Friday, 20 May 2011

Sicilian update 18.5.11

Ciao all,
A sad morning this morning as my Princess days have come to an end.  I am currently sitting on a train heading back to Rome.  I can’t believe that two weeks in Sicily could go by so quickly.  And again, what a wonderful time I have had.  If you wish to experience generosity, friendship, family love (I could go on and on…) take a trip to Sicily!!!  These people would give you all that they own and then apologise because they didn’t think it was enough.  A part of me will now always belong to Sicily and my new found family.
Gosh, where do I start to describe my last week?  I will start with the ‘food’.  I will be like my Mother.  Every time Mum and Dad went on holidays and we rang to see how they were going, the first thing that Mum would say would be how fantastic the food was.  We would then ask, ‘yes, but what have you seen?” and again the response was that she saw three choices for entrée, 5 choices for mains and all the dessert you could eat!!!   So, here I go - You can add another two types of pasta to the other seven I mentioned previously.  And I tried 8 different types of pizza, 4 flavours of granita, 6 flavours of gelato, numerous biscotti’s and plenty more of my favourite cherries!!!  The family had this perfectly timed distraction tactic going where someone would draw my attention away from the dinner table, and someone else would slip more food onto my plate!!!  Just lucky I have low cut jeans so my stomach could happily hang over the top of them!!!
My next love is of course is shopping!  So, last Thursday I again accompanied Maria to the local markets. And due to the continuing cold weather, before I knew it, I was trying on another lovely lightweight jacket (ensured it was lightweight of course as I don’t want the wheels of my suitcase to give way).  Maria and the store assistant said I looked like a model when I tried it on.  Bless their hearts! Although, I am beginning to think it was more because they don’t often see females who are taller than 5ft 4“and slim.  However, it worked to encourage me to add it to my ‘ever increasing’ collection of Italian fashion. 
I also received some encouragement from my dearest travelling partner Melinda, who I will be meeting up with in August.  She emailed me this week with some special advice to solve the problem of my ‘ever increasing ‘baggage weight.  She suggested that each time I purchase a new item of clothing that I should toss out an old item.  That way by the time she meets me in August, my suitcase will solely contain the latest fashion of Italy (of which she could then admire on my behalf)!!  For those that recall my previous Italy travel emails (from 2009), you would not be surprised by Melinda’s advice.  After 5 weeks in Italy, Melinda had purchased 3 leather jackets, 5 scarves, a dress, 4 leather handbags, several tops, jewelry, trinkets etc etc.  Whereas I simply purchased 2 overpriced candle holders!!  Oh hang on, I do have some vague recollection of some T Shirts and other minor accessories…. 
However, I did bring my favourite pair of jeans with me on this trip and am not sure if my heart could bear parting with them.  It would probably take two new pairs of jeans just to replace the sentimental value.  Hmm, 2 new pairs??  Am feeling the heart strings loosen considerably when put like that!!!!  Will put some more thought into her advice as I continue with my travels.
My sister told me that she is passing these emails over to my mother to read, so I best add (before my mother thinks I will be on a corner begging for money soon) that it is the Sicilian custom to pay for EVERYTHING for their guests.  I had many a moment where I was chastised by my new family for trying to pay for something.  So not only was I served with a table of food fit for a Princess, I was driven around Sicily, taken to all the best tourist attractions where they waited patiently while I took 500 photos, provided with restaurant meals (and grenita/gelati treats) along the way…all the while not being allowed to contribute a thing except my endearing personality J.   Oh My God, these people are amazing!!!  My only slight concern is that I kept begging them all to come and visit me so I could repay their hospitality.  However, if they all decide to come in the same year, I may have to utilize the redraw facility on my house loan!!!!  And take cooking lessons as well….
Sicilians are the proudest people, not only of their family, but especially of their country.  I have been taken to some spectacular towns and attractions.  Yes, my camera got quite the workout.  Some of my favourites were Agrigento (for its Greek Temples), Taormina (loved its gorgeous streets and views), Catania (Markets & Architecture), Noto (The wonderful flower festival), St Alfio (History of Festival of 3 saints), Calatibiano (Festival of St Filipo), Syracuse (for its history) and Letojanni (for the yummiest Granita), and many many many more small gorgeous towns in between.  I have quite the collection of windows, doors, streets, churches and castle photos!!!!  Not to mention brides!!  There have been weddings on in half the churches I have been to.  So of course, I have photographed them as well!!  (It is good to become familiar with the latest fashion in wedding dresses as you never know when you may need to wear one???).  And at the moment Italy is celebrating its 150th year of Unification, so there are Italian flags swinging from windows everywhere.  Love it!!! 
