(by Alie) Once we got to Catania – the next day we left again! We decided to go to the furthest part of our journey and over the course of the holiday, work our way back. So on the bus and off to Syracuse and its historic island of Ortygia.

What a wonderful treat – a world away form the hustle and bustle of Palermo, very relaxing and quite intoxicating with its many vistas of highly ornate, yet slightly crumbly old buildings. It is not the polished pristine perfection, but rather the lived in and much loved. You can almost feel your heartbeat slowing down to match the pace of life, very relaxing – so the time spent here could be well described at pottering about with cameras in between the odd spot of food and park bench. And there were plenty of inviting vistas to keep you ambling all day.

I think one of my favourite memories of Syracuse was sitting on the steps of the Duomo in the evening just people watching. Everyone came out to take a walk, bump into friends and the town came alive to the slow mooch of people taking an evening stroll.

It was while we were on this part of the holiday that I learnt about Martin’s philosophy of a room for a night. By choosing to stay in a crumbly old shoebox of a room, you get a night’s sleep and what you save you can use for excursions or meals instead. I can still remember lying beneath a big slowly gyrating fan in a hot, windowless room waiting for it to fall on us as I drifted off to sleep, meanwhile Martin had eaten a dodgy prawn and was suffering – hot and sweaty and not at all romantic.

Before we left Syracuse we also visited the Neopolis Archaeological Area, only established as recently as 1955 to preserve a variety of Syracuse’s heritage. The area is littered with boulders, steps and hewn rocks which you then realise are archeological areas: the Tomb of Archimedes, the Alter of Heiron II, the Roman Amphitheater etc. But the two that stick most in my memory are the Orecchio di Dioniso or Ear of Dionysius and the Catacombs of San Giovani Evangelista.

The Orrechio is in fact a cave with a very tall entrance in which prisoners were kept – according to legend because of the acoustics you could hear the prisoners whisperings from outside the cave – we tried it and the acoustics are amazing. The catacombs were also an amazing journey underground into cold vaults and caverns used to house the dead in Roman times, dating back to 365BC – neither eerie or spooky, it is amazing to walk through a slice of history in this way. Sadly the cameras were not up to the limited light, but an everlasting memory nonetheless.