the refinery we couldn't fuel our van and without the cement works the roads that brought us here wouldn't exist.

    We parked in a gravel car park adjacent to the south beach and took Poppy out to sit on the sand for a few hours before a picnic lunch. After this Will got twitchy and had to go for a swim. The southerly wind blew up the waves in to the bay later on and we whiled away the afternoon watching a windsurfer and kitesurfers zipping back and forth.

    It was a peaceful night but the wind changed direction and by morning time it was blowing the awful smell from the factories our way. We didn't think it could be very healthy and so moved on sharpish!
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  • Day110


    December 29, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Nach dem gestrigen Abenteuer auf dem Ätna, brachen wir heute um einiges gediegener Richtung Syrakus auf.

    Hier sahen wir uns das historische Zentrum der Stadt an. Dieses befindet sich auf der Insel Ortyga und ist durch eine Brücke mit dem Festland verbunden. Nach der Besichtigung der Überresten des antiken Apollontempels führte uns ein Spaziergang die Küste entlang direkt in eine Bar, in der wir erstmal einen kleinen Drink zu uns nahmen. Selbstverständlich ganz im italienischen Stil mit einem Aperol Sprizz.

    Die Sonne trieb uns weiter durch die Gassen unter anderem vorbei an der imposanten Kathedrale von Syrakus, welche sowohl dorische als auch barocke Elemente umfasst. Der Hunger trieb uns schließlich in eine Pizzeria.

    Anschließend wollten wir noch den archäologischen Park von Neapolis mit dem römischen Amphitheater und der Orecchio di Dionisio, einer wie ein Ohr geformten Höhle, betrachten. Leider waren wir ca. 10 Minuten zu spät und verpassten den letzten Einlass. Naja einen kleinen Blick über den Zaun konnten wir trotzdem werfen.

    Den Tag beendeten wir in dem wir uns erfolgreich aus der unheimlichen Villa befreiten!
    Bislang das beste Exit Game das wir in dieser Form gespielt haben :P
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  • Day14

    Taormina for lunch

    May 24, 2017 in Italy ⋅

    Caught the ferry to Sicily and headed to beautiful Taormina for lunch...polizia everywhere, carrabineri everywhere Italian military with big machine guns everywhere TV crews news crews. I said to Peter can we stop at a bar without a soldier there... But there wasn't one! And we were turned back from Taomina via the hill road. At this point I have to tell you we have not been watching any news for 2 we thought something awful had happened maybe the Mafia (well it is Sicily). So decided to get out fast. Now languishing at the Villa Ambra in Noto south Sicily we discover (Thanks Google) it's the preparation for the G7 and is Trump coming? I didn't get to see Taomina another black mark against Trump lol! I did get one photo of soldiers was a bit nervous taking pics as they all had machine guns. I guess nothing has kicked off yet hope it all goes well..we hope to be in Malta tomorrow night x x Mandy

    As we waited for the ferry the police came over and asked in a friendly way about the car, then they took photos of themselves posing and wished us a happy holiday. Two minutes later we board the ferry and the crew came over and took photos and then used our camera to photograph us.

    We are booked on the afternoon ferry to Malta tomorrow.

    Villa Ambra -Noto southern Sicily
    The hotel recommended a really good restaurant booked us a table and gave us a map so we set off walking. The map was awful, we had to ask three people before we found it by which time were lost and although Mandy thought she could remember the way I had an idea.
    Technology to the rescue.
    The car is in the hotel car park and it has a tracker so I phoned​ it and it sent an SMS giving its location on Google maps which I set as a destination to walk and followed is directions. Mandy walked in front and correctly guessed the route (she is the navigator after all) and the phone confirmed her every step.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincia di Siracusa, Syrakus, Syracuse, Siracusa

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