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Nywoman an older single traveler goes to Sicily and Piedmont

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Jan 10th, 2019, 07:53 AM
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Nywoman an older single traveler goes to Sicily and Piedmont

Time for another adventure will spend 9 days traveling in Sicily and then go to Montforte d’Alba in Piedmont for Christmas. My daughter moved there a month ago and it seemed a good opportunity to visit Italy and her.

Arrived yesterday afternoon in Siracusa, after a very long journey or so it seemed. Changed planes in Milano and flew into Catania, from there I took a bus to Siracusa. Am staying in lovely BnB Five Rooms in Ortigia the old part of the city. Had planned my arrival to coincide with the celebration of Santa Lucia the patron saint of Syracuse. Arrived just in time to see the start of the procession at Piazza del Duomo which is right around the corner from where I am staying.

Have no idea how Lucia traveled from here to Sweden nor how it became the tradition that it is.
The Piazza was full of people and in the middle was the silver statue of the saint surrounded by men in green skullcaps, the bearers. I read somewhere that it requires 60 men to lift and carry her. The statue is made of solid silver as well as the base. Behind there was a small brass band several of the members had emblems on their jackets indicating different countries they had visited, including Sweden. In 8 days when the saint is returned to the Duomo she will be accompanied by Sweden’s Miss Lucia 2018. Ahead of the procession were women wearing green vests carrying a relic box

On one of the balconies overlooking the Piazza was a Cardinal who read a long speech about the significance of the Saint and many more things which I did not understand. Have discovered that my Italian is pretty poor, Spanish seems to have taken over. Well, I will muddle through, I usually do.
The history is amazing the Greeks settled here in 733 BC and ”found the natives friendly” am off to the archeological museum after I have admired the Caravaggio of Santa Lucia.

Have now learned how Lucia came to Sweden. It was the monks who brought the story with them when Sweden was a Catholic country. I went into the Duomo and saw the chapel where she is normally kept. Also learnt that the relic in the glass case is one of her arms. The Caravaggio painting of her being prepared for burial is amazing and rightly famous. What I didn’t know was that he was only 39 years old when he died.
Ortigia is the old part of Siracusa, where I stayed at Piazza Archimedes, named after the scientist who was born here, in B&B Five Rooms. It was certainly very conveniently located with a nice breakfast included, right around the corner from Piazza Duomo.

Have on an average managed to walk 4-6 miles a day without too many complaints. In Siracusa, I managed close to 7 miles by walking across the bridge and to the archeological museum. It is just behind the church of the Madonna Lacrime which is a large cone-shaped structure and easy to see from a distance. That was my guide point. The church was built after a picture of the Madonna started to shed tears for several days.

The museum is very impressive and managed to make me feel quite insignificant when I saw and read the history of Sicily. The population goes back to the early Bronze ages 3000 BC followed by all the different civilizations and populations. The Greeks settled here 8 BC and have left a large legacy. After the museum, I walked to the Greek theatre and sat down on one of the seats. There are performances here during the summer. This experience was as powerful as when I saw the Roman Amphitheatre in Ephesus. Unfortunately, the Roman theatre here was in very bad disrepair.

Was ready to catch the minibus back to Ortigia for a rest and a nap. Ended the day by having dinner with 3 lovely men from Milano who were here for work. I ordered a pasta dish which was supposedly typical of Siracusa, but not very memorable. The evening was delightful and I felt it boded well for the rest of my time in Sicily.


The next morning it was time to go see the market. Ortigia is a very small island very easily circumnavigated. Though I got lost, I soon knew I was close by the odors that wafted along the street. I have a penchant for markets, I love the energy of the vendors the merchandise laid out for all to see and the vegetables carefully arranged. This market was no different and actually in many ways surpassed my expectations. Am not sure if I have ever seen such fresh seafood, the fish glistened and the shrimp seemed to be moving. I bought some spices and wished as I often do that I had a kitchen to cook in and a group to cook for.

I continued my walk and eventually hit the puppet theater that I had hoped to attend a performance at. Was informed that yes there was a performance that afternoon but it was for a private tourist group and no I could not attend. I asked if it was possible to ask the tour leader. Well, to make a long story short I did return and waited for the tour guide to arrive. As it turned out it wasn’t a tourist group, but customers and their children of an electric company and there was no problem for me to join them. The children were quite young but they seemed to enjoy the show. Though I couldn’t understand the dialogue it wasn’t difficult to follow the story. The good knight slew the dragon and the giant and won the hand of the fair maiden and the land was safe once again.

