Reflections on Revisiting Sicily

Oct 5th, 2014, 03:16 PM
  #21  
 
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ANNHIG,

Thanks for the info.

Speaking of books about Sicily - have you read THE LEOPARD by di Lampedusa, the quintessential novel of Sicily? Although I read very few novels, I read this about three times! Part of the book was made into a great film years ago of the same title starring Burt Lancaster.

GERTIE, another great book (nonfiction) is THE STONE BOUDOIR: TRAVELS THROUGH THE HIDDEN VILLAGES OF SICILY by Theresa Maggio.

Recommend these with enthusiasm for those who love Sicily.
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Oct 5th, 2014, 03:24 PM
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lateday - I tried reading the Leopard in italian but got no further than the first few pages, defeated by the dense vocabulary which meant that I needed recourse to the dictionary about every other word. Finding out that the seemingly obscure animal referred to on the first page or so was a dalmatian [or is it a Great Dane?] just about finished me off. at least with Montalbano I have some possibility of getting what it's about [a murder or theft, often both] and the names are pretty familiar.

I must try the Leopard in English.
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Oct 5th, 2014, 06:00 PM
  #23  
 
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Hi ANNHIG,

"I must try the Leopard in English." Please do. It must have been very difficult to read in Italian, even with your study of that beautiful language. The English translation is excellent.

It is not a novel of plot, rather of feeling and the awareness of change and the emergence of a "new order" replacing the old, tired aristocracy as Garibaldi unified Italy in the mid 19th century.

I envy you the experience of reading THE LEOPARD for the first time...
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Oct 5th, 2014, 09:39 PM
  #24  
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Re The Leopard, I read it aeons ago in English and really liked it. It was recommended by my history teacher for exactly the reasons lateday says. My Italian certainly isn't up to reading it (or anything else). Montalbano is in English translation. There is a whole series of books in paperback and on kindle.
Lateday, I think I have The Stone Boudoir on my bookshelf at home. Must dig it out and reread. When I was in Sicily 10 years ago I got similarly inspired. And yes, the Cathedral in Siracusa is originally a Greek temple. I dont at all mind paying an entrance fee to help with the maintenance of places like this.
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Oct 5th, 2014, 10:04 PM
  #25  
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After the mammoth trek to Modica and Ragusa, I decided I needed a day off. Got up late, only just made it to breakfast at Domus Mariae, hung around on my balcony watching the sea and the activity outside. Sauntered around Siracusa and found the Tourist Office. Asked about tours to Villa Casale which was really top of my sightseeing list. Yes, there were tours starting fro 200 euros depending on the size of my group, minimum 4. I explained that I was a group of 1. They suggested I came back later to see if anyone else had signed up. No they hadn't... The public transport option involved 3 hours each way on 2 buses, to Piazza Armerina, with no details of how to get from there to Villa Casale. I decided to sit on it and see if any other option opened up. Next day dawned with heavy rain and Im afraid that decided me: leave it until next time. Must be getting old, this would never have happened 10 years ago. So no Villa Casale.
Spent a couple of days watching the sea, watching the activity in the market, eating delicious fresh fish in a local market cafe with no tourists, exploring the narrow streets of the Giudecca area. I had seen the Zona Archaeologica last time and felt no need to retramp in the rain!
It was getting towards the end of the week and the groups were multiplying. We had Rick Steves at Domus Mariae and they were setting off to Villa Casale in their bus. I was tempted but no I didn't! Funnily enough, despite Montalbano, I didn't meet any British groups. They were all couples or families. Maybe its true what someone said to me that Brits are eccentric and travel independently.
Contacted the friend I was meeting in the Islands and organised my onward travel, caught up with real life and wondered what Siracusa will be like in another 10 years.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 03:10 AM
  #26  
 
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Maybe its true what someone said to me that Brits are eccentric and travel independently.>>

lol - is it possible to travel independently and yet not be eccentric?

