Saturday, December 17, 2005

12.13.05 Santa Lucia and the Hurricane

Sounds like the title of a children's book! It is actually what we experienced on Tuesday (December 13th) the feast day of Santa Lucia when we went to Siracusa for the saint's feast day. We had read about the procession where they take the statue of Santa Lucia (this is very fancy and silver) from the Duomo (built in the 7th century on the ancient Doric temple of Athena) on the island of Ortigia, where she resides, to the church of Santa Lucia, on the mainland part of Siracusa. It was just beginning to rain when we got in our car in the early morning and the rain got heavier and the wind stronger as we drove along the coast. When we arrived in Siracusa and managed to find the Information office, we learned that if it was still raining in the afternoon they would postpone the procession to the next good-weather day. The tradition is that 8 days later, on the 20th, they repeat this procession, returning the Saint to the Duomo and on that night, they have a terrific fireworks show.

Since it was still early in the day (we arrived around 10:30) and raining heavily, we opted for a visit to the Museo Archeologico Regionale "Palo Orsi." Paolo Orsi was a famous Italian archeologist who worked in Sicily between 1888 and 1934 who excavated untold treasures that are housed in this impressive museum. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook, this museum is "one of Europe's largest archeological museums, with an area of more than 9,000 square meters and over 18,000 exhibits." It covers Sicily from prehistoric and proto-historic times through paleo-Christian times. Not really being students of archeology, we don't completely understand those terms, but we really enjoyed looking at all this old stuff! It is truly remarkable that the tools and artifacts of ancient civilizations can appear so similar. We were reminded of the Native American artifacts we enjoyed at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona when we saw all the pottery and clay objects. Clearly, however, the early Sicilians created very unique and wonderful pieces of art for their everyday use. Since it was a holiday, the museum was only open until 1pm so we promised to return again and explore further its wonderful collection.

As we left the museum, our cell phone rang and it was Elio, calling to ask us how things were in Marina since he had heard from a friend that there was a hurricane reported in one of the neighboring cities (Pozzallo), not far from our apartment! We were not entirely surprised to hear this because the winds had been pretty strong on our drive to Siracusa earlier in the day. We promised to let him know if things were OK when we returned home later.

The most fun part of the day was when we stopped along the sea and watched the huge waves pound the shore, whipped by the wind as we walked across the fortress that looks out to the sea. Nervously laughing and giggling, getting soaked and wind-blasted we watched with amazement as a small bridge, that moments before tempted us to walk on it, went crashing into the sea separating itself from it's rocky perch. Incredibly, we met a young woman from Virginia, studying in Italy, who took our photo to document our having been here at this moment in time.

The rain did not subside, and after we had lunch in a local restaurant (I had an amazing seafood risotto to die for and Bob had swordfish) we decided we had better head for home. As we approached the road going towards Marina di Ragusa, we were forced to come to a complete stop along with a whole line of cars and wondered if there had been an accident. I got out to take a closer look and to ask the police officers what was happening. I was told that the roads were closed because there was so much water, that there was water ON the bridge. We tried several other routes, to no avail. There was no road open that would take us to Marina di Ragusa that day. Certainly there were smaller roads, perhaps through the mountains, that we might have tried, but not being familiar with these roads and not knowing what we might find on them, we chose to look for a place to spend the night in Siracusa.

Earlier in the day, as we drove around Ortigia, we had noticed a sign for a B&B, right on the water, and we decided to try to find it again. No easy task, I might add, but find it we did, only to find that it was also closed! Back to square one and driving around in the pouring rain, we saw signs for several hotels and B&B's including one for "Magnolia" and a phone number. I called the number and got some directions (impossible to follow since we didn't know where we WERE!) and did finally locate this small B&B, as well as a place to park the car and moved into one of their comfortable rooms. The woman behind the desk thought that the procession was still on (despite what we had heard earlier), rain notwithstanding, and we decided to grab our umbrellas and see what we could see. The rain had not slowed one bit and as we approached the procession route we asked a man in one of the newspaper stands who told us that there was no procession today and that it would most likely be Thursday before they took Santa Lucia out for a spin.

We did a little window shopping (& picking up toothbrushes & toothpaste!) and by the time we made our way back to the B&B the water was running down the street 4 inches deep and our feet and clothes were soaked through! Fortunately this room had a great heater and we stripped off our wet things and hung them around the room to dry. We decided not to go out again in the pouring rain to find dinner and went to bed hungry. Not so hungry though because we had had a late lunch and it was very satisfying.

In the morning, the rain had slowed almost to stopping and we had a cappuccino and a cornetto at a very nice bar in Piazza Archimede, where there is a beautiful fountain of Diana and her sea nymphs. Then, as we walked to our car we saw a truck filled with loaves of the most wonderful-looking bread - crusty and covered with sesame seeds -- that I had to ask the driver "Possiamo comprare delle pane?" (can we buy some bread?) and he motioned for us to follow him, around the truck and a short way down the street to the forno where they were baking the stuff! We bought a few loaves, ate one immediately and saved the rest for later.

Hoping to kill a little time before getting on the road, we wandered around a bit more, looking in some of the shops. This way, we thought, the water will have more of a chance to dry up a bit and hopefully we would find the roads open by now. Fortunately this was the case and apart from having to drive slowly through some pretty wet roads we encountered no further roadblocks. We stopped along the road at a sign that said "UOVA" (eggs) and bought some fresh eggs (the chickens were actually in the back - all I could think of was the movie "Chicken Run"!) and some oranges and tangerines as well as some fresh broccoli and fennel.

We arrived safely home in Marina di Ragusa to find very little, if any, proof that a hurricane had passed this way, with the exception of the little sandwich shop downstairs, whose signs were wrecked in the winds. Our terrace looked none the worse for wear, except for needing a good sweeping. The beaches were cleaned too, as some debris that had been there earlier was either blown away or swept out to sea. But the sun was shining and we walked along the shore, happy to be back in our little town, safe and sound.

We made reservations to stay in this same B&B on the night of the 20th when we will return to Siracusa for the procession that will bring Santa Lucia back to the Duomo and to see the fireworks. Senza (without) a hurricane this time, we hope!

Buona giornata,
Rosemary e Robert

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