As I continued my wanderings, it was dark by now it gets dark by 5 pm I walked by a large parking lot by the water which was filled with vintage cars. It was the annual get together of the owners of these beautifully restored cars which was followed by a dinner. They left and I continued on my merry way and returned to the restaurant where I had been the night before. The owner who was a woman in her 60’s joined me and we had a really nice time. She had recently opened a second place which her daughter and son ran. The name of her restaurant was Taverna and the second one Tavernina.

Next morning it was time to leave for Catania caught the mini bus to take me to the bus stop in Siracusa. Don’t believe anybody in Sicily who says it just up there. It isn’t, it may be straight ahead but it is NOT just up there. Finally made it, and met a French woman who traveled with a SMALL backpack for her one week trip, that is going to be me in my next life.

Last edited by Nywoman; Jan 10th, 2019 at 08:17 AM. Reason: no paragraphs
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Jan 10th, 2019, 08:54 AM
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Nywoman, enjoying your easy writing style and revisiting Sicily through your eyes. Looking forward to more.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 09:58 AM
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Looking forward to Sicily, which has always been on our to-do list. Great start.

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Jan 10th, 2019, 10:06 AM
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Catania
The wonderful part of traveling for me at least is not necessarily the sights but the experiences of my encounters. I had been given the impression that Catania would be a pit stop. Yet my brief visit was a total delight. It started with my arrival at the bus stop where I was approached by an illegal taxi driver.

Yes I accepted his offer since I had not seen a legal cab for the last 20 minutes. What a stroke of luck, we spoke French because I could not understand his Italian. He took me on a complete sightseeing tour including the castle and Roman forum . He kept on stopping and asking if I wanted to take pictures, he was probably harmless but I didn’t dare risking him driving off with belongings while I took photos.
Eventually we arrived at Ostello degli Elefanti which was located in an old palazzo that included ceiling frescoes and a marble staircase. The Location could not be more perfect right in the middle of all the sights by Piazza del Duomo.

Much to my regret I really had not allocated any time to spend in Catania it is now on my must return to list.
My arrival coincided with the annual charity Christmas motor bike run. Imagine hundreds Santa Claus clad bikers with white beards attached to their helmets all congregated in the square below my balcony.The rooftop bar above my hostel became my next stop, after all the staircase was just outside my room. It is a very crowded and popular bar. Three young men sat down next to me and as it turns out one of them has a company representing foods and wines of Sicily. He attends the Fancy Food show every year and hopefully I 'll see him next June in New York.

The restaurant that I was supposed to have dinner at was closed but I walked by a place that seemed nice. It was vey obviously a family type place with many families and their children. I ordered the swordfish though thinly sliced was very juicy and absolutely delicious. Then it was time for bed.The famous fish market was right across the Piazza what a fantastic wonderful mouthwatering experience. The reddest shrimp I have ever seen, oysters the size of a small fist. Of course I bought a few that the fishmonger happily opened. Then there were the vegetables deep green broccoli, dark purple cauliflower what appeared to be heirloom tomatoes and artichokes what a feast for the eyes. Then came the meats, a butcher was cutting up a cow that was hanging from a hook. If I had a yen for lung it was available as well. Freshly charred peppers and stuffed artichokes on the grill, unfortunately none of it ready for consumption Which in turn made for a great conversation with the woman who had the stall next door. After I basically got her life story she gave me a big parting hug. Everybody needs a hug in the morning.
I was really sad to leave for Ragusa.

.

Last edited by Nywoman; Jan 10th, 2019 at 10:09 AM.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 01:00 PM
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Great start.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 02:08 PM
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I enjoyed Catania as well. Looking forward to more.
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Jan 11th, 2019, 01:59 PM
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Though we stayed in Ortigia for a few days, and loved it, we never made it to Catania, so thanks for your enthusiasm.

Wonderful story about th taxi driver too!

please keep this lovely TR coming.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 02:50 AM
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I'm always in awe of solo travellers, and Sicily sounds wonderful....so am definitely joining you on this trip.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 06:28 AM
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This is a wonderful report, thank you....and keep it coming! Love to hear the stories about the cabbie and lady in the stall net to butcher....those are the most memorable experiences!
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Jan 12th, 2019, 08:46 AM
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Ragusa
Was off again this time to Ragusa which is part of the baroque triangle, the others being Nota and Siracusa. Ragusa is divided into two parts, the new town rebuilt after an earthquake and Ragusa Ibla the old town made famous by the TV series Inspector Montalban.

