Wednesday, May 31, 2006

“Earth from Above”

Gorgeous aerial photographs taken from a helicopter, by the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Woman of Troy

Poseidon

Troy Burns

Hecuba's First Speech

Troiana Sings
Poseidon and Athena scheme

Andromache learns of her fate

Andromache's arrival

Cassandra

Helen and Menelaus

Trojan Women

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Siracusa, Birthdays and Trojan Women 5.25.06

Thursday, May 25, was my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!! It truly was one. Bob got tickets to see Trojan Women at the ancient Greek theatre in Siracusa, for the night of my birthday. (At the insistent urgings of our daughter, Jessica, who is a stage manager and had worked on productions of this play in Milwaukee) Not that it was a surprise, I had been expecting to go and looking forward to it very much. Siracusa is one of our favorite cities here in southeastern Sicily. It's a gorgeous city on the sea with a lovely harbor, one of our favorite baroque churches, built on the site of an earlier Greek temple and still retaining the Doric columns inside and the charming island of Ortigia with its Fonte Aretusa, a freshwater spring planted with papyrus, surrounded by blooming bougainvillea at this time of year! If you want to read more about this city, you can check out our archives in the past, when we attended the festival of Santa Lucia and survived a hurricane!

The weather on Thursday could not have been better. Not a drop of rain or cloud in sight, warm and sunny with some breezes now and then to make it a bit more perfect! We left Marina early in the day and, having picked up our car the day before (yeaah!!) enjoyed the drive, slowed a bit by heavy traffic here and there and arrived in Siracusa around 10 in the morning. My intention was to do a little shopping there. We are attending a wedding in Germany this summer and I am hoping to have my outfit all ready before I leave Sicily, not wanting to wait until we get to Verona to do this. As a slight digression from the story of the Trojan Women, my only tragedy is the fact that I have put on a few pounds (which have landed directly on my mid-section) making it a bit of a challenge to find stylish clothes that actually fit me! It seems I am too fat for the really fashionable, hip stores (not that I am all that hip anyway - hippy maybe, but definitely not hip) and not chubby enough for the chubby girl shops! I do not like the sizes in Italy in that I am up the 40s here and I really don't enjoy those high numbers at all!! I bought a slinky tomato-red dress in Ragusa but I wasn't sure at all that I look good enough in it to wear it. But as I am not finding anything I like any better, I've decided to try to shed a few pounds before the wedding and went ahead and bought a cute little pair of shoes to go with it. So I guess I am committed now. I still need to find accessories. What I really need is a girlfriend to shop with. Bob hates shopping and just wants to get it over with.

Jessica and Nick are coming to stay with us for a week at the end of June and then we will be driving together to Cologne to attend Andrea's wedding in Bonn and visit friends in Cologne (Koln). We are so excited and looking forward to it and as soon as I know I have everything I need I will be able to just relax about it.

Back to Siracusa and the Play

When we arrived in Siracusa we decided to park close to the theatre and just take the bus over to Ortigia to sightsee and do some shopping. This turned out to be a good idea as it was easy to get around and Bob didn't have to hassle navigating through the traffic or finding places to park. We went to the little aquarium near the Fonte Aretusa and I sat and did some watercolor studies of the papyrus in the pond. We walked along the harbor, enjoying the boats and the lovely turquoise color of the water where the rocks are at the edge of Ortigia.

Once the shops closed for riposo we stopped for lunch and enjoyed some antipasti and grilled swordfish. Skipping desert, we decided to just wander around Ortigia, then catch the bus back over to the theatre to pick up our tickets and get ready for the play.

The theatre was packed! It must have been students' day and we worried that they would be unruly but once the play began they were mostly well-behaved. The stage backdrop (my daughter will excuse my lack of the correct technical terms for these things!) consisted of the extremely dramatic, blackened walls of the city of Troy, complete with little "fires" burning in some of the open places. The design of it was reminiscent of the last walls standing at the Twin Towers and the production design incorporated elements of modern things, like the rusted and battered oil drums scattered on the sand in front of the very minimal stage, dominated by the black hulks of the walls. The costumes were lush shades of deep purples, browns, reds, blue, somber colors, sumptuous layers of rich cloth, striking against the white sand. We were surprised when Poseidon and Athena, the gods who had meddled in the lives of these mortals entered the stage wearing modern clothing: Poseidon first, in his elegant black overcoat and fedora, with a creamy white scarf tossed casually over his shoulder. Athena was gorgeous and terrifying in her tight-fitting black suit and stiletto heals, both of them laughing manically, at the "mischief" they had wrought upon these people who, they felt, had slighted them in some way or another.

