I arrived in Syracusa and was picked up by Francesco and taken to my new home for the next week. I start Italian language classes tomorrow. Off to bed, cause I’m tired.
The first day of classes. Not surprisingly – was exhausting – but at the same time exhilarating. I’m in an intermediate class – did not fudge my oral exam enough – but that’s fa bene. I’m being forced to think and remember and to use my language. NO English.
Basilica Santuario Madonna Delle LaCrime. An amazing building made of poured concrete. The interior main church and the crypt below are stunning. Around the corner from my school.
Day 3 of Italian classes or lezione d’italiano. Sono molto stanca (which means tired not stinky). After my 4 hour group class (4 persone) I had my first private lesson. We carried on a conversation for 1 hour. While I’m not fluent and had to have grammar corrections – we communicated ALL in Italian. Sono fiero di me stesso. Now for a brief nap, then some exploring, (not much it is very hot – 31 feels like 38). Ciao amici!
Le gatti attendono il pranzo.
My Italian classes included a cooking lesson at a local woman’s home. All in Italian. La cena a la Casa Amelia. We learned to make una salsa siciliano tipico e carne, pancetta, salsiccia, e polpette. Per dolce crumbled cannoli with sweetened ricotta. Molto bene!
The last part of my walk back to my apartment. In the distance is the Basilica di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro.
After finishing the week in Syracusa, I met Dave at the Catania Airport. There we waited for Sam and Tasha’s flight to arrive from Rome. We picked up our rental car and headed for Randazzo to find our Villa. It took a bit of navigation and finding the manager (at a different location) to take us there. It is beautiful. Five bedrooms, plenty of baths and a crazy kitchen designed around the old mill mechanism. Beautiful pool (not heated) and large property to wander through with some grape vines and olive trees.
The plaques by our front door in Villa Verde, Randazzo.
“Mamma I am always happy to return to you: only for you my thoughts fly… mamma. ”
“This home is open to the sun, our friends or guests: but those whoever do evil stays.” (Away I think)
A thought or two from my daughter Taylor, “After a relaxing morning at the villla, I took a trip into Randazzo. I arrived at 3, when everything was closed. I wandered around the empty streets taking some neat shots of the buildings and relishing the paradox that is Sicily – beautiful, but also disheveled. Magnificent buildings next to buildings in such disrepair you can see through them, some of them still inhabited. Flowers and garbage. The multitude of cultures that have conquered and ruled here have left their mark, and yet at the same time, the people continue to be warm and welcoming. An old man that didn’t speak any English took his painstaking time to tell me in Italian the history of the Palazzo Comunale. I got enough of the story to know I wanted to look up more. As I was getting ready to head home, I saw my dad drive by. I must have looked like a crazy woman sprinting after his car and scaring the bejesus out of him when I knocked on his window. Great way to spend a day!”
Sept 22, 2017
Checking in on September 22. Yesterday was a lovely day. Dave and I went for a 12 k bike ride up Mount Etna. We got up to around 900 meters on the trail. LOOOVE electric bikes. We went back and had breakfast. Dave and Taylor spent most of the morning re-arranging her travel plans. She’ll be staying with us a few extra days!! Yeah!
After this we took Jane and John on an escursione. We drove up the same Mount Etna trail in the car. We stopped at 1100 meters for the view and some pix and then carried on to the end of the trail to 1300 meters. The view of Randazzo and the Alcantra valley from here is amazing.
Our next stop was Roccella Valdemone. We’ve noticed this village high on the other side of the valley. It’s built in front of an enormous boulder (at least 500 feet tall).
We drove through Moio (mojo) Alcantra, a small village in the valley that was preparing for a 5 day religious festival. Lights, rides, bands and food. The valley is incredibly lush, filled with peach trees, some kind of citrus, and vegetables.
After driving up a crazy, narrow windy road we got to Roccella. We drove into town on one way one lane roads and stopped at the piazza for a cafe. Once again the view is amazing. We got amazing pix of Mount Etna. Randazzo was hidden from view by another ridge.
