A small strip of water separates the island of Ortigia from the island of Sicily. Two bridges cross it, one in and one out.
Just for the hell of it, we walked across both bridges on Tuesday. The approaches to the bridges on Ortigia enclose a park, and in the park is a life-size bronze statue of the town’s most famous resident.
Archimedes holds a parabolic mirror in one hand, maybe to burn a small ship. It’s a little bigger than the solar cigarette lighter that used to be sold by Radio Shack.
The other hand has a compass. He is standing on a stomachion, a geometrical puzzle ascribed to him. I actually had one made of plastic when I was a kid.
It’s a square dissected into various shapes and you different ways to compose the square. My version of the game had a booklet with a number of strange shapes, and it challenged you to make them from the pieces.
There was a school group at the statue, and we think they were presenting papers about Archimedes. A student would mount the stomachion and give a short speech. The others would applaud and then the next student would take his place.
We stopped at Cafe Apollo for an Americano (me) and cioccolatta calda (Joanna) before we walked over to the street market near the Bourbon jail to buy a few pieces of fruit.
It was pushing 1 o’clock and several stands were already packing up, but most of the market was still intact and in business.
Joanna had read a curious story about the municipal building, which is at the Piazza Duomo, across the Via Minerva from the cathedral.
The architect, Giovanni Vermexio, for some reason was nicknamed the Lizard, and he signed his work by putting a lizard on a cornice of the building. So we went looking for it.
I was standing back to look at all the decorations on the front. Joanna stood closer to the building and found it.
It’s made of stone or concrete and looks like it’s crawling from one edge of the roof to another. It’s certainly the photo of the day.
Punto G was quiet when we stopped there. Where’s the music? Gabriele put some on for us.
So I sat with a glass of wine and listened to some bouncy, almost ’20s-sounding music, although I knew it was much newer than that.
We tried a new place for dinner, Sciccheria, which Gabriele had recommended.
We had pasta with clams and salmon. The clams were in the shell sitting on top, and pink salmon morsels were mixed throughout the linguine. Very savory.
We also ordered swordfish with breadcrumbs. I expected toasted bread crumbs sprinkled on top of the dish. Instead, it was a thin swordfish steak breaded and fried.
I prefer swordfish grilled, but this was tasty.
Wine was a new one to me, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, under the label Judeka. It’s a mild southern wine with just a touch of tannin to bite the tongue.
How long can you live in a neighborhood that has its own Museo di Pupi and not go see it? The answer is seven days.
Wednesday was our seventh day in Ortigia, so we went to the Museum of Puppets. Unlucky for us, it was closed, because this is the off season.
But we did get to chat with the lady in the laboratorio, where they make puppets. We saw Orlandos and other characters in the process of taking shape, the guy puppets in shining armor, Orlanado’s innamorata in a long flowing dress.
Everywhere we have gone in Sicily, There are marionettes in armor. There are four of them on the stair rail in the breakfast room.
They are sold in souvenir shops and in the store of the puppet theater.
They are on post cards and restaurant signs. They are also featured briefly in a scene of “The Godfather Part II.”
I’m sure there are many traditional puppet shows, but the one that I was aware of is based on Roland, who becomes Orlando in Italian. When they drove the Moors out of Sicily, the Normans may have brought tales of Roland with them from France.
We walked down to the water and came to the Fonte Aretusa. The shallow water of the natural fountain contains a large cluster of papyrus. Like tufts of curly hair.
We didn’t make it back to Duomo Square for lunch. Instead we stopped at an eatery called Mokrito overlooking the harbor.
We shared a plate of curried donkey meat and French fries. I had the best beer so far on this trip, Norbertus red, which is from Belgium.
The curry was very mild, but it wasn’t a free ride for Joanna. She told me she could feel the heat building in her stomach.
So when we go to the Piazza Duomo, we shared a crepe to settle her digestion.
We were sitting at the crepe when Gabriele from Punto G walked in. He took one look at us and asked, “Why here?”
We told him we’d see him in a little while.
When we stepped into Punto G, Gabriele remembered that we like his choice of music. He put on a new artist, whose name I didn’t catch.
After a rest stop at the hotel, we finally got to Osteria da Seby when it was open.
We started with spaghetti with clams (no salmon this time). Clam sauce is always good, but in New Jersey, the clams are not in the shell. These came from the back yard, so they are not likely to get much fresher than that.
We followed that with pan-fried sardines. We ate them tails and all for the calcium. And also because they were very good.
I bought a bottle of Sicilian Syrah to go with dinner. It has a lot of tannin, and I’d tell you what the name is, but we were almost back to the hotel when I realized that we had left the remains of the bottle on the table.
Joanna offered to go back. They say there are guys who’d walk a mile for a Camel, but I wasn’t about to do that for a couple of bucks’ worth of wine.
Be well, everybody. Don’t forget to eat your clams and your calcium, and don’t forget your wine.