Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sicilians are not Italian

I just returned from the Southern tour of Italy, a truly beautiful, sunny region. We saw palm trees of all kinds as well as groves of olive trees, lemons and prickly pears. The rolling hills of tilled,lined land on the mountainsides were empty of the wheat that will be growing in the spring. The miles of farmland were so picturesque and green.
Sicily is very different from the rest of Italy. Palermo is a much larger city than I had expected with its three to four story apartment buildings and lack of parking spots. Also it has many hilly streets and very narrow ones, as well. All of this makes travel either exciting or annoying depending on how you look at it. We saw so many cars parked on corners or double parked so as to impede moving traffic. It all caused a lot of loud discussions, hand gestures and accidents. We heard and saw sirens and ambulances quite often during the short time we were there.
I now understand why they had a lot of pedestrian areas for dining and shopping. You cannot cross a street very easily, even with a traffic light available. The scooters and cars tried to get as close as possible without actually hitting people. A pedestrian had to walk very fast in this city.
We were on a Perillo tour and all of the people were in good spirits regardless of the fact that four had their luggage lost by the airlines. All were found within a few days. No one was ever late and we looked out for each other.
On our first morning tour of the city we saw a magnificent church, the great Norman Cathedral of Monreale, that had gold on glass on the ceiling and walls.There were Roman, Norman and Arabic elements to this magnificent building. The tour guide said,"We are not really Italian, as you can see by the influences in the area, we have been conquered by many cultures and they have left a lasting effect. The Greeks came here first, along with the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, all by way of the Mediterranean Sea. Then the Romans and when the empire fell, the Normans invaded and built this magnificent palace and Church. After them, came the Bourbon kings from France and then the Spanish kings."
We walked up 79 steps to visit the beautiful gardens of the Park of La Favorita created by the Spanish King of Naples in 1799.
The next day we stopped at the Selinunte archeological site. This city was built by Carthage in 628 B.C. and was one of the richest and and most powerful in the world. We saw how the common people lived and saw the remnants of their temples. We even saw a bathtub made pf stone that had three steps, in order to allow the dirty water to go to the bottom. Very clever.
The next stop was a UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts the largest area of Greek Temples in the world. The columns were so tall and many in ruins but the majesty of the buildings came through loud and clear.
The next stop on the way to Taormina was one of my favorite places--the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Amerina.This villa was as large as a palace and was so well preserved, it was amazing. The intricate mosaics artistically depicted life back then in ancient times. One floor was 140 feet long! All mosaics and in true colors of the time. We also saw the private baths area of this wealthy landowner that included the caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium. They knew how to live, those wealthy Romans.
Then off to Taormina one of the prettiest places on earth, called the Jewel of Italy. It is nestled on a mountain area with the sights of the Mediterranean below. How could anyone not like the views? Mt Etna's fertile soil provides extensive orchards and vineyards. All so green and lush.

Rosemary McKinley     101 Glimpses of the North Fork and Islands       The Wampum Exchange

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