On our back to Randazzo we stopped at a winery, Feudo Vagliasindi, run by two brothers. The estate originally belonged to their great-grandfather, a Baron. During the second world war it was used as a army hospital. The main structure was over 200 years old and the newest part 100 years old. Bought some wine and olive oil, which they produce there.
We decided to go to Arturo’s pastries in Randazzo. It is the best DAMN CONNOLI anywhere! Ten years ago this shop was written up in Food & Wine as the best place to get connoli in Sicily. We brought the magazine to the shop and gave it to the owner Gio ten years ago. He remembered me! This pastry shop has been in his family for 3 generations. On our way out we met up with Taylor who was sight-seeing. Dave took John and Jane back and I stayed with Taylor to buy her a cannoli. She took some amazing photos of Randazzo.
Back to the villa to chill a bit. Sam and Tasha went to dinner in Randazzo at S. Giorgio e il drago, the same restaurant Paula and I went to ten years ago. The rest of us went off to dinner to celebrate John and Jane’s 11th anniversary. We went to Ristorante da Antonio, a beautiful restored wine press (they’re everywhere). We had fantastic meal with about 18 million courses of Sicilian foods. Belissimo!! Ciao for now
Sept 23, 2017
We spent September 22 relaxing by the pool. It was quiet and tranquil.
The next day we decided to go to Racalmuto and Agrigento. The drive for the most part was easy until we hit Caltanissetta. It wasn’t too difficult, just multiple traffic circles and around and around we go.
The first stop, Racalmuto to visit the city where my grandfather lived before moving to Canada. Ten years ago it seemed much smaller and emptier. This year there were more people and children. It seemed less inhospitable. We walked around some of the streets and I know that I have to come back and stay a few days.
Next was Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples. This is one of the largest archiological sites of Greek architecture outside of Greece. We only spent a couple of hours as it was very very hot. We saw the main temples but could not see the extensive gardens filled with ruins.
Well around and around and around and around and around the traffic circles in Caltanissetta. Seriously we could not figure out how to get to the highway. I finally pulled out my phone and used data to find a route.
Woo hoo on our way. Of course we had to try a different way home. It felt like forever driving through the mountains in Bronte at the base of Mount Etna. Our Garmin just doesn’t seem to know where the new highway is (it is updated!).
Quick dinner of homefries, eggs and salad. Then off to bed.
oh wait, first dave and i had to wait for Taylor who went off on her own… you know – moms just worry.
Memorial plaque for Leonardo Sciascia. His home town was Racalmuto. He’s a famous author that writes books on the life of the ordinary people in Sicilia. He was a writer, novelist, essayist, playwright and politician. He was a member of the communist party and fought for the rights of everyone.
“We all love the place where we were born, and we are brought to exalt it, but Racalmuto is really an extraordinary country … I love Racalmuto’s everyday life, which has a somewhat crazy dimension. People are very intelligent; characters in search of author. ”
Sept 25, 2017.
Yesterday the plans were supposed to include a trip to Randazzo to go to the weekly market. The weather did not agree with the plans. We received a deluge of rain, lightning and thunder that knocked out the villa’s power. So we took Jane and John to Taormina instead.
Taormina is one of those strange places that is both incredibly awe inspiring yet totally too touristy. The village is built high on a mountain and you wonder why anyone would do that. It’s impossible to imagine anyone building anything where their asses would hang off into space.
We had a great time, a nice lunch and we visited the teatro Greco. It’s a third century BC amphitheater that they still hold concerts in. Gorgeous.
Back to the villa for a nap and no power (which did come on at 6 pm). Off to dinner at Etna Quota Mille where David Burke and Tricia met us. All back to the villa and to bed after this.
I’m sorry to say we may not have any more photos. Yesterday Dave tripped and broke the camera. The lens will no longer stay attached to the camera body. He’s in Catania hoping to get it fixed.
Sept 29, 2017
Ok, so it’s been a few days…
We’ve been busy between acting as airways transit and visiting all over – there has been no down time to write or post photos.