Jessica, wanting to ensure that we understood the play and had a bit of background, sent us the script to read which helped immensely, as the version we watched was obviously presented in Italian. It helped knowing the story and also knowing enough of the language to keep up with the action. The actors did an amazing job of enunciating and the anguish and despair of these women was palpable. We were pleased at how much we understood. The message of the play, the horrors of war and its devastating effects, not only on the soldiers who die, but also on those who remain behind, was not lost on us at this time in our history. That those who are in charge play with people's lives as if they were irrelevant, causing suffering and pain for political gain and puffed up pride, is something I will never comprehend. We had hoped the lessons of war would have been learned by now and are extremely saddened to know they have not.

At the conclusion, we decided to spend the night in Siracusa and then go to Palermo the following day. The "Magnolia," where we have stayed before luckily had a room. We checked in and walked down the street to a local trattoria, sat outside in the garden, under a night sky filled with stars. We shared a small pitcher of wine along with a nice fresh pasta, followed up with a refreshing piece of pineapple presented cut in the delightful shape of a swan!

In the morning we took our breakfast on the terrace and were on the road by 9am. We have enjoyed this drive across the center of the island of Sicily as we think the interior is incredibly gorgeous, with its mountains and farms. The fields that were so deeply green earlier in the year have now turned golden but are by no means appear "inhospitable and barren" as they are described in the guidebook. Everywhere there were sheep and cows crazing, fields planted and being harvested with big round hay bales everywhere. It is a land in use and useful, as far as we can see. Not to mention absolutely breathtaking.

Palermo

Palermo was as Palermo has been. Chaotic traffic, crumbly buildings, street corner vendors selling fruits and vegetables, gorgeous theatres and churches, ancient trees, ancient city, classy, decadent, schizophrenic. We had a frustrating time trying to find the Modern Art museum, which was not where the guidebook said it was, on the top floor of the Teatro Politeama. We were told it was in the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia but when we arrived there, were told it was not! It turned out to be NEAR the Teatro Politeama, but by the time we figured that out, it was closed. So we were not able to see the modern art of the Sicilian painters and for this I am sorry. I really wanted to see especially the Renato Guttuso paintings and should have done so before now. Oh well. Another reason to return to Sicily. As if we need one! We had also wanted to see the Antonello da Messina’s 15th century painting "The Annunciation" only to find that it was out on loan to an exhibit in Rome! Another Oh well. We did enjoy seeing Francesco Laurana's sculpture of Elenora of Aragon; the powerful “The Triumph of Death,” a fine medieval fresco by an unknown artist from the mid-15th century; and the beautiful Catalan Gothic Palazzo Abatellis itself, which dates from this same period. I was glad to take another last look at the city anyway, eat a piece of cassata cake (my birthday cake!), and walk through the Orto Botanico and past the ships in the harbor.

We did enjoy an outdoor exhibit entitled “Earth from Above” with gorgeous aerial photographs taken from a helicopter, by the French press photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The 120 photographs are large, measuring about 6 ft by 4 ft accompanied by text on sustainable development. Stuff that really makes you think about what we are doing to our planet and how important it is to protect our precious earth. You can read more about this at these websites: http://www.yannarthusbertrand.com/index_new.htm
http://www.comune.palermo.it/Eventi/piazza_politeama/la_terra_vista_dal_cielo/mostra_en.htm

The exhibition took up the entire area in front of Palermo’s Teatro Politeama and was extremely powerful. We understand that from Palermo it goes next to Rome and has been exhibited all over the world. Hopefully it can help make a difference.

It was late in the day when we got on the road and we did not arrive home in Marina di Ragusa until around 10pm. Our days are definitely numbered here now and we will spend them packing our things and trying to spend as much time on the beach as possible. I know we will also want to take one more walk through Ragusa Ibla and maybe even drive to Modica for a cannoli, one more for old time’s sake, to savor on the tongue and melt into the memory, sweet ricotta cheese and tiny chocolate pieces, crushed pistachios at either end, crispy outside, creamy within...How will I ever leave this place??