This time I had decided to stay at San Vito hostel, which on the map looked very well situated. Those who know me well, know that I really prefer to stay in hostels, single room en suite, or Bed and Breakfast places. You meet so many people this way, or at least I do.
The hostel was easily reached by a local bus which I took. On the bus there was an elderly gentleman who thought I was someone that he might like to know better. On previous visits to Italy I had, had several similar encounters, so now I wear what could be mistaken for a wedding band. Sure enough he sat next to me put his arm around me and proceeded to tell me his wife had died last year. Well my fictional husband was waiting for me and that was the end of that. I squiggled out of the close contact and got off the bus at my stop.

Oh dear, this was in the middle of nowhere or rather in between the two towns. My room was lovely, very nicely designed and under other circumstances I would have loved it.
My reservation at the Michelin 2 ** restaurant Duomo was not until 7.30 when they opened, it was also to be one of my splurges. There were many hours to kill between now and then, If I didn’t want to take the bus walking was the next alternative, off I went. Descending one staircase after the next until I got to Piazza Duomo. The church was bathed in a blue light with snowflakes superimposed. Actually a large part of the square had snow scenes on the facades. It was cold it was dark and almost everything was closed. I never got to see the old town but I had one of the most expensive cups of tea I had ever had at I Bianchi. Which unbeknownst to me was Ciccio Sultano’s other restaurant apart from Duomo. Beautiful place could just as easily have been in Dumbo New York City, but 6 Euros for tea when coffee cost 1 Euro!!!

It was too dark to try to explore. Finally, it was time for my dinner. It turns out I was the only guest until a young couple who were there for the truffle pasta came.
Was the food good? Yes ,the presentation too precious for my taste but the service was lovely, the wines terrific and I didn’t think it was too outrageous I paid 150 Euros for a tasting menu consisting of 6 or 7 courses plus 10 wines. I have to confess I have a terrible food memory and don’t really care for tasting menus. It’s a good job that I have not had to support myself as a food critic. The black pork was outstanding and the truffle icecream a novelty. Took a taxi back and checked out early in order to catch the first bus to Agrigento the city with Greek Temples and ruins.

Agrigento
Had booked Colleverde Park Hotel, a nice hotel, which is within walking distance of La Valle dei Templi which was my reason for going to Agrigento. The Valley of Temples is a most impressive site, it is not in a valley but on a ridge. The temples and ruins date to 5BC. Some of them are in remarkably good condition and then there are heaps and heaps of stones. I do admire archeologists who spend hours upon hours fitting together shards of ceramics or boulders from long ago buildings or statues. I have now promised myself to go to the Met and study Greek history. Seeing all that I have seen so far makes me feel woefully ignorant, of course, the memory is not all that it should be either.

As I wandered around there were several dogs lying about in clover they were almost hidden amongst the leaves. I don’t think I have ever seen a field of clover, it grows quite high and is very dense and soft. It made me think of the tawdry novels I may have read, how the couple fell into the field of clover etc. etc. The dogs were sweet and made for nice companions on this sunny day as I had the site mainly to myself. There were also almost extinct goats, Capra girgentana, the old name for Agrigento, with horns like corkscrews. Apparently, the milk is extremely nutritious but there are so few goats left, that my chances of getting to taste it are minute. Took the local bus back to the hotel and had a simple dinner there since I was tired, but not before I had made a visit to the very nearby supermarket to see if I could find some local specialties. There were fairly slim pickings but I did find a Christmas stocking with Smarties for my daughter who as a child loved them.

Last edited by Nywoman; Jan 12th, 2019 at 08:50 AM. Reason: paragraphs
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Jan 12th, 2019, 09:10 AM
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Piazza Armerina and Villa Romana del Casale

The bus for Piazza Armerina was not leaving until noon which would give me ample time to see the archeological museum which was just down the hill. I walked and walked and was totally unable to find this museum, returned to the hotel, the concierge graciously offered to take me there but I felt it was too late and called for a taxi.

Am sure that there are many sights and museums that I have missed in my lifetime if I really want more than I saw in Siracusa, I have the Met a few blocks away.
I knew that the connection time in Caltanissetta was very tight but I was hoping that I would make it in order to prevent a 2-hour wait for the next bus. I asked the bus driver when I boarded what my chances were and in true Italian fashion, he shrugged his shoulders. We arrive 15 minutes late and a young man shouts Piazza Armerina grabs my suitcase and sprints to the bus that had waited for me. What a wonderful start for what was going to be one of the highlights of my Sicilian stays. I had booked La casa sulla Collina d’Oro based on the recommendations of my friend Nancy Harmon Jenkins. It was more than charming overlooking the valley, the Duomo and old town in the background. It is run by the delightful Gabriella and Luciano. The house is very lovely with a large dining room overlooking a terrace and the aforementioned view. This was a place that I could easily stay for days.