Dave and Tricia arrived Sunday night, Jane left Monday am, Hannah and Meg arrived Monday am, Taylor left Tuesday am, and Jim and Kristin arrived Tuesday at dinner time. And with all the back and forth between Catania we visited Randazzo, Taormina, Agrigento and Racalmuto.
So to continue from when Dave broke the camera – it’s now fixed. When he drove Jane and John to the airport, he made a quick trip into Catania to a camera shop. It was the lens mount that was broken. He bought a new lens. It’s very nice. We’ll try and have the other fixed at home. Back to the airport to pick up Hannah.
The next day, Taylor left and dropped off Hannah and Meg in Catania before going to the airport. Tricia and I lounged around the pool, Dave Beckett went for a bike ride and Dave Burke WENT FOR A BIKE RIDE. Separate rides. It was also a laundry day. They both eventually came back – both with great stories – beckett and cactus and a donkey, burke on riding through lava fields and visiting caves.
We made a quick dinner for Jim and Kristin’s arrival. Early night because the following day was Cooking Class with Chef Massimo in Taormina.
Awesome class. We first went to the market to plan a menu based on fresh ingredients. We made fresh sicilian pasta, caponata (every region in sicily has their own version – think ratatouille), battered squash flowers, grilled tuma cheese, drunken cauliflower, followed by the primo course, pasta alla Norma, then secondo of baked squid, meatballs in lemon leaves and fish stewed in tomatoes. We didn’t have dinner that night. This took place from 9 am – 3 pm.
Another early night – cause Agrigento and Racalmuto were on the agenda for Jim and Hannah the next day.
And that is what we did…
October 2, 2017
So here it is October 2. I wrote a wonderful travel log yesterday then promptly deleted it. So…
Sept 30 found us checking out of Villa Veda. We (Patti, Dave, David Burke and Tricia) drove up the small road on Mount Etna for one last look at Randazzo. After this we started to Taormina, our next place to stay for a few days.
In Taormina we met up with Stefano who led us to our next villa. The streets in Taormina are narrow and dangerous for cars. Beckett drove the car with all our luggage and the rest of us walked (very close to parking garage).
The villa is beautiful. We went out for lunch at Al Duomo. Dave and I visited this restaurant 10 years ago. It was really good ten years ago, now it’s even better. There was truffle risotto, fried sardines, mullet and great pasta.
That evening we attended the Taormina International Music Fesitval. That evening was two sopranos and their accompanist on the piano. We listened to arias from Puccini, La Boheme, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.
Oct 1 found Dave and I awake early (as usual) and off we went on a hike. We climbed the stairs (around 500 but much higher than Wentworth Street stairs) up the side of Monte Tauro. Along the steps, at intervals, are the Stations of the Cross. A true pilgrimage for Catholics. At the top is the Santuario della Madonna della Rocca. A small chapel dedicated to Mary, built in living rock. It is like you are in a small grotto.
We went a little further up on poorly carved stairs to the Casteltauro, an old Saracen castle. We’re about 400 metres up (1350 ft) from sea level. The views are incredible.
Back down (so much easier) and off to meet Dave and Tricia for a pre-lunch drink and some more wandering in Taormina. A great lunch at a small hidden gem. Very quiet and pretty – Babylonia.
A brief rest at the villa then out for a fantastic dinner at Casa GioLi to celebrate Dave and Tricia’s wedding anniversary. More great pasta, risotto, fish and sparkling.
Ciao for now – check out the pix… the stations of the cross are in a separate album.
Oct 2, 2017
What a great day!!
Dave and Tricia left for Roma today (okay that part was not so great – miss them already – we don’t see each other often enough).
However, Dave and I went to the Finuvia (gondola that takes you to the base of the mountain to the beaches) and decided to check out the beaches here – something we’ve never done before.