Con affeto,
Rosemary e Robert

Marina di Ragusa and the Beach 5.28.06

It's 7:45am on Sunday morning. It's warm. I have the doors and windows wide open and I can hear the sound of the surf outside. There are no other sounds, except for a car now and then. All the Saturday night revelers have gone home, thankfully. Thankfully too, that our bedroom is in the back of the apartment. Now that the weather is warm everyone comes out on Saturday to enjoy the beach. The young ones stay until the sun comes up, at Rocky's and the other bars along the beach. We spent several hours ourselves yesterday lying in the sun and playing in the water.

The beach of Marina di Ragusa is one of the loveliest we have known. The sand is like brown sugar, not a single rock. And, in our experience, it has been mostly calm - today particularly so. At home, at the ocean, when the waves are rough I would end up with a ton of sand in my swimming suit, but not here. Even out jumping around doesn't kick up the sand and the water is so clear and clean.

It's fun also to watch the little kids playing on the beach. They love the water so much! It's fun to watch the young guys playing soccer too. They are (mostly!) talented at it as they've been playing since they were babies. We've seen them. The tiny kids learning to handle a soccer ball with their feet, delicate moves, like dancers. Of course the young men, as young men on the beach usually are, are tan, muscular, handsome. This is particularly true of these young Sicilians. The women (mostly) are gorgeous! Disheartening to me since I know they eat pizza and gelato all the time (or at least I think they do!) and they still remain shapely and gorgeous. Am I jealous? You bet! I bought a new swimsuit yesterday. It's black with red roses on it. It doesn't make me look like these gorgeous young women but I like it.

We have tried to spend a lot of time at the beach since we will leave this coming week. I honestly don't know how we will leave without crying our eyes out! The thing that keeps us going is the knowledge that this little town of 4,000 people will swell to 40,000 in July and August and that will mean crowded beaches and lots of young people on scooterinis, crazy traffic and noise. All the restaurants have put tables outside now and I'm happy to have been able to watch this transformation from sleepy fishing village to hopping summer place. It has been like watching behind the scenes of a stage play in production. All the rehearsals, all the set building, all the painting and fixing, as things began to come to life. It was very entertaining to say the least.

And to have had this amazing place mostly to ourselves for so long was indeed a dream. To walk every day (or almost, anyway) on the beach, down the Lungomare. To watch the fisherman repairing their nets and taking their boats out in the early morning. To talk with the old guys and share their joy at being able to be in this wonderful place. Bob has been happier here, he says, than in any other place he has ever lived. That's saying a lot. The sea agrees with us. Marina di Ragusa and Ragusa, Ragusa Ibla, will stay in our hearts forever. The low stone walls of the countryside, the rolling farms and fields. The wildflowers, the blooming prickly pear and agave, the carub, olive, almond and orange trees. The stone farmhouses. The changing colors of the sea and the sky. The people!!! Warm, friendly, inviting. Most guidebooks don't say much about Ragusa province. "A nice place to stop if you are going to Agrigento from Siracusa." But we know it is much, much more. A region so rich in history and sheer beauty. From the caves of Ispica, the amazing baroque cities of Ragusa and Modica (not to mention the most amazing cannoli ever!), the archeological sites, the local festivals, the beaches, the sheer charm of the old cities. It is an authentic Sicilian experience, wonderful for not being such a tourist magnet and I hesitate to tell too many people about it, wanting to keep it a secret so as not to spoil it.

And, in case you were wondering, the people here do indeed speak Italian. This may sound funny to say since we are obviously in Italy. But we had been forewarned that we had better also study Sicilian because that is the “dialect” that is spoken there. We must correct this misnomer, first by saying that Sicilian is not a dialect of Italian. It is a language in its own right and it predates the Italian language. Standard Italian is actually derived from the Florentine dialect and became the “official” language of Italy. The Sicilian people, young and old speak Sicilian to each other. It is, I would say, their first, more intimate language. The language spoke in the home, with friends and family. But they also speak standard Italian just as fluently, so there was never any problem with understanding each other, as I had been concerned about.

We hope to return some time. We don't know how we will leave here! Today we have been invited once again to join Elio and his friends as they visit some of the cantinas for a wine tasting day. We will never forget the kindness of these people who welcomed us here and did everything in their power to assure that our stay was a pleasant one and that we saw the important things to see. We have tried to share our experiences here in this blog and hope you will consider coming to Sicily and to Ragusa Ibla and the Iblea plateau. We are sure you will not regret it.

