Fancy a day trip from Syracuse whilst exploring Sicily? And, day trips there are many…on this small ancient island.
Part 3 of the Sicily adventure covers four different day trips: Pozzallo and Noto, both are to the south of Syracuse; and also to Catania and Adrano, which are to the north of Syracuse.
I love road trips and especially, driving around a gorgeous island such as Sicily. There really is so much to explore here and the 9 days spent in Sicily, is just not enough – this time only scratches the surface of sites.
Using Syracuse as the base is a great option as this city also offers great accommodation and food, but also a plethora of archaeological sites in which to indulge.
Hiring a car is a luxury as no longer are you wasting time waiting for public transport on Sicily, although I am told buses are pretty decent in Syracuse.
Heading north-east of Syracuse today mainly to visit the Catania War Cemetery and at least see a little of Mt Etna from a distance, whilst in Sicily.
A little on the infamous Mt Etna
Worth a mention is the largest and highest volcano in Europe, and one of the most active in the world: Mt Etna. I don’t plan to trek the volcano on this trip as it’s still a little too warm.
The last time I trekked up an active volcano was back in 2011 in Chile, which was the memorable Volcano Villarrica.
You can’t help but notice the imposing Mt Etna, which is visible whilst travelling on the highway north of Syracuse and until south of Messina.
Even from a distance, Mt Etna puffing away still conjures up enough in the imagination to ponder on what an eruption and resulting destruction from this mountain would deliver. And its ever-presence in the lives of Sicilians must be ominous…
Catania War Cemetery
On the short day trip to Catania to visit the WWII cemetery, then heading on to Adrano.
About seven kilometres south-west of Catania on a quiet road is the Catania War Cemetery in which lay the bodies of 2,135 Commonwealth servicemen from World War II, of which 112 are unidentified.
Many that are buried here died during July 1943, in the heavy fighting close to Catania and also in the battle for the Simeto River bridgehead.
Visiting these cemeteries is always a sombre sight for me but believe a necessary one – Lest We Forget.
I never seem to have the right lens to include all the thousands of graves and show the expanse of these cemeteries, which is tragic in itself. Although not as large as some of the cemeteries in Normandy, there are always too many graves.
The cemetery’s perimeter is planted with beautiful Olive Trees, which is lovely just to sit beneath, whilst pondering the number of lost lives.
About a 40-minute drive inland from Catania and situated at the base of active Mt Etna, Adrano sits at the confluence of two rivers: Simeto and Salso.
A constant reminder, Mt Etna is seen from many parts of the town.
This region is renown for the growing of citrus fruit and olives of which Adrano is the commercial centre. Today, the town is quite sleepy and I get the feeling that not many tourists visit Adrano.
Arriving at Adrano from an odd direction due to following the GPS, we landed in the carpark at the scruffy end of town, just in time for when almost everything is shut, of course. After a coffee, wonderful snacks, and delicious pastries, decided it was time to walk the carbs off and explore Adrano.
Founded around 400 BC and occupied over the centuries by the Byzantine Empire, French, Arabs, and Normans, of which all have left their imprint, Adrano is no stranger to stunning architecture.
Convento di Santa Lucia
The Monastery of St Lucy is absolutely beautiful and well maintained. Constructed in 1596, monks inhabited the monastery until the early 1920s, although now is partly used by a secondary school, as the building is communal property.
Follow the signs throughout Adrano on only a short walk from the main street, until you reach the Castello Normanno (Norman Castle), which was built on behalf of Roger I in 1070 and sits on Piazza Umberto. Adrano was saved by Roger I from Arab dominance.
The €2 entry fee is excellent value and the EU has done a great job of restoring this castle. The archaeological museum in the castle, which holds the region’s antique findings, is also excellent.
Make sure you make the effort to climb the dimly lit narrow stone steps to the castle’s Ramparts, which is a great viewing platform that wraps around the castle. Providing expansive views across Adrano but also out to the imposing Mt Etna in the distance.
Guduria Sicily on Via Cappuccini 181, is wonderful for coffee and sublime traditional pastries. Enjoy the atmosphere here with very friendly staff and inexpensive prices.
A little over an hour’s drive south-west from Syracuse and you arrive in Pozzallo.
Dating back to the 9th century until 1836, the city has undergone many name changes including to ‘Puzzallus’ and ‘Puzzallumsince’, which also depended on the occupiers of the time. Even as late as 1935, the administration wanted to change the name once more, but this was knocked back.
This far south in Sicily, Malta is only 50NM (93 kilometres) away Pozzallo is well-placed for North African connections. A strategic position for trading with Sicily’s Mediterranean neighbours, reinforces the importance of Pozzallo’s port for over 700 years.
