Travelling in Sicily: part 2 – Museo Archeologico, Villa Romana del Casale & Morgantina

The tiny Fiat 500 is still all over the place in Sicily
The tiny Fiat 500 is still all over the place in Sicily

 

This is not the entrance to the museum but a car wash.
This is not the entrance to the museum, but a car wash. The entrance is to the left around the corner. The museum is on the second floor behind the windows.

Ragusa’s museum

After five days in Sicily’s Ragusa, it was time to move on. But not before we checked out a tiny path running through a ravine near the old town. The path itself is not very well used but we found it on OpenStreetMaps. It also is not long and it passes some more caves and former graves. Youth was hanging out there and we had a little chat with some of the kids.

A narrow set of stairs and a somewhat overgrown path lead into the ravine and to another part of Ragusa.
A narrow set of stairs and a somewhat overgrown path lead into the ravine and to another part of Ragusa.

While the path continues further we went up and emerged at the top near the Archeological museum. The museum is worth a visit, but very old fashioned and underfunded. Plus it is very hard to find. The main entrance is hidden off a main street but also accessible with an elevator, located outside a Best Western hotel.

The elevator to the museum at the ground two or three floors of this building. But a sign....?
The elevator down to the museum at the ground floor of this building. But a sign….?

The elevator brings you to street level underneath a gritty bridge. Walk around the building (the front has a car wash, can you believe it) and you’ll find the entrance. The building appears to be built in the early sixties and nothing has changed since. You can spend perhaps an hour there. There are lots of interesting artifacts, but very little explanation. Most items only have a inventory number and of you are lucky, a mention in Italian where iT was found and fron which period. That is too bad as it could be a major attraction if they got the storytelling right. We were basically alone there.

Lots of beautiful items but not very appealing to admire.
Lots of beautiful items but not very appealing to admire.
Vase
Vase #14

Our second stop Ofour holidays was Castelbuono, in the northern part of Sicily. Halfway our trip we stopped at another World Heritage site, the Villa Romana del Casale, built in the fourth century after Christ and beautifully preserved by a land slide, which covered the gorgeous mosaics. While the walls and roofs are mostly gone, the floors are incredible, giving an insight in the wealth of the home owner, who is actually unknown. No photo does justice to the sheer size of the mosaics, but here are a few.

Shipping wild animals from Africa for the gladiator fights in Rome.
Shipping wild animals from Africa for the gladiator fights in Rome.
Loading an elephant on a the ship
Loading an elephant on a the ship
Just one of the many rooms
Just one of the many rooms
The most famous of the all the mosaics, known as "the bikini girls". It is actually a sports outfit. The girls are involved in several sports.
The most famous of the all the mosaics, known as “the bikini girls”. It is actually a sports outfit they are wearing. The girls are involved in several sports.

The building stands in a beautiful setting. There were lot of Brits and a lot of Italian school groups, so be there early.

The villa is just outside Piazza Armerina in central Sicily.
The villa is just outside Piazza Armerina in central Sicily. The original entrance is on the left and must have been very impressive, considering the large pieces of wall that have fallen over.
The villa's public washrooms are a bit of a problem. Plus remember you always pay 50 cents at public toilets.
The villa’s (modern) public washrooms are a bit of a problem. Plus remember you always pay 50 cents at public toilets.

Morgantina

About a half hour drive to the north east of the villa is the small town of Aidone and just past that is another large abandoned archeological site called Morgantina. We only met one other couple there, Australians in a big BMW SUV, which they didn’t reserve but it was the last car left at the car rental. I wouldn’t want to drive it in Sicily. Neither did they.

We tested the accoustics. It really is impressive. I didn't have to raise my voice to talk to Karen, who was sitting at the top.
We tested the acoustics. It really is impressive. I didn’t have to raise my voice to talk to Karen, who was sitting at the top.

Morgantina dates back some 3000 years. Read some of its history here on Wikipedia. In more recent years, the theatre and the forum were unearthed and some shows have been given again. We thought it was very cool to sit in a place where once the locals were sitting in the exact same place, some 2500 years ago.

Castelbuono

After the museum and the two treats in central Sicily, we continued our travels towards the Madonie mountains, in the central north of the island, for some hiking. We found a wonderful place called Castelbuono, which is hardly mentioned in the guide books. After a long day of travelling, we decided to go out for dinner.

Mmm, from the wood fired pizza oven. I always thought taking left overs home was not done in Italy, but I proved wrong. Italians take home their pizza left overs and no one blinks an eye.
Mmm, from the wood fired pizza oven. I always thought taking left overs home was not done in Italy, but I proved wrong. Italians take home their pizza left overs and no one blinks an eye.

Watch for the next post by following @HansontheBike or sign up for email alerts on this page. Read the first part of the series here: Ragusa and the south east World Heritage Sites.

Part 1 The southeast UNESCO sites

Part 2 Villa Romana del Casale and Morgantina

Part 3 Castelbuono, Madonie and Cefalú

Part 4 Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples and Siracusa

Part 5 Catania’s Treasures

 

Hans

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  1. Holidays in Sicily: part 1 - the south east World Heritage sites | Hans on the Bike
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