Category Archives: Sicily

39 Days

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It’s been a long journey. I’m having difficulty remembering that five weeks ago I was a student at BABILONIA in Taormina, Sicily. I’ve traveled, made new friends, seen new places, revisited and glorified in the treasures of Tuscany, delighted in the company of Telma, reveled in the remembrances with Sally and Johanna. It’s been a long and wondrous journey.

As I sit in the Doubletree near Heathrow, I’m reflecting on these past weeks with gratitude, anticipation, and wonder. I’ll share some secrets.
. . .I was brought to tears walking down a small vicolo, alleyway, in Modica, after acknowledging to myself that I can do something I’d never imagined possible. . .speak, and almost, sometimes, understand Italian.
. . .I adore Italy and all things italian. . .even half-italian, like Don.
. . . I believe this will be my final 39 day trip for a long time, for a variety of circumstances.
. . .i can travel through 3 climates with a carry-on bag that’s been crushed and filled with things I never intended to buy.
. . . We shared this trip with Nana Weinberger. Her ashes lie under a lemon tree in Sicily, in the Ionian Sea, in the Alacantara Gorge, in the garden of Bristol Cathedral, and on a beach in Sicily. She was a traveller and we intend to keep her traveling!
. . .I missed my mother on her birthday, November 8.
. . .I worry about my family when I’m away.
. . .Im extraordinarily grateful for opportunities. It’s really about seeing the possibilities and having the courage or stupidity to follow through.

A few outtakes of photos. . .

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Con Te parterĂ². . . Time to say goodbye. Wheresweinberger closes today, until the next adventure. Where?? When?? Chissa!. . .Who knows?!

50/50

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One of us is going home and one of us is staying in Italy. I think you know which is which!!

We decided to spend our final night in Rome at the Golden Tulip, about10 minutes from the airport. We’ve stayed here many times before and have watched it evolve from Hotel Club Isola Sacra with a dinky lobby to an upscale, chic Italian hotel. I personally was pleased the last two times we were there to be “in their system,” and this time even recognized by our waiter, Luigi.

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Artwork adorns the walls and pedestaled sculptures add a distinctive Italian flair to the lobbies.

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The restaurant is outstanding and the breakfast sumptuous.

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Hey, they’re not paying me to write this, but for those of you who always ask where we stay, this is it!! Golden Tulip Fiumicino

I suggest you book the superior room. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s my view from our balcony:

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Don left on the 9 am shuttle. I stayed until check -out time at 12 and took a special shuttle.

And then it was time to wait, and wait. I knitted, I cleaned out my inbox, I cleaned out photos, I paced the arrivals terminal. I was waiting for. . .

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Ode to Sophia

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We take a girlfriend with us on every trip. In Italy, it’s Sophia. We’ve known her for about 6-7 years. She has the attributes of a good friend. . . There when you need her, gently makes suggestions, becomes insistent when she knows you’re off course, and can be quiet for long stretches of time.

She knows everything but never boasts. She’s been everywhere. . . Even in tiny alleyways, up farm lanes, and down long driveways.

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Only occasionally does she become confused, which might look like this. . .

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Or this. . .

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But mostly she has been everywhere we want to go, even before we’ve been there!

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Please meet our best friend and trusted traveling companion, Sophia!!!

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Fico d’India

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Back in Willow Grove, Don met a Sicilian guy who told us that we must try the fico d’India , literally, “fig of india,” Now, I know about figs, but what was this?

At this time of the year in Sicily, fichi d’India (plural) are plentiful. Indeed, we passed fields of cultivated cacti, mostly bare of their fruit, but the occasional cactus still sported a ruby, albeit spiny, gem.

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They’re plentiful in the markets and seem to be the kind of fruit that’s eaten “as is,” since they have so many seeds inside.

How to handle these little succulent fruits? Carefully. I fruttivendoli, fruit vendors wear rubber gloves. I asked a vendor in Donnalucata if we could taste one and he happily obliged. Then he gave us two with the warning, Attenta!! Be careful of the spines! I swear that every time I even came close to those due fichi I ended up with an invisible spine in a finger!