A presto,
Rosemary and Bob

La Festa di San Giorgio: Amici da Ragusa Ibla

Queste foto sono per i nostri amici, Elena, Enrica, Rosalba, Peppe, Sara, Nello e Giancarlo. Loro abbiamo conosciuto durante la festa. Piacere! Tanti Auguri amici!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Amici da Ragusa Ibla

Festa San Giorgio 21.05.06

The procession leaving the Duomo San Giorgio

San Giorgio & people watching from balconies above

Fireworks and San Giorgio


Festa San Giorgio 21.05.06

St. George, the Dragon slayer is the patron saint of Ragusa Ibla. Here's one of the stories of St. George, taken from Wikipedia online (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George):

"The tale begins with a dragon making its nest at the spring which provides a city-state with water. Consequently, the citizens had to temporarily remove the dragon from its nest in order to collect water. To do so, they offered the dragon a daily human sacrifice. The victim of the day was chosen by drawing lots. Eventually the "winner" of this lottery happened to be the local princess...She is offered to the dragon but at this point a travelling George arrives. He faces the dragon, slays it and saves the princess. The grateful citizens then abandon their ancestral Paganism and convert to Christianity."

The real St. George was a Tribune in the Roman army. Around the year 300, the emperor Diocletian ordered the systematic persecution of Christians. George, being one, criticized this move, which resulted in his own torture and decapitation. The stories of his bravery and suffering caused many others to convert to Christianity and his legend grew to mythic proportions.

His actual feast day is April 23 and other cities in the area have their festivals on this day. I suppose, not wanting to compete with them, Ragusa Ibla celebrates on the next to the last Sunday in May. We were delighted about that because on the 23rd of April we were busy dealing with our car accident and the arrival of my relatives (parenti in Italian) from the states. Not exactly a good day for attending a festival. But this was perfect. And a perfect way to conclude our time in Sicily and in Ragusa in particular.

We arrived in the afternoon to listen to marching bands and to do some people watching. The weather was perfect, warm, sunny and delightful! One of the things we love about these ancient cities is the civic pride of the people.

A little background:

I have written before that the southeastern part of Sicily was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1693 and was completely rebuilt. This re-building from a blank slate, as it were, resulted in the birth of what is called Sicilian Baroque in the 1700s. Cities like Ragusa, Modica, Comiso and Noto revised their centros by building gorgeous palazzi and churches in this style and re-designing the street layout in this new modern way, which meant broad, straight streets and dramatic stairways leading to the crowning jewels, the fanciful baroque churches. This creates a very theatrical effect and, as Bob and I are fond of saying, "in Sicily, there is no over the top." It all works and we have found these cities and this southeastern part of Sicily to be our favorites.

Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla are actually two halves of the same city, with Ragusa Superiore the more "modern" part of the city and Ragusa Ibla, the more ancient. After the earthquake Ragusa Superiore decided to go with the broad avenues and modern street layout. This is where the city offices are, the Questura, etc. The Duomo, San Giovanni Battista is here and the old part of the city is very charming where it leads into Ibla, at the top of the stairs. It is in the west side of the city where most of the residents live, in tall apartment buildings that were built between and after the World Wars. The official buildings in Piazza Libertà are a good example of the type of architecture built in the 1920s and 30s, with some fine Art Deco reliefs. (called "Liberty style" in Italy) These were the Italian version of America's WPA projects during the depression, before Mussolini went power hungry and seemed to have forgotten the people he previously exhaulted.

But for us, the real charmer is Ragusa Ibla. After the earthquake, the people who lived in Ibla decided they loved their city the way it was and rebuilt exactly the way it had been, retaining the original twisty, turny streets, the layout that the Arabs had designed around the 1st century A.D., before they were rudely ejected by the conquering Normans. Not without adding a few gorgeous baroque details, however, like many of the beautiful palazzi with the fancy wrought iron balconies and "grotesque" details and of course, the Duomo of San Giorgio.

