Today is Christmas Day. We have no tree, no lights, no decorations of any kind. Yet we had the most wonderful day. We slept until around 11am! Very late for us. That was because we didn't return home last night until around 2am! Also very late for us, with good reason. Our very kind and generous landlords, Giovanna and Elio invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them and their family and we were happy to accept. We arrived around 8:30 and visited with them and their sons, Gianni and Mario, who are in college, and home for the holidays. Elio's brother Salvatore and his wife and their two grown children joined in, as well as Giovanna's mother. The love they share was so evident in the way they treated one another and the affection they so openly displayed. I was reminded of my younger years, at 343 Grant Avenue, where I grew up, surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins with enough hugs and kisses to go around. I always felt loved and cared for by a large number of people and hold those days as precious in my memory.
Our Christmas Eve dinner started off with an amazing salmon dish, marinated in orange juice and served on a bed of radicchio and orange slices that melted in our mouths. This was followed by an incredible fresh pasta with asparagus and shrimp that I must ask Elio how to make. Afterwards they served an assortment of focaccias stuffed with different types of seafood and a delicious flaky pie with ricotta and I think crab (I wasn't certain what it was, but I am certain that it was delicious!). By this time everyone was saying "Basta!" (enough!) and getting full. A light white wine was the perfect accompaniment to this meal. Dessert consisted of the most incredible spongy yellow cake, impossible to describe, with a creamy filling and a liquor flavor, decorated with chocolate frosting and dried fruits. Yummm. Our contribution was a basket of chocolates from Antica Dolceria Bonaiuto, the oldest chocolate shop in Modica, that we had picked up the other day during our visit to this beautiful city to see the Christmas lights.
At midnight champagne was poured and we wished each other Buon Natale, and auguri (wishes) with kisses on both cheeks. We were so surprised, when they began opening presents, to find that they had included Bob and I on their shopping list. It was so sweet of them to do that and I love the red scarf they chose for me and Bob now has a very handsome key ring! Their gift giving was simple and well thought out, with everyone getting something they liked and seemed to have wanted, or at least appreciated receiving. Kisses and hugs were given freely along with sincere expressions of thanks. We feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet these lovely people and been welcomed into their home to share in their holiday celebration.
Around 1am the young folks began to head out to wherever it is young folks go, to meet up with friends and party the night away. The rest of us (especially me!) began yawning and getting sleepy. After a small glass of cinnamon liquor we said our goodnights and headed home. Marina di Ragusa is only about a 20 minute drive from Ragusa where they live, but even still, it was around 2am before we arrived at home and fell into bed exhausted.
Yesterday was also Bob's birthday and it started with a phone call at 8am, shortly after we woke, from our daughter Jessica, wishing him a happy birthday. He was thrilled that she called and we talked for a while, hearing all about the plans she and her husband Nick had for spending Christmas together. After a leisurely breakfast on the terrace we headed down for our walk on the beach where we got a phone call from our son Chris wishing his dad a happy birthday as well! Needless to say, Bob's head was in the clouds as both of his children called to say Happy Birthday. That, plus being able to spend his birthday walking barefoot on the beach, jeans rolled up, wading in the water, made him a very happy man.
This morning we had a very late breakfast and a walk on the beach. (do you see a habit forming here?) The day was gorgeous with blue skies and puffy white clouds and so warm I had to take my sweater off (anyone who knows me knows I was wearing more than one). We had decided earlier to drive the car down the road a little way to the "Macchia Foresta del fiume Irminio Nature Reserve, part of the Irminio Estuary, and walk along the paths there. As it was such a beautiful day I brought along my watercolors just in case. This area is a natural habitat for the Mediterranean maquis, vegetation typical to this region and sand-dunes hundreds of years old. The scenery is incredible, especially where the Irminio River meets the sea and we had fun taking photos and doing some sketching. As I sat on a log painting, the most amazing bird sat at the other end of the log on a branch that extended upwards. It was about 6 inches tall I would guess, and rather stocky I would say, turquoise in color with a bright orange breast and long, pointed beak. I probably could have been catching flies as I watched him eat a tiny fish, just feet from me, my mouth agape, wanting very much to take a photo but not wanting to move a muscle and frighten him away. I have often thought that I would enjoy bird-watching one day and this little encounter made me think that day might have come! I have no idea what it was, but I hope to have more of this type of experience on future trips here to this beautiful and serene place.
Back near our apartment we shared a slice of pizza that we ate sitting on the rocks at the beach and then joined the passeggiata, or evening stroll. Many more people were in Marina di Ragusa for the Christmas holiday and the streets were crowded with holiday visitors. I fixed a simple dinner (breaded chicken cutlets, oven roasted potatoes and broccoli) and we spent a lot of time on the phone with various family members and friends, sharing holiday greetings.
On TV tonight there was a terrific musical adaptation of the children's story Pinocchio, an Italian folktale that was quite well done with great sets and costumes and a really memorable score. All in Italian of course, but we enjoyed watching it.
Now it's about midnight and I wanted to just jot down these few words. It's definitely colder tonight than it was earlier in the day and the heat is on as I write, wearing a warm sweater. Bob just came in to tell me that it was raining, quite a surprise, since the day had been so beautiful. I'm ready to call it a night and will end by saying Buon Natale, Tanti Auguri and Felice 2006!
Rosemary & Bob