Going into the church at St Alfio was great.  I remember going to the Silkwood St Alfio Festival of the Three Saints when I was growing up, and to actually go to the town where it all started was fabulous.  We were shown into a room at the rear of the church where they had paintings hanging on the walls, depicting all the miracles that were alleged to have been attributed to intervention of the Three Saints.  I offered to provide a painting of my ‘butt’ as I think it is a small miracle that it is not the size of a house after all the food I have eaten in the last two weeks.!!!  (Thank you Saint Alfio, Filadelfo & Cirino.  I am indebted to you.)
While I didn’t make it to Mt Etna, I was fortunate to be at a lookout one night when we saw a red line near the peak of the mountain which indicated a small eruption and lava flow.  Close enough for me!!  While we were driving through the countryside I also saw black rock formations everywhere where the lava had once flowed.  It was amazing. My cousin told me an old wives tale where the residents of a town called Mascali used to treat Mount Etna with disrespect by using the fire of the lava to cook their food; whereas the residents of a nearby town feared the consequences and warned them against it.  Then when Mt Etna erupted in 1928, the flow went around the neighbouring town and completely wiped out Mascali. Bugger!!  I actually had a similar experience of sorts.  I was in a church and took a photo of a statue, and while taking the photo I was thinking how ugly the statue looked (it looked like an eagles head on a horse’s body inclusive of wings and a horse’s mane.  Not something you see everyday??).  Two minutes later I was walking past the same statue and accidentally whacked my head against it.  Ouch!!  Don’t mess with anything Sicilian!!!!
Highlights of my trip to Sicily were to see the house in Giarre which my Mother grew up in (and meet her childhood best friend who still lives in the area) and to visit my Grandfather’s gravesite.   These were three things that I had always dreamed of doing and feel very blessed to have now achieved them.  I also met some old cousins of my mother who were able to show me a photo of my grandfather when he was in his twenties.  Quite the spunk old Nonno was!!!  
Oh my God, how could I not have mentioned this yet!!!  The driving here is the scariest thing I have experienced in a long time.  After two weeks of being driven around Sicily I still have absolutely no idea what the road rules are and who is supposed to be giving way to who???  And I am absolutely certain that neither does anyone else!!!!!!  Apparently red lights and stop signs have no meaning whatsoever.  Seat belts are just straps that hang by the side of car doors.  There is no limit to how many people you can fit on the back seat of the car. Sounding the horn continually alerts the other drivers of your intention to um, hmm, who the hell knows??  And the best of them all is that Italian drivers need to remove both hands from the steering wheel when talking to you (one hand gesturing is clearly not enough to get the story across) regardless of whether they are driving at 40 km/hr or 140 km/hr!!!!!!!!!!    All I can say is that I closed my eyes often and prayed even more often!!!
Now, my cousin Rosaria and I did keep an eye out for Donatello as we toured around, but he was again elusive.  Sadly, I don’t recall seeing anyone worthy of a second look, let alone anything else.  My cousin is also single so we joked that we were looking for a Raffaele for her and a Donatello for me.  Well, on the train I started talking to this very sweet and cute young Italian guy who spoke wonderful English.  I had asked if he wouldn’t mind helping me get my small bag ?? down from the baggage racks (as two other lovely gentlemen had put it up there for me) and after that we chatted for ages.  Anyway, just as we were arriving in Rome he suggested we keep in contact.  When I asked him to write down his name, it was Raffaele!!!  How funny!! Raffaele just became my latest facebook friend!!!  If only I was 20 years younger, it would have been, well hello Raffaele….Donatello would have been a thing of the past J.
And the last of my Sicilian stories…. just to prove how amazing Maria and Pipa were.  Two days before I left, Maria and Pipa handed me a gift box and said that they had bought me something to remember them by.  I opened it to find an absolutely gorgeous silver bracelet with all different shaped heart charms hanging from it.  What they obviously didn’t realize was that they are forever embedded in my heart and I could never forget them!!!  Yes, I cried.
Love Joy xx


Merry said...

Oh Joy what a post.....I am sitting here with a huge smile on my face and just a touch of jealousy. I so agree with Melinda's plan for your makes complete sense. :-) Sounds like we will need to take a year off to check out all your photos.

Joy said...

Thanks Wendy. One of these days I will find time to add some photos. Many many to sort through.

Anna said...

Oh what a beautiful tale of Sicily, and you family are just amazing! So happy that you had a fantastic time there :)