Seats eight

Erice funavia pod

We avoided switchbacks, and their alter egos—tunnels, and took the funavia to historic hilltop Érice, which the Greeks called Eryx.

We saw churches (there are, I read, sixty of them), castles (or at least crenellations), lots of alley-streets, a few dogs and cats, some tourists (but it could have been worse), balconies, gated courtyards, and a few piazzas and salitas (“little rooms,” or openings smaller than a piazza).

When a cloud settled atop the city, we ducked into a Caffé for coffee and a sandwich, emerging when we felt the temps warm a bit.

One souvenir store we ducked into had a small shelf of Kodak 35mm print film above the cash register; I wondered what the expiration dates were on the boxes.

Selinunte ruin swallows photographer tourists

We did the ruins thing again today (and they were Spec Tac You Larrh!!!), but we did more….

We wandered old-town Marsala. We saw streets of marble (I think), and narrow alleys headed not-sure-where. We saw monumental churches, with the big one decorated ready for a wedding, with a red carpet from the street directly to the center aisle, and two kneeling cushions ready on the altar. We enjoyed our bonus of the practicing organist, off to the right near the front/altar.

Ya gotta love civic-ceremonial architecture!

And so, in the photo, I give you two photographers and one well-covered archaeologist amongst Selinunte’s fallen stones. This temple was never finished—they got the columns up—F on the right is standing in front of one—but they didn’t get them fluted. I think this was going to be the near-largest temple in Greek times…and built in Sicily—so maybe we skew our concept of those ancient people’s world just by using the word “Greek” in ways that make it more difficult to understand that world.

Time overlays


A new sculpture.

The ruins of an old civic-ceremonial building.

And, believe it or not, couples still come here on their wedding day, hoping to ensure a happy marriage.

So, it’s still an active ritual center, this temple-ruin in ancient Agrigento.

Herding in this century


The driver carefully urged these woolies down the road, then honked and moved left, and they went through the fence into a field, like a dirty-white living waterfall. Then he drove up a few more car lengths and left the van with a crook in his hand.

I wondered if he had an iPod in his pocket that I couldn’t see.

After all, the nice retiree from Columbus Oh Aitch that we met in Ragusa Ibla yesterday was listening to his nano before we started chatting—he’s been living in RI since retiring from the military fifteen years ago.

Figure out your “B”s


B&Bs have a range of what they consider the second B. This one offers a basket of what you might want, with milk in the fridge. This is a good thing, because the office is something like 2.5 kms away. This is pretty much as out in the boonies as you can get along this section of the Sicilian coast—or across much of Europe!

Almost full moon, very little in the way of light pollution, the background boom of breakers on the beach—life is good!

Trip secret, revealed

Cappuchino hotel colle acre mmmm

Morning one, in Pompei, I became a coffee drinker again. Especially with latte caldo—hot milk.

Noto, briefly noted

Noto balcony in angle light

I wanted to show you that we haven’t been spending all our time in rural areas (yes, still human-managed landscapes in this long-occupied region), but that we also spent time with still-occupied connurbations, or specimens from the built environment.

This balcony in Noto (known for its distinctive Sicilian Baroque architecture), is on a residential building between, I think, the city’s two major churches, although I well may be wrong.

Noto was destroyed or at least ruined greatly by the 1693 quake, and residents rebuilt the city downslope a bit, using this distinctive stone from just uphill (or are we seeing stucco over stone? I am still not sure). And the faded green of the shutters…wow!

Still, see? We can do urban!

Pantalica gorge RR hiking trail limestone walls

We hiked down into this limestone gorge of the Anapo River, and walked this old RR grade up and down, including going through the old RR tunnels (very cool—really!). The walls of the gorge are pocked with burial chambers dating back to the Late Bronze Age, we’re told. The archaeo-zone is called Pantalica (and here in WikiPee). We we through the town of Ferla both going and coming, and my impression is it’s in gentile decline—buildings still maintained, or not junked, but a lot of emptiness—or is it because it’s Sunday?