At the base we took the first street and set of stairs to the beach. A fortuitous choice. We walked straight to the water at Lido La Pigna. Wish we had brought our swim suits – idiots. The lifeguard (also the guy who rents the beach chairs and umbrellas) kindly asked us what we would like. I noticed the excursion boat just moored off shore and asked if he knew how much it would cost. Twenty-five euros per person for a 45-minute tour and away we went.
Enzo, our fisherman/guide, was great. He pointed out the sights, took us into a couple of grottoes, showed us some incredible private homes and very expensive hotels (both with elevators through the rock to their own beaches – about 10 stories) and some bankrupt projects as well. We had a great view of Taormina from the water, as well as Giardini Naxos and some of the sights we visited in Taormina (Santuario della Madonna della Rocca, Saracen castle Casteltauro and the public gardens). We could also see Calabria in the distance – about 30 K away. I got to practice my Italian as well.
While we were touring around, Enzo fished. He caught two ricciola (amberjack). I was very jealous of the lunch he was about to have. Towards the end of our tour we could see some very dark clouds and rain coming. Enzo thought it would be about 30 minutes before it made it to the shore (he was right). I asked Enzo where the best place was to get grilled fresh fish – what a surprize it was Lido La Pigna Ristorante.
We came ashore and went to the ristorante. Enzo was not wrong!! I went with the waiter to see what was fresh caught that day on their display table. I explained we wanted grilled fish, simple, no sauces and a salad. He suggested the dorado. IT WAS FANTASTIC. The best lunch we’ve had for some time. Very simple, very tasty and heavenly.
Thank you Enzo.
After lunch we took the Finuvia back up to Taormina centro, wandered the streets a little, bought me some new sunglasses and finally back to our villa. We had plans to go out to dinner, but decided a hot tub, wine and some cheese and salami would do us fine.
Ciao till later…
October 4, 2017
So here we go…
Yesterday we started our drive to Milazzo where we would catch our ferry to Isola di Vulcano. On our way we went a little further to check out the Citta da Patti – yup same name as me. Check out the photos Nikola Wojewoda-Patti and show Brian.
Back to Milazzo where we tried to figure out where to catch the Siremar ferry to Vulcano. Seemed crazy and impossible – so we did the next best thing – had lunch. After a great bowl of spaghetti alla vongole, we wandered around. Found the ticket office, got directions and found a gift for Daniel Randazzo and Paul Mason.
Killed an hour driving up to Faro di Capo Milazzo, the highest, northern point where there is a santuario to S Andrea and a lighthouse. Drove back towards the port and stopped to look at the Castelo di Milazzo.
Got to the port, waited in line, backed our car on the ship, and enjoyed a 1 1/2 hour ride to Vulcano.
Once docked in Vulcano, we used our gps and found our resort with only one miss-turn in the crazy dark night. Therasia Resort is wonderful. We were greeted by the porter who took our bags, as we walked in front reception sat us in the lounge, got us drinks and prepared all the paperwork while we relaxed. They upgraded our room!! We have a private jacuzzi, reading area and sun chairs on a multi-level deck. E il paradiso! After a light dinner (grilled seabream for patti and 1 pound of butter risotto with shrimp for dave) we went to bed (and of course a hot tub).
The next morning Dave woke early, took some photos of the sunrise and volcanoes in our area (we’re on Vulcano, then there’s Stromboli, Panarea, Lipari, Silana, Filicudi and Alicudi all separate Eolie Islands.
After breakfast we went to Salita al Cretere, a reasonable (???) climb up to the crater of Vulcano. There was a moment when I thought WTF!!! I can’t do this. There was a spot near the top that was narrow and one side was a VERY STEEP drop. I can appreciate Taylor Beckett and Sam Armstrong‘s concerns with height and vertigo. Dave told me it widened just beyond… I scrambled up like spiderman (the language in my head…). It was wider and still way further to go UP. I built an inukshuk and carried on.
We got to the rim. Amazing. However there was further to go – you could walk all around the rim (many meters higher). I opted out and Dave went on (good thing I stayed – there was a moment at the top that Dave froze because it was so high and narrow). He walked through the sulphur fumes and got some amazing shots.
