Noto – crowding infiorata

Funny how I end up in places I had decided to skip…

Not because I thought the place inferior, but due to some time-constraint or some transport problem…

However, Noto was on my list (& then off it) because of the infiorata…

The city, like other places, have a flower festival & decorate a street with pictures composed of thousands & thousands of flower petals…

Beautiful!!

I also said…& realised this is not necessarily a secret…which means the whole of the available Sicily is there…

Which meant No to went off my list…

& them, when I realised I had no specific plans for today, it was the only city of the baroque heritage villages that had transport to it…& back to Siracusa…

& had completely forgotten that this weekend was infiorata!

It was as busy & chaotic as in my thoughts…even more so…a 2nd hand goods market & a goods market taking place at the same time…

Crowds moving in waves up & down the old city centre…

Overwhelming…

A block away from the flowered street, lines of people waiting to see it…

I could not…

I went to the opposite church to see from the roof, but realised I had the wrong lens, so did not bother going up…

I continued down the street until I had out-walked the crowds…

Breathed & plowed back in…as I got closer, I saw that there were people on top of the Banca Siciliana building next to the street…

& that is how I experienced a small portion of the infiorata…

On top of Banca Siciliana…a few photos…some complete & some only partial…others only far-off…

But, as much as I could handle…

The rest of the time waiting for the bus was on a bench & in the 2nd goods market…not nearly as crowded as the streets of old Noto…

#enoughcrowdstolastalifetime

Cooking in Siracusa

Today, I had a cooking class with Alessia from http://www.smileandfood.com

But calling it only a cooking class would be doing Alessia & the whole experience an injustice…

We started in the market…

Alessia grew up in the old market as her father was a fish monger…& it is easy to see that she knows & is known in the market…

Our passage is slow as she catches up with this one & that one…friendly banter is exchanged & the same story shared with different people

We taste different meats & cheese at a famous salumerie, Fratelli Burgio 

& get educated about the different types of tomatoes at one of the stalls…

This one is better for sauce, this one is too dry & the flavour is deeper…

As we are people with different tastes, there is a moment of indecision on what we are to cook…I don’t do fish & one of the other people does not eat meat…but after some debate, we style on stuffed squid…

Which the fish monger cleans for us while we taste biscuits & sweets…

Then, we set off to Alessia’s home from home, a flat she rents in town for her cooking classes…she lives with her family on a farm…which means all the vegetables we cook with are fresh & organic…

We learn about the delicate balance of flavours in Sicilian cooking, in the vegetables we make as well as the stuffing of the squid…

We learn to make a Sicilian pasta from organic wheat & water of a dry dough as well as a medium dough…with the wet dough, we make a flat bread that we baptise in olive oil & origano

Although we have been tasting food, since we started this morning, we still manage to eat the pasta, with a fresh tomatoes sauce from the farm & grated, dry ricotta & the stuffed squid with vegetables…

Siracusa…

It seems that patience is my thing at the moment…

First waiting for the bus to go to the Parco della Neopolis…

At the park, waiting, yes, patiently, for people to move so I can take pictures…

Then, again, the bus, after having expensive, freshly squeezed orange juice so that I have change for the machine on the bus…

Patience while I navigated the markets, full of gaping tourists…

Patience when I heard that I have to find new accommodation for Monday…due to the G7 summit next weekend, Taormia & the surrounding villages are off-limits from Monday..so, not only no Taormina, also no Castelmola…

Patience while I searched for a new place…although many places sound nice, I have to consider that I need to leave that place & get to Milazzo on time for the ferry to Stromboli…

Patience while I waited for the B&B to respond…which they did positively…& will fetch me at the train station on the coast 4km away…

& then, finally patience as I waited for the sun to set…standing in the strong wind blowing over the sea for more than an hour…

But, despite patience, it was a good day!

I really enjoyed the Parco – in the Ear of Donisius, a French group sang Frere Jacques, a young tourist collected my camera lens inside the catacomb when I was trying to change lenses…

I loved watching the interaction between people where I waited for the sunset…

Families with young, mischievous children, young lovers embracing with fervour, & just about everybody taking a picture or selfie with the fort behind them…

The fort in everyone’s picture

& I enjoyed my interaction in the shop with the butcher that cut my very yummy salami for my sandwich tonight…

All in all, a lovely day!

Travelling between places

Today was one of patience…for most of the day…

I missed the first bus to Catania airport…the ext one was two hours away…

So, I waited…on an iron bench under thee shade of a palm tree…

I wrote, checked Facebook & waited…

The last hour I spent being adopted by an old lady named Lina…she fed me sweets & spoke to me in Italian…loudly…

I loved it…I stowed her suitcase, she made up stories about me to her friend & kept a place for me on the bus…

We parted at the airport after I collected her & her friend’s bags…

Just missed the bus to Siracusa because their was two crazy ladies in front of me…

You cannot blame the Italians for getting frustrated with their tourists if this is what they had to deal with…

So, I waited the 35 minutes for the next one…& on the bus met two Australian ladies & a couple from the States…

I accompanied the latter on a walk to Ortigia where all of our accommodation is situated…

Spent some frustrated minutes trying to find my accommodation, but in the end, it was easy…there was a brown tourist sign to tell me where to go…

I was swept in & up to my room, leaving me almost breathless, I recovered in my room with a bowl of cherries…

When I went down after an hour, my hosts made me welcome & explained everything to me…

