10 HIDDEN JEMS IN SIRACUSA
#9 – The 10 Hidden Jems in Siracusa: The Old Wash House on the Lungomare Alfeo, Ortigia
Here is another top-ten-worthy site in the heart of Ortigia that is definitely worth visiting while in Siracusa, unique and special because of its location and the peculiar way it can be accessed: we’re speaking about the Old Wash House on the Lungomare (seafront) Alfeo.
A stone’s throw away from the Aretusa Fountain, once you’ve walked a few steps down Via del Lungomare, the old wash house is just on your left hand side; can’t see it? Of course, it’s underground and there’s no way to find it, with no sign to signal its presence! Moreover, there’s a restaurant right on top of it.
And yet all are welcome to visit this mysterious place: just ask the restaurant staff (“Antico Lavatoio – Spizzica”) which “covers” it and they will let you go down. Simple as that. There’s no other way to enter, so don’t be ashamed to just ask a waiter for permission! It’s totally worth it.
After climbing down the winding staircase you’ll find yourself immersed in a completely different, almost mystical atmosphere: it is a cave built in the rock, and pure, crystal-clear soft water flows all around. You can walk around the entire perimeter of the site, passing through narrow corridors and stony cubicles. Furniture is quite kitsch, I’d say, but if you focus on the site’s historical sense and on the peculiarity of its location, you’ll sure find it jaw- dropping.
Until the 1950’s the old wash house was used by washerwomen who would wash clothes there because the water is not salty (just as in the nearby Aretusa spring). Ortigia is actually full of underground springs like these; you’ll also notice the “tinozze” (laundry baskets) built in the stone and, once underground, it is easy to picture those women dunking their clothes in the fresh water and rubbing them. What a right labor!
The old wash house is one of the numberless places in Siracusa which you can only visit if a local tips you off about it, so enjoy it and spread the word!