Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From Ancient to Baroque, Lovely Siracusa

We were reminded of how fabulous the Archeological Museum of Siracusa (Paolo Orsi) is when we joined some friends there a few weeks ago.  

Travel sketch inspired by a visit to the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi
You can see more of my work here

The museum must be the largest collection of ancient artifacts in all of Sicily. The building and grounds aren't very inspiring when you first approach them, but once you step inside all that is forgotten. 

Inside, ancient Sicily comes to life. The artifacts speak for themselves, no interactive exhibits here. Materials are grouped together by the archaeological sites from where they excavated. My favorites date to the prehistoric periods, before the arrival of the Greeks and Romans, but those later sections are full of such an astonishing amount and array of materials it is impossible not to be fascinated by the Classical and Hellenistic worlds, too.

After the museum we headed to lovely Ortigia for (vegan!) lunch, followed by a walk through the main piazza. 

Our native Siracusano friend lead us to the small church at the end of the piazza that we had somehow overlooked on previous visits. How could we not know that this museum houses one of Siracusa's most precious treasures?

Hanging behind the altar of the little church is a huge canvas painted in 1608 by the master Baroque painter, Caravaggio, the Burial of Santa Lucia. (No photos allowed, but check out the link). We lingered at the foot of the altar taking in the work, displaying all of Caravaggio's famed elements that were innovative for his time: naturalistic depictions of non-idealized people despite the religious subject matter, heavy contrasts between dark shadows and the stream of light flooding the painting's focus, the corpse of Santa Lucia.

The light was starting to get dramatic outside, too, and it was time to go. Heading back to the car, we had one last look out to sea. A moment of wonderment, really, and appreciation. All this history jumbled together, seeping through the cracks from centuries ago, from millennium ago. It could be easy to get used to this kind of experience living Sicily, but I will never take it for granted. What a place!