They are a lovely couple, older, the younger of the two the practical one & the older one, the romantic…

I spent the rest of the afternoon falling in love with Ortigia…

Because it is contained on all sides by the sea…it is old…narrow lanes with old buildings, yet wide open piazzas & elaborate architecture…just the way I love my Italian villages…

Sometimes life surprises…

Today was one of those that ended up being quite different than I would have imagined…

If I have a plan, I should stick to it…

But I always listen to others…& end up in the strangest predicaments…however, some times, like today, life surprises…

In my research, I had decided to go to Villa Romana del Casale early, before the hoards come…

Two things pole axed that…

1) My landlady that wanted me to eat breakfast later

2) Eric & Dominique told me that the Villa was very quiet after 16:00

So, I spent my morning walking up & down the old village of Piazza Armerina using my camera a lot…

After a nice siesta, I decided to walk down to the Villa…about 6 km’s away…

It was over an hour & here & there I was not quite sure of the route…but it was a good walk…places where the perfume of wildflowers surrounded me…beautiful scenery & the threat of rain…just a few drops fell…

I was almost there, another 15 minutes walk…a man on a vespa came from in front…I smiled as he passed…

A minute later, he came back…

& surprised me!

He works in the bookshop at the Villa, he not only offered me a lift, but arranged free entry into the Villa for me…

The cynic in me wandered what he wanted, but when I came out later, he asked if I was done & found out that I had missed the last bus back to town…

So, I smiled & started walking…

I had walked some minutes talking to God…in tears…not moaning or complaining, just disappointed that I had to walk that distance again…

& then it started to rain lightly…

A few cars passed me on my walk…& then one stopped…

My second surprise for the afternoon…

A black Mercedes…he beckoned to me to get in…

I asked if he was going to Piazza Armerina & he said yes, he saw me when I was walking down from there…I had recognized him as a guide at the Villa…

& then it started to rain in earnest!

He dropped me, not five minutes from where I stay, just as the rain lessened & even stopped…

I know one could say I was lucky…

But, I know that I serve a good, good Father that arranged these things for me…

& I will remember today as the one where I was surprised…

Traversing cultures

Edit‚ÄčTravelling is certainly not all about the new places we see…although that is a big part of it…

This morning, Eric & Dominique, a retired French couple, Manlio, our Italian host & I discussed many things around the breakfast table, from having children to God & everything in between…

Itwas a lively discussion, full of humour & opinions & it brought us all close together for almost an hour…three different countries, three different upbringings & four opinions…it was invigorating!

Then there was Maurizio, who was determined to make my internet work at Vodafone… more than an hour later, he did a triumphant fist pump…I just wanted to cancel it…

It did prove very useful though as I could use it later in the day…as a hotspot to make my whatsapp work…

Yesterday, on the bus to Monreale, I also met interesting people from Canada & France today, briefly met an Englishmen alsogetting off the bus at Piazza Armerina…

I have helped Americans in Trapani & Erice & at Segesta there were a group of Dutch people…

Tonight, my hostess, Rita proved to be very interesting too…

Yes, travelling is more than gaping at old things & imagining what things were like in previous centuries…

It is also about being alive & touching people, today, in some small way…

(Photos: breakfast view & entrance to the B&B)

Highs…and low…or East & West

There is so much to say…that words leave me empty…or maybe there are so many that I cannot grasp the right ones to express my thoughts…

So, I will work backwards in the hope that by sneaking in that way, I can let out what is suspended in time…

I went to the Bazatine duomo of Cefalu this afternoon… About 50 minutes there in the train to Messina & back was about 42 minutes…

Although all the guidebooks lauded the praises of Cefalu & its duomo, it never fitted into my plans & I never considered going there…but yesterday, Manlio, my host at B&B Via delle biciclette, suggested I go there as Palermo is very quiet on a Sunday afternoon…he made me realise it is much closer than previously thought…it did not happen yesterday, but this afternoon was open…

The duomo disappointed from a mosaic point of view as the central figures are all covered due to restoration or cleaning or something…

But the outside of the duomo is still striking & I fell slightly in love with Cefalu…in spite of the crowded streets of tourists…

It has character & I feel the guidebooks are right, it deserves more time…hopefully if I ever get to go again, I will have time & energy to climb up the Rocca, but I had only given myself 2 hours in town due to the train schedules & leaving it so late, that I did not attempt this feat…but, something to come back for…

This morning, I went to Monreale…

O.my.word.

I was stunned… the Palatine chapel yesterday did not prepare me for it…

It is a trip outside of town & I wondered about the fuss…

The bus trip there was fun, met people from France & Canada…saw a woman completely freak out, shouting to a companion…

& a crazily sweet bus driver…

It helps if you know the Bible…Adam & Eve in the garden, being tempted by the snake, covering themselves, chased from the garden…Rebecca found with the camel, etc., etc.

Each story depicted in tiny mosaics on the inner wall…I realised it was futile to try & take a picture of everyone… 

The outerwall inside the church dedicated to the miracles of Jesus, one after the other…

The front of the church has a dome of Jesus with outstretched hands…apparently His head in the picture is 10 feet in diameter…to give you an idea of the size of the place…

& my hate affair with height which I insist on challenging when I have the opportunity, almost overwhelmed me in quite a different way to the mosaics…

I don’t think the stairs up on the roof of the cathedral were safe! So I sat on the top one…

Definitely a highlight day (pun intended?)