There is a point however, in the old centro of Ragusa Superiore, where the two seem to blend, where the ancient homes still stand and the views, as you approach the church of Santa Maria delle Scale (literally "of the stairs") are nothing short of breathtaking. You can either drive down a winding road into Ragusa Ibla or walk down the stairs that also twist and turn, providing peaks into this ancient part of the city with views of the lovely countryside that surrounds it. Many of the old palazzi are being restored. We have been told that this is becoming the trendy place to be, so costs are rising (but still affordable). There are many restaurants, bars and shops. It's where the tourists come and the city welcomes them in the most gracious way. The people of Ragusa are proud of their city. They have every reason to be. Spending so much time here we have come to love it and appreciate its many charms.

The Festa San Giorgio:

Arriving early in the day, as I said, afforded us a pretty good parking place in the old city. In Piazza Duomo we found marching bands in bright red uniforms warming up and chatting with the locals. There was a row of at least 10 old men sitting in chairs lined up in front of one of the mens clubs, doing what they do best: talking with each other, gesticulating and smiling, as tourists snapped photos of them. I asked an older gentleman standing beside me if they enjoyed having their pictures taken. He responded that they did and it was evident that some clearly did. Others, I'm not so sure, and we try to be respectful about doing this and not treating them as if they were nothing but a curiosity or a caricature.

As the day was hot, it called for a gelato and we shared a mandorla (almond) - they didn't have my favorite pistachio! - and fragola (strawberry) while sitting on a bench in the shade. At around 6pm everyone started to gather in front of the Duomo. Anticipation grew and we were eventually pushed back behind the barriers, as the program was about to begin. Suddenly, there was a loud boom like a canon and into the air millions of brightly colored little pieces of paper that held prayers to San Giorgio (for example: one said "San Giorgio, protect our city," another: intercede for us" etc) were shot high into the air and fell down on our heads. The red and white balloons that had been distributed to the crowd earlier were let loose, the band played, and down the steps of the Duomo came the statue of San Giorgio, on his white horse, complete with slayed dragon, to pass right beside us as we stood next to the path it took from the steps of the church! A terrific little fireworks display followed and it was fun and different to see this in the daylight hours. The woman in front of me was very emphatic that we return to see the fireworks display later that night as it was expected to be "meraviglioso!" (marvelous!) We assured her we planned to do just that.

The streets of the old city were all decorated with these fantastic light creations we have seen at festivals like Christmas, Carnivale and Easter, with specific designs for each occasion. These seemed even more dramatic as they mimicked the shape of the duomo and stretched across the narrow streets of Ibla, so that even in the daylight the effect was that of white light and fantasy.

The statue of San Giorgio was carried by a group of strong and mostly handsome men who lifted it and danced with it, with George appearing to be galloping through the crowd as the bands played and adoring worshippers (fans?) fell in behind. Sicilian drama at its best, right in front of our eyes.

We didn't follow the statue all around the city (although Elio said we should have because it is wonderful to see it go around the narrow streets and in and out of the many other churches, up the steps etc.) We decided instead to find a place to eat dinner and get off our feet for a bit. Stopping at a charming outdoor café called "Rustica" along the route, we hoped we would see the procession pass us by as we sat in our front row seats. As the statue and his entourage approached, Bob got up to take some photos and we ended up being interviewed by the beautiful Analisa from the TV station Mediterraneo! She came to our table with her cameraman and asked us a bunch of questions we answered in Italian, as good as we could muster under the circumstances (and after two glasses of wine!). It was all very fun and exciting.

Later, we wandered back to the Duomo to enjoy the live music and as we were sitting there, a man was wildly motioning us to come over to where the TV crew was still doing interviews. We thought he was either suggesting Bob take some photos or that we ourselves, come and be interviewed. As he was really emphatic about it, we went over to see what he was saying and found out that he had seen us on the TV screen, where they were replaying the interviews they had done earlier in the day and he had recognized us!! It was hilarious! We then spent about the next half hour or so talking with this man and his family. We are really getting good at the "Getting to Know You" conversation (our friends from our Italian language class will know what we are talking about!) so it seemed like we were quite fluent in the language as we chatted away with these people. It was so much fun!! We shared our blog address with them and hope they will be able to look at the photos we will be posting along with this story. The wife, coincidentally, was from a small town near Baucina where my Bivetto grandparents came from. She is the first person we have met in Sicily who knew of this tiny place so that was also fun. It was the kind of thing we enjoy so much, being able to talk with the local people, something we never could have done without our language skills, such as they are. And believe me, they are not as good as we would like them to be. We don't do as well with more complicated conversations as our vocabulary is fairly limited. We read the dictionary and try to remember words. We keep a dictionary in the car so that we look up words we think of. We are always trying to think of how to say something in Italian. We get by.

