The Archeology of SiracusaJanuary 23, 2021
The Archeology of the City of SiracusaJanuary 25, 2021
Pantalica, a remote place that once was a necropolis
Pantalica isn’t a town, but a remote place that once was a necropolis; it might also have been the heart of a Sikel kingdom during the Mycenaean age, then also a small Byzantine settlement.
After all these events, Pantalica is preserved like a skull; large empty sockets, alignments of heavy blocks roughly hewn, like the ruins of a palace. The empty eye-sockets are the prehistoric tombs, or perhaps dwellings later, like the Sassi of Matera, but without any built-on additions.
You reach Pantalica through landscape that changes at least three times: first, coming from Lentini, you come to Buccheri and its rather untidy countryside with darkest olives, a few carob-trees.
Beyond Buccheri, you cross a wind-swept plain, but with a wind that doesn’t stop to breathe, continuous like water from a fountain.
„Pantalica is preserved like a skull; large empty sockets, alignments of heavy blocks roughly hewn, like the ruins of a palace. The empty eye-sockets are the prehistoric tombs, or perhaps dwellings...”
Rocks of beautiful, luminous grey, a bit like the dolomitic rocks of Capri, and also along the roadside, pocked with tombs; all artificial cavities and, in general, with a smooth ceiling.
But the extraordinary thing about Pantalica is its structure with large, deep canyons produced in the hard rock by two torrents, the rio Bottigliere and the almost river Anapo, the one that adorns its banks with papyrus when it reaches Siracusa or perhaps we should say, it adorned, because it would appear that the pollution of the waters is discouraging the poor papyrus.
Now these splendid canyons, that you see from above, that snake as if they were in a bed of sand instead of carved into the rock, they have tufts of green here and there, and at the bottom, there’s even a river, but of green: the water is hidden amongst the plants.
Once there was a railway line that seems never to have been finished, and it ran along the banks: now it’s reduced to a path that lets you walk without any acrobatics alongside the two little torrents that are truly arcadian. The meanders of these streams must give a continual shift of view: just a few steps and you see a new scene; and the greenery that, undisturbed, must grow with its silky leaves like plants at the bottom of a well, seems, amidst the many rocks, to be a prehistoric relic too, in a present without a present.
This is Pantalica, a place to visit with nothing to see, and yet like a place found by stepping into a mirror, it’s almost like a fata morgana that hasn’t disappeared as you approach it, but then of course it will disappear and instead of those sheer rock-faces, riddled with tombs, we’ll find long arid beaches.
Cesare Brandi, from Sicilia Mia, 1980, Sellerio editore, Palermo