Marzamemi or bust
14 June 2018 | Marzamemi
13th June: Syracuse to Marzamemi
Syracuse held us for almost 2 weeks. We attempted to leave on 9th June but a 25 knot headwind and rough sea conditions, progress was slow and uncomfortable. We made it only half way to Marzamemi before deciding to return to Syracuse. We then found significant amount of water in the engine sump and needed an engineer to replace a leaking water pump. Originally he quoted a 15 day wait for replacement which somewhat dismayed us so we made arrangements to leave the boat and fly home. Miraculously we then learned that a replacement had been located and would arrive the next day! Sudden change of plan. It took a morning to replace together with much sweat and Italian sucking of teeth but it did get done.
We set off for Marzamemi early the next day to beat forecast heavy weather, arriving around noon. Marzamemi is a small former fishing village close to the southern tip of Sicily, a jumping off point for the 60 mile trip to Malta.
Thankfully the marina here is very sheltered, as we are currently experiencing 25-35 knot winds. The 60 mile open-sea crossing would be unwise in these conditions which are forecast to last for the next week or so. Marzamemi is very small and charming in a frontier sort of way, but a week is a long time in a place like this so we will hire a car and explore some of the interior of Sicily, whilst waiting for better conditions.
The village has a charming unspoilt square at the centre and relies on tourism and an offshore fish farm for it's livelihood. Everyone we met were friendly and helpful and our 6 days there were enjoyable.
We drove to Noto and Ragusa, towns re-built after the 1693 earthquake with entirely different characters.
The original site of Noto was abandoned and rebuilt on a hilltop a few miles away. The centre was laid out on a grid system and remains intact. It has some outstandingly beautiful examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture including the usual quota of the sacred but also a theatre and town hall. All the buildings are built of sandstone and the uniform honey-colour which seems to glow in the sun, enhances the sense of unity given by the architectural style. A true gem although to get to the centre, the modern suburbs with their unplanned opportunistic layout and utilitarian buildings have to be endured.
Ragusa is completely different. It was re-built in situ after the earthquake on a limestone plateau high up in the Hyblaean Mountains. The plateau is scored by deep gorges and the long drive up has some wonderful views over the gorges and high fields of agricultural land separated by dry stone walls reminiscent of Yorkshire or Cumbria. The oldest part Ragusa, Ragusa Ibla, is built clinging to limestone cliffs with steep cobbled, narrow streets leading to the summit with yet another magnificent Duomo with attendant square. Well worth the climb. The narrow streets lead to alleyways and charming courtyards that it would take an age to fully explore. The town is the setting for the Italian detective series Inspector Montalbano and has benefitted from the resultant influx of visitors and restoration work.
Ragusa Superiore was built in the 18th Century to provide a more rationally modern city and competition between the two persisted over many years. The whole town is a World Heritage Site.