We saw several Italian families picnicking in the gorge, with kids and more enjoying the water (despite the many no-bathing signs). We encountered several groups of German tourists, and some groups of young (probably local) guys, and one troup of scouts (both male and female), but I didn’t notice any other Americans.

Hiking this gorge made us happy we skipped the more famous Gole L’Alcantara over near Taormina (too touristy).

What is original?

Siracusa archaeo zone Orecchio di Dionisio slave cave

We escaped Taormina (not chased by a bull—which may well have been the auroch in ancient times, and not our cattle), descending to the north along the main route into town (we had entered from the south, which turned out to be effectively the back way these days).

We expended what we discovered to be our meager energy given the heat tromping the reflective white limestone ruins of the civic-ceremonial architecture at Siracusa—a Greek theater, a Roman amphitheater, and a couple of other nifty places they still let you visit (most of the zone was walled off, sigh). For me, the highlight was this person-made cave (following a natural crack? I can only speculate) in the wall of the huge quarry from which the ancients (more particularly, their slaves) removed the building stones for the city. The echo is legendary because it only has a single reverb. Unfortunately, we visited this huge cavern with two (noisy) tour groups. One of the guides serenaded all of us with an a capella piece that John ID’d as from Battlestar Galactica. (I believed him, although he says it was a similar tune, but not the same.)

This view is looking out of the cave from around the bend—so striking. Legend has it that the leader Dionysius incarcerated his enemies here and could overhear their planning from afar due to the special qualities of sound transmission in this dramatic space, now called Orecchio di Dionisio.

We are now up in the limestone Hyblaean mountains in the new part of the ancient city of Palazzolo Acreide (which controlled cross-island trade routes), trying out small town life (sorta). We are staying in a nearly new hotel/winery/restaurant. We had the chef’s tasting menu for dinner and it was spectacular, about ten antipastis, including a zucchini flan that was superb, a pasta course with a mint-basil pesto over delicate cheese ravioli over a roasted red tomato sauce, two meats for the secondi, and one strawberry panna cotta with four spoons because we were so full. The Colle Acre’s own Nero ’Avila was outstanding..

Me, my tongue, and I—all so happy!

Heights and more heights

Taormina from maria rocca with trail

This is Taormina (think of this line intoned by a deep, male, narrator-voice).

First thing after breakfast we visited the city’s Teatro Greco.* That’s it on the top of the hill in the rear. It’s big, and it’s still used for events. We watched workmen installing decking for stage access, the stage, risers, etc., in preparation for an event. Santana is playing on the 22nd, so it may be for that.

Then we headed uphill toward Castelmola. We didn’t go all the way, and instead detoured intending to visit a Saracen castle. At the turn from the road up to the castle, we encountered a mother-daughter from Louisiana coming down who told us that the castle wasn’t open. Bummer. So we headed over to a church, which was also closed, next to an overlook of the city (paste 37.85380,15.28401 into Google Maps to know where I was standing to take this; note that the autostrada you see on the map goes through a tunnel and is nowhere near the place I was standing).

After coming up the road (and dodging vehicular traffic), we opted to go down via the walkway that’s in the vegetation in the foreground of this shot. We saw plenty of flowers, and the steps were spaced out, so our knees were not unhappy.

We discovered that these steps came out just above the alley-steps that lead down to our hotel. Cool!

Back in our hotel room, we found the wifi recalcitrant, but John finally got both our devices online. Then, we talked via iPad with friends in Texas, and Nancy in Michigan (we’ve already talked to various family members). Fun! (Connection wasn’t so hot, maybe because…we’re in Italy.)

* You have no sense of the community this civic-ceremonial space fit into; there’s just the theater with a small temple that long ago was converted into a chapel/church, and that I skipped. And we could not figure out, other than some columns and arch-topped passage ways, what was very old, what was kinda old, and what was pure reconstruction. Most seemed to be the latter, however. I found it ironic that the stage-preparation building materials were all temporary and created surfaces above the archaeological ones—at least as presented (although the WikiP entry characterizes the theater as remarkably well preserved).