Today, after a very long day of travel, we arrived in Syracuse, or more correctly Sircuasa. I am referring to the original in Sicily and not the one in central New York.
Well, I knew that I was in Italy when someone asked for my name but did not ask me how to spell it. AS we were making a connecting flight we had to unexpectedly check our bags. When the gate attendant asked my name I said “Giovinazzo”. He immediately wrote the name. I am so used to spelling the name whenever I give my name in that same sing-song riff I have been repeating for years “G as in George, I, O. V as in Victor, I, N. O as in ostrich. Z as in zebra. Z as in zebra. O as in Owl”.
Speaking of language, I thought I had forgotten most of the Italian I had learned over the years. However, once I got here I easily fell into it. I am able to get around pretty well and communicate with folks. Now mind you we have not discussed the nuances of Dante poetry, but the day to day stuff is coming pretty easily. Italian is such a beautiful language. I love to hear it spoken. I am sad to say that I see English is invading the country. I discuss this in Chapter 8 of my book Italianità: The Essence of Being Italian and Italian-American. During the bus ride between Catania and Siracusa we saw evidence of this. Several signs and stores used English expressions. As much as I love my native tongue, I would have to see it dominate Italy.
When we changed planes in Rome we passed through what could only be described as a shopping mall. It seems that most international airports are converting their terminals into shopping malls. There were, as you could imagine, quite a few restaurants. As we passed, I asked my son if he was hungry. He noted that the combination of all the smells from the myriad cuisines was a little disgusting. When we got to Cantania it was quite a different story. As we left baggage claim the aroma of pizza hit us, real Italian pizza. What a welcoming fragrance that was.
It may be that I was raised not too far from the one in New York, but I am finding the original to be a bit more interesting. It has been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Heritage Site. A World Heritage Site is selected by UNESCO when it is considered an area as being significant from a cultural, historical, or scientific perspective. It is a place that is significant to all of humanity.
Given the definition of a World Heritage Site, we can easily see how Syracuse qualifies. Of course, being a city that is roughly 2,700 years old, it boasts a rich history extending back to the Greeks with its architecture, amphitheaters, and overall culture.
It is the birthplace of Archimedes, a preeminent scientist in classical antiquity who was a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. His inventions range from the Archimedes Screw to a heat ray. Think of that, way back in the third century you had a guy who thought up a HEAT RAY!! Talk about your forward thinkers. Of course, many will recall the story of him crying “EUREKA!!” when he realized that the volume of an object could be determined by the amount of water it displaced.
Let’s get back to the main subject, however. Syracuse was founded by the ancient Greeks, the Corinthians to be precise. From here, both Sparta and Corinth with whom the city was aligned as able to exert their influence over all of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). Those of you who have read my book, Italianità: The Essence of Being Italian and Italian-American, know Magna Graecia was composed of Sicily and the Amalfi area. The city has survived through the ages from the Roman period where it was the seat of the praetor and the capital of Roman government, through the Muslim conquest of Sicily where it remained a bulwark of Byzantines until it fell in 878, up to World War II when General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s Eighth Army captured the city and used it for a base for the British Royal Navy.
This great, rich history has left us with many things to see and experience during our visit to this ancient place. From the Greek Period there is the Temple of Apollo, the Fountain of Arethusa, the Greek Theater, and the Roman Amphitheatre. There is also a good deal of sites to visit from the Christian Era such as the Cathedral of Syracuse and the Basilica of Santa Lucia. There are just too many things to see and do while we are here. Included with all these things is the Ear of Dionysius, the Ortygia market, Piazza Duomo, the Museo Archeological Regionale, Fonte Aretusa, and Piazza Archimede.
Ah, Sicilia. This is the end of my first day here. I am eagerly anticipating what adventures you hold for me.