Tag Archives: pizza



walking along the water in Ortigia

Syracuse was my favorite city we visited on the trip.  It seemed to have just the right combination of charm, beauty, culture, and grittiness, and the nice hotel we stayed in didn’t hurt either.  Hotel Gutkowski was right on the water in Ortigia, a neighborhood of Sicily that is actually it’s own little island, connected by bridges to the rest of the city.  The rooms were clean and crisp, designed as if to feel like a neat beachside cottage (and impression helped by the shores of the Mediterranean just outside our window).  Ortigia, small and very walkable, is the oldest part of the city featuring many historic sites, such as the Castel Maniace, the Duomo, and the ruins of a temple to Apollo.  We spent the morning of the first day walking around Ortigia to see these sights, and then took a break in the market district for lunch.  The markets were chaotic, but were just what I would have imagined a Sicilian street market to be: dirty, loud, filled with strange scents of pungent cheese and seafood, and home to all sorts of things that one wouldn’t find a tame American farmer’s market.  Right next to a stand selling prickly pear fruit was a bucket of little squid and next to those a massive swordfish head, and so on.

swordfish heads :-(

swordfish at the Syracuse market

My birthday, the first one I’ve celebrated abroad, was on the first day in Syracuse, and we celebrated that night by doing the same thing that we did during all our free evenings: eat and drink.

pizza yumyyumyyumyuum

just part of my amazing birthday feast

Some of the guys on the trip had been lucky enough to be assigned to a palatial apartment-style room in the hotel, which had it’s own living room, so we had a little apiritivo party there before heading out to another incredible Italian dinner. I split a pizza diavole con olive (pizza with mozzarella, tomato, spicy pepperoni, garlic, and olives) and pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, basil, and cheese).  And a free lemon sorbetto for dessert!

The next day, we visited the Neapolis, home to many of Syracuse’s ancient sites, including two amphitheaters, a quarry, monastic rock dwellings, and a giant altar.  In the old quarry area is a cave called “The Ear of Dionysus,” which looks a lot like an ear opening carved in the rock, and has astounding acoustics.  We all walked through the “canal” to the very back, where one of the grad students with an astounding voice sang while our eyes adjusted to the darkness.  Once outside the ear (we decided it was time to go after someone got pooped on by one of the caves winged residents), we collected fallen limes from the many trees in the area on our walk to the exit, where a stand was selling freshly squeezed juice.  The next stop in Syracuse were the Catacombs of San Giovanni, an underground labyrinth of early Christian tombs (now without bodies) that our hilariously bad at English tour guide gave us a whirlwind tour of before shooing us away so she could get off work for the day.  On our way out of Syracuse we visited the Castello Euriale, ruins of an inland defensive structure, whose best feature was the stunning vista of the city, the sea, and the countryside.

view of Syracuse

looking out toward Syracuse

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Archaeology and Gastronomy


temple at Selinunte

On the way from Palermo to Agrigento, which was our home for the next two nights, the group stopped in the towns of Segesta and Selinunte to see the archaeological sites, which are ruins from the ancient Greek settlement of Sicily.  In Segesta, we began at the standing temple and then hiked up to the amphitheater, which (like many Greek amphitheaters at the time), had a stunning natural backdrop: the surrounding countryside, rolling hills and mountains, and a vista that stretched to the sea.  Selinunte, also known as the Greek town of Selinus, had extensive archaeological sites, so we got to take a caravan of golf carts in order to get from one to another, making it feel like we were on safari.  The temples were in order of increasing ruinedness, and the final larger temple was collapsed in chunks which were fun to climb on–the whole place was like an ancient playground for archaeologists.  In keeping with the theme of gorgeous scenery, our tour of Selinunte ended at the acropolis, situated on cliffs over the sea, just as the sun was beginning to set.


view from the amphitheater at Segesta

The next day, we took in the ancient sights of Agrigento, a mid-sized modern city on the southern coast of the island.  Here, we spent a morning looking at artifacts up close in the archaeological museum and and afternoon exploring more temples in the scenic “Valle dei Templi.”

marzipan fruit!more marzipan!

some realistic marzipan creations

Looking at crumbling columns wasn’t the only thing we we did, though.  Each evening, we usually got done with our touring between 4 and 6, and had the rest of the day off until the next morning.  We were in Italy, so eating naturally played a big part in filling these free hours.  Each evening, we would find a place for dinner around 8, and meals would last 2 to 2.5 hours, between bread, wine, antipasti (appetizers), and main dishes.  As hard as I tried to diversify the different foods I tried, I averaged about one pizza per day–they were just too good to resist!  And these weren’t “I’ll have a slice or two” shared pizzas, these were 16″ one-person-eats-the-whole-thing pizzas with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, and a thin crust.  It was impossible to order something bad.  Aside from the usual cheese and bread, Sicilian food featured lots of citrus, seafood (especially swordfish and anchovies), and eggplant.  For dessert, there was the unbeatable gelato, freshly-filled cannoli (pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta), and, in every bakery window, elaborate marzipan creations.  Molto delizioso!

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Thank You Princeton

For letting me come do research in places like THIS:


Santa Teresa di Gallura

Santa Teresa di Gallura

When I arrived on the ferry it was too dark to see anything, but the next morning, while waiting for the bus to my next destination, I was able to appreciate Santa Teresa di Gallura. Since it was just a short stopover, I didn’t get to actually feel those turquoise waters, unfortunately, but I loved the view. There was an old Spanish lookout tower on the rocks over the water, and the shores of Corsica were visible from the beach.

I did indulge in one of my favorite Italian foods however, at a restaurant called Papè Satan (it must be so named because it leads one to gluttony, since the pizza itself was heavenly). Buffalo mozzarella cheese. The flavor is hard to describe, but it reminded me how far Domino’s is from the real thing.


Filed under Italy, Santa Teresa di Gallura