I asked Paolo in Avola, Per favore, mostrarmi, Please, show me ( how to peel it).

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It’s garnet-colored flesh is the prize hidden inside a thorny exterior.

Hmmm. . .just wondering if there’s message there??!

Green, White, Red, and Blue

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Those were the colors of the flags we saw the next day.

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After our very full day in Siracusa and Ortigia, the beaches beckoned us once again. We headed to the south coast and the beaches of Pozzallo. Now, there are eight “blue flag” beaches in Sicily, and four are located in Pozzallo. What’s a blue flag?

Four beaches in Pozzallo have received the Blue Flag award by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), a prestigious award given to beaches which meet strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services.

Another blue flag location we enjoyed a few years ago was Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica.

We walked for miles, enjoying the water, sun, and wide, sweeping, empty sand. Truly restorative!

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With a little message to la nostra nipotina, our granddaughter, Gemma. . .

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After our picnic lunch under a little palapa, we decided to drive further south to discover the southernmost point in Europe.

OK, so there’s some controversy. Maybe we should simply assert that we were at the southernmost tip of SICILY, because Lampedusa is further south.

Isola Della Correnti is another amazing beach, with just a few bathers. There’s a lighthouse, but not the northeast US type we know. The heat was more searing, and there was a more parched feel to the sun. Indeed, the latitude is further south than Tunisia!

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The 60 km stretch of beach from the Marina di Modica north to Scoglitti are the same beaches where the Allied forces landed during World War II. We thought of Uncle Felix, who was part of that landing, and returned from the war “shell shocked” , which today we’d know as PTSD.

The beaches will remain in our memory on many levels.

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Ortigia

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Really, you could spend a few days in this area of Siracusa. The tourist map has a exhausting series of dots, stars, and crosses indicating important churches and points of interest.

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We parked “by the marina” thinking that would be a good landmark to remember how to find the car, and we set out to explore.

The duomo is the star of the piazza. She dominates one of the largest, longest piazzas we’ve seen.

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It’s always difficult for me to adequately capture the grandeur of any cathedral or small church, for that matter. I’m continually awed by the love, crafts,a ship, and passion evident in every detail, from inlaid floors to soaring ceilings. My few paltry attempts:

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The Doric columns were originally part of a temple of Athena.

In one of those most beautiful chapels in the cathedral we spent a few moments in reflection and gratitude. I had to don a shawl because my arms were not covered. Of course, no photos allowed.

More churches, more visits. We discovered a poster advertising a jazz concert the following evening. We missed the puppet theater. . .prossima volte, next time.

Pranzo/em>, lunch. . . A Sicilian delight. . .granita and a brioche. Very little nutritional value, but good for the soul, as we sat and people-watched on a side street in Ortigia.

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Remember the marina where we parked because we’d be able to find our car? Ti sciocca, silly us. . . We are on an ISLAND, for god’s sake! So under the Sicilian afternoon sun we walked, we asked, we back-tracked, we found the car.

NOTE TO SELF: before the next trip, print out a map of where we’re going and have the parking attendant mark an X on the parking lot!!!!

Siracusa, parte due

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Siracusa can best be described as having two distinct sections. . .Siracusa and the accompanying island of Ortigia. Although we went to Ortigia after visiting the amphitheater, then back to Siracusa, for purposes of making a bit more geographical sense of the journey, I’ll write about the additional attractions we visited in Siracusa.

Syracuse has the second largest and most important system of catacombs in the world after that of Rome. The only catacombs that currently can be easily visited are the Catacombs of San Giovanni. Our guide was fabulous and shared the history of the catacombs, actually an underground city of tombs. Approximately 20,000 graves, family tombs, and bits of ancient frescoes are evident. During World War II the citizens of Siracusa took shelter in the catacombs from the bombings overhead.

No photos are allowed, but some posters outside the catacombs offered me a photo op.

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And a partial map of the catacombs. . .

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As we approached Siracusa earlier in the day we were curious about this. . .

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The sanctuary of Madonna Della Lacrime. . The Madonna of the Tears. . .is an ultra-modern. French designed cathedral.

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we book-ended the ancient parts of Siracusa with a midday visit to Ortigia. Next post.