BTW the package holiday or tour was very popular in the UK after WW2 because of currency restrictions which meant that you could only take a very limited amount of money out of the country; hence paying for virtually everything in advance to a UK travel agent or company became very attractive. Even after the restrictions were lifted the package tour retained its attractions as people weren't used to making their own arrangements. gradually of course we have become more familiar with booking our own flights etc, but it surprises me how many brits still take package hols.

sounds like we need to get to Sicily quickly before the tour groups overwhelm it.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 11:50 AM
  #27  
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Things were going almost too well. I got myself to the station, bought a ticket at the machine to avoid the long queue at the ticket office, got on the train, found the correct seat and sat. And sat. We were 30 mins late leaving Siracusa and when we arrived in Catania waited another hour. Although there were no announcements, it appeared a train had broken down on the line ahead of us and was waiting to be moved. I thought that sort of thing only happened in UK. Train travel in the south is very different from in the north of Italy.
Consequently I missed my connection in Messina, my friend gave up waiting for me in Milazzo and I spent a while wandering around Messina trying to find some other way to get to the Islands. Giunta Bus to the rescue. What a name! Although it seemed to spend hours roaming around Messina picking up all kinds of people, we finally arrived in Milazzo port about two hours later than I anticipated. Hydrofoils were on schedule and deposited me on the quayside in Lipari not too late and not very frazzled. Friend was waiting; she had got herself by train from Palermo without mishap though had had an exciting journey from London on RyanAir. We both had our stories to tell over a large one.
I had booked us into Diana Brown's. What a good choice. It is very central yet quiet, tucked away behind the main street. Although the room wasn't that big, it had a balcony, a fridge and kettle, lots of hot water, hairdryer, everything we needed. Lovely roof terrace for hanging around on. Books to read, wifi to connect to the world! Diana did breakfast for us every day too, handed put beach towels, did laundry (of which I had a fair amount by now, having been travelling for about 3 weeks), directed us to her daughter's travel agency to arrange trips throughout the islands, I would thoroughly recommend this place.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 01:30 PM
  #28  
 
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I always enjoy your reports, gertie. Thanks for taking the time to share your adventures.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 03:21 PM
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glad you got there at last, gertie.

exciting journey on Ryanair? is there any other type?
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Oct 6th, 2014, 04:01 PM
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GERTIE, still with you. Glad you made your connection...
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Oct 7th, 2014, 06:24 AM
  #31  
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The plan on the islands was to have a relaxing time and do some catching up. We last got together in Corsica last year. So although there are plenty of activities on the islands, we took it very easy. It looks like tourism has taken over here, although by the end of Sept, the season was winding down. There are excursions to all the islands from Lipari which seems to be the main hub, plus there are ferries and hydrofoils too. We actually only booked a trip to Panarea and Stromboli which left at the civilised time of 12 noon and returned at around 9pm to give us time to see the lava flow by night. And spectacular it was too. Diana told us that in 40 years here she has only know this to happen 3 times. At the moment the volcano is closed to climbers as it is deemed too dangerous. But normally there are organised climbs with guides. Somewhere on this board there os a very good account of climbing Stromboli.
We contented ourselves with ambling along the quayside then striking inland following the Tsunami Evacuation Route which finally brought us out at Bar Ingrid. Where else?? Fortified with yogurt gelato and coffee we then moved on to Da Giovanni for some reviving pizza and glasses of red. No problem there either.
We finally poured ourselves back onto the boat and had 30 minutes or so watching the lava flow. Very dramatic, big chunks of molten rock plummeting down the side into the sea, glad we weren't any nearer. This was accompanied with a spectacular sunset and plumes of bright orange smoke billowing from the top. Stromboli obviously put on its best show for us. Not to be missed.
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Oct 7th, 2014, 06:43 AM
  #32  
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For the rest of the week we sat in bars consuming large G&Ts, had fish dinners, caught local buses to other parts of the island, had a day on the beach, though beaches on these islands tend to be black and gritty rather than golden and sandy. The sea was crystal clear and people were swimming from the boat. Not us Old Dears though. We had intended to swim but a cool wind got up and that with the black grit and pebbles sent us cowering into the nearest gin shop.
There is an imposing castle on the highest point of Lipari with several churches (the Cathedral has an interesting Norman Cloister ) and a good museum covering history and geology of the area. Beware that it closes at 1.30pm sharp : we could have done with more time there.