Gabriella then kindly drove me to Villa Romana del Casale which was the reason for my stopping here. Fascinating skipping all those centuries in a few miles. Yesterday Greek temples from 8BC and today a Roman country villa built at the end of 3C and beginning of 4C AD. The villa was buried in a landslide 11C and only discovered in the last century. Excavations are still ongoing. What makes this villa so unique are the floors and walls which are covered in mosaics, that for the most part are in excellent condition. There are 40+ rooms and it is believed that the villa belonged to a member of the imperial family. I can well believe it. It is quite magnificent. Everything is very clearly marked with English explanations.

As I started walking around I realized that I was completely alone apart from a pigeon. How incredible is that, one of Sicily’s main attractions, is mine to enjoy all by myself. When Gabriella picked me up she said she has never known the place without tour buses.
I had been invited to join them and their friends for dinner that night and happily passed on seeing more sights in order to go food shopping. We went to the butcher for meat, pastry shop for freshly filled Cannoli and other pastries and finally to the supermarket. There must have been 6 or 7 different varieties of potatoes, that all looked like Yukon golds, but weren’t. We bought some that were to be baked in the fireplace. and eaten before the main meal which was also cooked on the open fire. I had bought some red wine, that I remembered we had served in my restaurant Regaleale, which was delicious and quite inexpensive. The whole day and evening was such a lovely experience to cherish.

The next morning after an ample and delicious breakfast in the main dining room overlooking the town I was taken by their friends to my next and final stop in Sicily, Palermo

Last edited by Nywoman; Jan 12th, 2019 at 09:18 AM.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 10:53 AM
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I never got to see the old town but I had one of the most expensive cups of tea I had ever had at I Bianchi. Which unbeknownst to me was Ciccio Sultano’s other restaurant apart from Duomo. Beautiful place could just as easily have been in Dumbo New York City, but 6 Euros for tea when coffee cost 1 Euro!!!>>

Mention of Ciccio Sultano reminds me that when we went to Ragusa, we stayed in a B&B just along the street along from the Duomo restaurant. Despite my looking longingly at the menu every time we walked past, Bill never took up my hint that we should eat there. Tant pis -we ate at one near i Bianchi one night and had a wonderful meal. By co-incidence we also stayed at La casa sulla Collina d’Oro in Piazza Armerina though sadly we were not invited to eat dinner with the family. But it is a jolly place and has the most wonderful views across the valley to the town, where we also had a memorable meal, though this time not so much for the food, as the company. One of the tables was occupied by what seemed to be a man and his mother who proceeded to spend the entire meal arguing. Though to be strictly accurate, he was berating her, and she was trying to placate him. Given that the patron turned nary a hair at this, we gathered that this was a frequent occurrence. When they had finished eating, the chap stood up calmly and went inside to pay, all smiles, and then they went off together, still going at it hammer and tongs. I kept looking for news of a local murder of a mother by her son [or vice versa] but never saw one.

Thanks for reviving my memories!
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Jan 12th, 2019, 02:22 PM
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I bought that DVD series when annhig mentioned it on another thread, drooling over those wonderful set locations.
Glad you did this by bus, I keep thinking I’d like to visit Sicily but would only use public transport.
Will be noting your details for future reference.

Love your encounter with the Italian gentleman on the bus
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Jan 12th, 2019, 03:00 PM
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Adelaidean,
I don't drive anymore so public transportation is my only way of getting around by myself. It was fairly simple in Sicily, I would say go for it.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 04:03 PM
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I wonder how Duomo stays in business. There was one other person when we were there. We had separate rooms. I’m enjoying reading about your adventures.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 04:41 PM
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Meant to add..our Italian bus ticket saga.....when we were trying to buy tickets in Pontedera for the Volterra bus, the 4 men in the office were playing cards and would not sell us tickets (?lunchtime break - not sure). Anyway, asked a local gentleman about bus to Volterra and tickets and he just shook his head, saying “no Inglese” . So no tickets and not sure where bus left from. Anyway about 1/2 hour later the old chap runs towards us shouting “Volterra!” and there came the bus with Volterra sign on it. So, we wouldn’t have missed it, but how kind.
well, of course, we had no tickets and the driver mutters in Italian and points to the office where we couldn’t get tickets. I point and shake my head. Try to give him money, he points at office, I shake my head again. Then he points to back of bus, we sit down and get a free ride.
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Jan 13th, 2019, 11:54 AM
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Looking forward to more of Sicily.
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