A ferry only takes 90 minutes to reach Malta from Pozzallo.
During Siesta time, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a ghost town and completely deserted, apart form the occasional Bar that’s still open. I’m sure that after 4pm, everything comes alive once more.
On doing some research, I discovered that within one to three kilometres from Pozzallo are artificial cave tombs, which are dated between 2200 and 1450 BC – back to the ancient Bronze Age and the culture of Castelluccio. As I didn’t know about these whilst here, I can’t offer any feedback on experience or photos.
Awarded the Blue Flag for its four clean and sparkling beaches, it’s no surprise that many global visitors flock here during the summer, and a pleasant stop to relax and unwind.
Why not indulge in a Gelato or Aperitivo on your visit?
Piazza della Rimembranza
A popular meeting point for locals as not only do the 46 palms frame the piazza providing much needed shade, the palms were planted to commemorate the fallen in WWI and WWII.
Palazzo Comunale Giorgio La Pira
With construction only starting in 1923 and completed by 1926, this building is relatively young for Sicily but impressive, nonetheless.
Caffè Del Corso on C.so V. Veneto offers wonderful pastries (€1+) and coffee (€1+) in lovely modern surrounds.
Baroque town of Noto
Situated in Sicily’s south-eastern corner at the base of the Iblean Mountains, the striking Baroque town of Noto, is in the UNESCO World Heritage List: Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto – one of eight towns.
You can reach Noto in under an hour’s drive from Syracuse.
The very clean city of Not0 dates back to 263 BC and provides imposing and exquisite architecture to wander through and enjoy.
Pick up your map of the city at the information centre (two blocks up and on the right from L’Archo di Trionfo), which displays 44 important architectural buildings to take in on your walk. So much to see here…
The churches, palaces, and many buildings of importance were built with the city’s characteristic yellow limestone. This type of stone was chosen for it’s flexibility enabling detailed cutting of sculptures and monuments, but also because the stone provides a warm golden glow.
As the sun dips, Noto comes alive with a warm amber glow that can only be described as romantic, providing another level of beauty for the visitor.
L’Arco di Trionfo
The gateway is also known as Porta Ferdinandea and Porta Reale. Built for the arrival of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon in Noto, this commanding archway leads the way to Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is the heart of Noto.
The grandiose city gate is also built with yellow limestone and is relatively young, dating back to only 1838. Prior to this, a large muddy valley with trees separated Noto.
Church of San Francesco d’Assisi (Immacolata)
Built between 1705 and 1745, this stately church spills out three grand levels of stairs at before its entrance. Sadly, I didn’t see inside, due to its closure when visiting.
Chiesa di San Domenico
Built between 1703 and 1727 as a convent church of the Dominican fathers, this flamboyant design surrounded by trees, is both opulent and elegant.
Basilica del SS. Salvatore
With construction commencing in 1767, stunning, is a word that springs to mind when entering this Basilica in which its internal decorations commenced in 1794 and completed over two years.
With intricate pictorial representations by Palermo Ermenegildo Martorana and stucco works by Giovanni Gianforma, this place of worship detains any observer.
Although this city hall looks centuries old, the building was designed in 1746, but only completed in 1830 – 17th century palaces were the inspiration for this design.
Lovely just to sit on the hall’s steps immersed within the shaded stone arches and watch the world pass you by…
Basicila di San Nicolò
In the Sicilian Baroque style, this stately cathedral’s construction began in the early 18th century with completion in 1776. Many tour groups particularly love to stop at this Basilica and it’s not hard to see why.
La chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso
A relatively young church for Noto, with a design from the early eighteenth century although the dome was built in 1901, the unfinished facade crates a lovely photo opportunity. Not sure why the facade is not yet finished?
Random street scenes
A couple of random street scenes as a taste of Noto…
Many Bars, restaurants, Gelateria, and Gelato carts grace both sides Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Typically, eating off this main tourist strip is the better way to go for authentic and best quality food.
Guduria on Via Capuccini 181 serves amazing snacks (€1+), great coffee (€1+), incredible pastries and gourmet desserts (€1+), in a lovely friendly atmosphere. Super cheap and great quality.
Take a stroll on Via Napoli, 32 to this cafe, for another good snack break at starting prices of €1 for a tasty savoury or sweet indulgence.
Returning to Syracuse
After each day’s road trip jaunt exploring all that Sicily has to offer, there is nothing better than returning to the abode in Syracuse, putting the feet up and just relaxing, before the evening’s meal and frivolity around the city.
Exploring the Island of Ortigia in Syracuse more is always an option, especially as it’s a short walk from the city centre.