Fellow tourists provided endless hours of amusement. I am sure there is a big promotion of the Aeolian Islands in Germany. There were so many serious German groups all decked out in hiking gear with backpacks, poles, boots, probably compasses and whistles too. Not sure where they did all this intensive hiking what with the volcano being closed. We wondered if they hiked to the nearest pizza shop like we did! We had to be careful in the evening to choose a restaurant without a group in to be sure of getting served at all. Lots of fish places, pizza and pasta and so on. Diana furnished us with a list of places she recommended and we worked our way through them as the week progressed. Cups of tea every day on the roof terrace too, courtesy of the kettle in our room. Very hot up there, had to be careful. And by now it was October.
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Oct 7th, 2014, 10:00 AM
  #33  
 
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mmm - Strombolli - interesting.

I've been wondering how to "sell" Sicily to DH and you might just have given me a way, Gertie.

thanks.

do you have a link to Diana's B&B? - sounds like our sort of place.
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Oct 7th, 2014, 10:30 AM
  #34  
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http://www.dianabrown.it/en/our-story

It is definitely a budget choice. Wouldn't recommend it to Fodorites who do 5 star places. There were some Americans and Canadians there when we were there and they seemed quite happy with it. Most of the inhabitants were European though.
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Oct 7th, 2014, 11:11 AM
  #35  
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At the end of our week we were heading back to Palermo. Got the hydrofoil as planned and found ourselves on the quayside at Milazzo. Everyone else from the hydrofoil seemed to have melted away. No bus in sight, so got a taxi to the station. What a total wasteland Milazzo station is. Obviously the other people knew this and avoided it like the plague. We had an hour to wait for a slow stopping train that would take 3 hours to reach Palermo. I think the message is that the bus is quicker and more convenient. But I am a Train Person and nothing else even occurred to me. Milazzo station is set in a vast commuter carpark, in a jungle of concrete, with platforms that stretch forever like something out of a SciFi movie. Right on the outside edge of the town in the middle of nowhere. Obviously everyone else felt the same as the bar had closed down for lack of interest, there was absolutely no life in the place. No coffee, no gin, no lunch, no nothing. And when the train came, which it did, on time, there was still nothing to be had in the way of sustenance. We felt like Lawrence of Arabia striking through the desert. Thank goodness we had had the foresight to bring little bottles of water from Diana's. The moral of this story is that you shouldn't take trains down here in southern Italy unless you want to get off at some tiny wayside station. There is absolutely no joy in it.
And so to Palermo, the Hotel Ambasciatori conveniently placed for the train station, and yet another Rick Steves group introducing themselves on the rooftop terrace.
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Oct 8th, 2014, 05:34 AM
  #36  
 
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I am reading your trip report and trying to convince my husband to revisit Sicily in the next few years. He has family in Salaparuta and we met them a few years ago and spent the day. I want to go back and spend some more time exploring and visiting with them They were so very welcoming. We stayed at the Hotel Ambascatori on our first visit to Sicily. Best rooftop terrace ever!!! Enjoy your trip and keep posting!!
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Oct 8th, 2014, 06:30 AM
  #37  
 
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Hi again GERTIE,

"Very dramatic, big chunks of molten rock plummeting down the side into the sea, glad we weren't any nearer. This was accompanied with a spectacular sunset and plumes of bright orange smoke billowing from the top. Stromboli obviously put on its best show for us. Not to be missed."

Sounds excellent. Makes me want to watch that old flick STOMBOLI again. The B & B looks inviting too.

Great report.
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Oct 8th, 2014, 08:56 AM
  #38  
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Thanks people. Was beginning to wonder if anyone was still with me. Final chunk of the trip to come ....
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Oct 8th, 2014, 10:09 AM
  #39  
 
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I'm with you, and enjoying your report very much!
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Oct 8th, 2014, 11:54 AM
  #40  
 
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Am still with you, but busy traveling myself...
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