We’re now back at the resort and after a jacuzzi for our muscles, are now sitting at the pool. I’m sipping a mojito (I know not Italian) and Dave is reading.
ciao till later…
Oct 6, 2017
We finished yesterday with a quiet time watching the sun set. Dave got some beautiful shots from different points around the resort. He also got some interesting photos of the gardens around the pool. Some of the pictures remind me of Aliens with all the egg pods about to hatch. I took some pix of our deck, hot tub and Dave working.
The next morning we decided to drive to Gelso. We also got a great shot of the rim Dave walked from the opposite side. Those teeny-tiny dots are people. It was a fun, crazy, windy drive and the road just ended in Gelso, at the water. We parked the car and walked to the Chapel of the Madonna and the old lighthouse. The chapel was very beautiful and well maintained considering I think they only have a few homes in the area. This place could give Khartoum, Ontario a run for lowest population.
We had a fantastic dinner, for the second time, at Il Cappero – a Michelin restaurant on the resort. We had the “Le 8 Sorelle del Vento” tasting menu. Really good. The staff amazing and afterwards they gave us the menu with the Chef and Sous-chef signatures.
The next morning we were off to the Liberty Ferry to go to Lipari. We wandered the streets, went to the huge Citadel (castle in the centre) on a pretty high hike up. There were 3-4 churches inside, 5-7 museums, gardens, and a Greek style amphitheatre.
The Cathedral of St. Bartholomew is beautiful. There is a Norman cloister attached to it that they only discovered in 1978. They excavated and maintained. The museums describe the history of the Aeolian Islands from Neolithic times till now, plus dedicated museum to volcano study and fantastic pottery remnants from Neolithic to 100 BC or so. A great day, walking and visiting.
Ciao – we have to pack now for the last couple of days of our holidays.
Oct 8, 2017
Sicily, Ortigia, October 7 and 8. Probably the last post till we get home…
Saturday morning found us up early, packed and ready to go. A leisurely breakfast at Therasia, then off to the port to pick up our ferry tickets and get going by 10:45.
Alas, it was not to be. Due to high winds, we were informed the ferry may not dock. We were told to line up just in case. Five minutes to eleven, the dock workers informed us the ferry could not dock (even tho’ one did, not just 15 minutes earlier. The captain was afraid…?
Off to the ticket agent who changed our tickets for the 4 pm ferry. I had checked the weather and it was only going to get windier. Whatever.
Now we had to kill 4 and half hours in a village that we already walked through and walked through and pretty much explored (it was only two major streets). Coffee at the Geco Bar. Walk some more. Spritz at the port bar, some cards and walk some more. Back to the Geco Bar for lunch. It’s now close to 4. We line up our car at the ferry.
Hurray- it’s the same boat that docked earlier. Spit spot on we got. The one and half ferry ride took one hour and 5 minutes. Someone was in a hurry.
Got out at Milazzo, got on the highway and 2.4 hours later we’re in Ortigia. The inn we are at is off the main drag, up two different alleys. Did I mention that cars are forbidden in Ortigia after 4 pm. It’s now 8 pm and I’m sure were going to get one of those mystery tickets in the mail 4 months from now. We checked in, lovely place, went out about two blocks down the street and had a small dinner (by Italian definition) and back to bed.
The next morning, after a great breakfast, we started wandering Ortigia. We walked the whole circumference by the end of the day and in between we visited the Duomo, the Siricusa Cathedral, built on a 5th century BC temple to Athena. The columns of the temple are incorporated into the church. We visited the Piazza in front of the Duomo, and the Leonardo di Vinci and Archimedes science museum, really fascinating. All their inventions were built and you could play with them. Then the church with the beautiful Caravaggio painting of the Death of Saint Theresa. Lots of shops, squares, beautiful buildings and homes and just generally walked for six hours. We did stop for a nice lunch on some side street (lots of ‘em) and then wandered back for a nap at our room and now we’ll wander some more. Ciao.