Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Natural Siracusa: Exploring the Anapo and Ciane Rivers

The city of Siracusa has so much to offer. Not just archaeology, museums, and charming elegance, but also nature. 

Travel drawing inspired by our weekend adventure
(you can check out more of my work here)

Our most recent visit was dedicated to discovering the natural beauty of Siracusa. The pristine beaches south of the city (here and here) are the most obvious choices. But for non-beachy nature excursions there is also the less frequented Riserva Naturale Orientata Fiume Ciane e Saline di Siracusa

Sunset overlooking the Anapo River

I chose the closest lodgings I could find to the river. The location couldn't have been more perfect (warning: the hotel is much more rustic in real life than it appears on the website). From our door all we had to do was walk up a grassy slope to have a view of the river. The sunset was spectacular!

Explore the river by canoe

On the other side of the grassy slope was a small dock with a canoe just waiting for its next crew. That would be us, of course. 

I was a little confused when the hotel staff told me that this was the Anapo River, not the Ciane River. The two rivers actually intersect with each other just downstream from the hotel. A little further downstream are the river mouths, where together they empty into what is called Siracusa's 'grande porto' (big port). An aerial view on Google Maps is really the best way to understand the situation.

The rivers attract many birds and from our grassy terrace and little dock we spotted snowy egrets, great blue herons, king fishers, several kinds of ducks, and lots of splashing fish. I loved this peaceful spot!

The Anapo River by day

There are several options for exploring the rivers: canoe, bike, boat, foot. We loved taking the hotel's canoe out onto the river. We canoed down the Anapo, made a sharp turn, went up the Ciane, turned around, went out to sea, and then back up the Anapo. It sounds like we covered more ground than we actually did! But what a fun way to soak in the peaceful atmosphere and see lots of ducks and fish. 

Exploring the nature reserve by foot

The next morning we set out to discover the nature reserve on foot. We followed the driving directions the hotel receptionist gave us. Although a little confusing, it turns out they weren't so bad. With the help of a biker we flagged down, in no time at all we found our way to the beginning of the trail. Soon we were walking alongside open fields and a winding river flanked by a canopy of green. Ahhhhh!

Shady spots

We had a gotten a later start than we should have and it was hot. The shade of the trees was most welcome. My nature loving boy was the one who spotted frogs, a river crab, and several ducks peeking out from behind the reeds.

Sporadic signage

Our goal had been to walk to the Fonte Ciane, the source of the Ciane River. After an hour into our walk, though, it became clear that we were not going to make it there on foot. With hindsight we realized bikes would have been the transport of choice (we passed quite a few bikers, and even some runners, along the way). 

Papyrus plants

We didn't mind, though. We enjoyed poking around the banks of the river and hanging out with the bundles of papyrus plants that flourish in its waters. I promise this is fascinating stuff since it is one of two places in Europe where papyrus grows, the other also being in Sicily. It is not certain if it is a native plant or if it was introduced to the area in antiquity.

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