Which was how it went as we attempted to ask Analisa if we could get a copy of the tape with our interview on it. We managed to get our point across and she graciously wrote down her phone number so that we can call her about it. That will be a blast, to have a CD/DVD of the festival including us, being interviewed on Sicilian television!!

Fireworks!

At that moment, all the lights in the piazza went out and the fireworks extravaganza began. Similar to the one we had seen in Catania several months ago, it was choreographed to music and of course, some of the most rousing, dramatic crescendos was timed perfectly to the explosion of the fireworks and we could feel the booms in our chests as tiny bits of burned paper floated down around us like snow flurries. Standing as close as we were, we could also see the display at the top of the steps of the Duomo. All the fireworks shot up from in front of the Duomo so that the face of it was also illuminated. With the current restoration work, the façade is still partly under scaffolding, but luckily they recently exposed a portion of the top to dramatic effect. We would love to return to this beautiful city, to take part in this festival when all the restoration work is complete and we can fully appreciate this Duomo, one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Sicily. As they have started to take down the scaffolding already, we believe it will be completely uncovered very shortly. Not before we leave, but perhaps later this summer. We hope so. We know how disappointing it was to us, when we arrived and found it all covered in December. It was a thrill to see at least part of the metal armature removed several weeks ago, as we stood below in the square.

With the fireworks show concluded, a content and very well behaved crowd made their way out of the square and off to find their way home. It was truly a wonderful day and a delightful last memory of this city that will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary e Roberto

(If you are interested in renting an authentic Sicilian country house, lovingly restored and decorated in the countryside of Ragusa or an apartment in Marina di Ragusa, check out Elio's site: www.rentinitaly.net. We know he is in the process of updating it, but go ahead and take a look. Elio is a wonderful host as I have said and we cannot say enough about how lovely this area is.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Watercolors of Sicilian Places

I haven't posted any of my watercolors in a long time so I thought I'd take this opportunity, since it is almost time to end this chapter, to do so. Following are just a few of the paintings I have done over the last six months. I'd love to know what you think of them. (urban sketches)

A house, in the city of Acate

Palm Trees in Marina di Ragusa

Lighthouse in Marina di Ragusa

My Watercolors

View of Ragusa


Blue Door, Scicli


Sicily (urban sketches)

Boats in Marina di Ragusa watercolor

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rosemary and Fred at the Riserva Naturale del Fiume Irminio

Back in the U.S.A. (my family, that is) 5.12.06

Our "parenti" (relatives) have gone home. The last group left Marina di Ragusa on Thursday, to spend the night in Catania before their early morning flight to the states. We had such a good time! It was wonderful to see them and spend so much time together. They came back to Marina after their week on the road with all kinds of stories about what they had seen and done and it was obvious that Sicily had won them over. They stopped in Polizzi Generosa for my brother to see the birthplace of our maternal grandfather, Villa Abate, where Andy & Jim's maternal grandparents were born and Baucina where the Bivettos are from (at least our grandmother! You may recall that in my search I found no record of my grandfather Bivetto, whose name we carry.) It was a great experience for all of them, as it has been for Bob and I.

Just like Mamma used to make

We knew they would be tired when they got back so we decided to prepare a home-cooked meal. I made a big pot of my "Sunday sauce" complete with meatballs, pieces of pork, bracioles in both veal and beef and even threw in a couple of froscias (a kind of a rolled crepe that my mother taught me to make and my brother really likes). We grilled red and green peppers, eggplant, onions and zucchini for "antipasti" and I made a tray of chicken cutlet alla parmigiana and of course, a side dish of pasta. Everyone really seemed to enjoy it and said it was just like my mother used to make (a very large compliment!) and I was happy. The wonderful part of it being the incredible fresh ingredients and Sicilian cheeses and pastas that made everything taste that much better.

Breakfast with Fred & Elaine and the Natura Riserva

One of the fun things that happened this week was that my brother, being an early riser, came to our house a couple of mornings for coffee with me & Bob out on our terrace. It was so much fun to just have my brother drop by for coffee, to sit and chat and enjoy the morning together. One day Elaine joined him and we four drove over to the Natura Riserva Fiume Irminio and walked the paths, showing them one of our favorite spots, where the river meets the sea. We got in trouble when we wandered off the path onto the dunes and were yelled at. Sheepishly, we apologized and went back on the path where we met another guy who worked there, who escorted us around, telling us about the plants and flowers and showing us where the beach area is that is open to the public.

Exploring Ragusa and Ibla

They returned back here on Monday and were scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon so that didn't give them too much more time here but we made the most of it. On Tuesday, after a lunch of leftovers from last night's dinner, we spent the day exploring Ibla. We parked the car in Ragusa (after a minor traffic altercation that upset my brother but seemed fairly minor) and walked from centro in Ragusa Superiore down the steps and the curvy road that leads to Ibla. It was a beautiful day and our plan was to walk down to Ibla and have dinner at the restaurant Il Barrocco where we had eaten the most incredible roasted artichokes with Elio and Giovanna and their friends last month. After dinner we thought we would just catch the bus back up to where the car was parked.

Ragusa, in our opinion, is one of the hidden treasures of Sicily. The guidebooks simply do not do it justice, if they mention it at all and we think this is an enormous oversight and insult to this lovely region. The city sits high on the Iblea Plateau and fairly tumbles down the crest of the mountain. In subtle shades of tans and browns, soft golds and the most delicious shades of pinks and reds, it is a sheer joy to behold as you approach the city. Unlike some of the hill towns of Tuscany, where once you reach the city, you climb up and up and are in it, with Ragusa, you can drive along this road that parallels the city affording you a very close up view of this panorama, which I find incredibly breathtaking. Every turn of the road is a slightly different view and each as stunning as the last.

Dinner and a Taxi in Ibla

We made reservations for 8:30 and explored the Giardino Iblea, did some shopping in one of the prodotti tipici shops where everyone found something interesting to take home, last minute souvenirs. We learned that the last bus was at 7:30, presenting a bit of a dilemma but we decided we would just call a cab (or two!). The restaurant was kind enough to accommodate us early and we ordered for starters one of practically everything for everyone to try! It was a veritable feast of appetizers! The artichokes were a big hit as was everything else and the waiter suggested that we just have a sampling of the pastas as a primi since we probably would not be able to eat too much after that! He was right. The ravioli and tagliatelle were just enough and no one even had any room for dessert! A cab was called and as it was starting to rain, all six of us squeezed into it. Good thing we didn't have far to go. I don't think any of us had ridden this way in a car (girls on boys laps!) since we were teenagers. The driver was a bit nervous and took the back way in then wouldn't accept a big tip when it was offered. We laughed a lot and had a good time.

A day in Buscemi

On Wednesday I insisted they go to Buscemi. I thought it was important for my family to see this city museum that I have written about in the past. It gives a great example of how our grandparents must have lived and what life must have been like, and the reasons they may have left Sicily in the first place. Besides an interesting morning, the drive through this particular countryside is quite beautiful, as you pass through Ragusa province and into Siracusa. The rolling and terraced hills and farms are nothing but picturesque and we stopped several times for photo ops. (you can check out the website for Buscemi: www.museobuscemi.org)

Another Last Supper

Wednesday night we went to the restaurant Bacciamolemani, along the Lungomare here in Marina di Ragusa. We like this restaurant, with its more modern, stylish décor and its windows that create a glass wall with a sea view. The sun was just beginning to go down and the colors of streaky oranges and reds warmed the sandy beach and reflected on the deep blue sea. Everyone wanted a pizza and a salad. The food and wine were good, the service friendly and helpful. We sampled some of the desserts and just enjoyed each other's company on this our last night together. By the time night descended and the stars came out, we piled back in the car. They dropped us off at our apartment and continued on to theirs, sleepy enough to just fall into bed, after doing their final packing for the long trip home.

Thursday we ate brunch at their apartment (does this whole trip sounds like it revolved around eating??) finishing off whatever they had in their kitchen. It was fun catching up on each other's lives and giving them a taste of ours. We hope they enjoyed themselves as much as we enjoyed having them here and look forward to seeing them again when we get back to the states next year.

Buon Viaggio Famiglia!
A presto!
Rosemary and Bob

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rosemary's new Carta di Identita

Renewed Permesso di Soggiorno 5.14.06

Today is Mother's Day. I am celebrating Mother's Day by resting here with my foot on ice. Not a traditional way to celebrate Mother's Day you say? No, not traditional. Essential at the moment because on Friday, as I excitedly walked away from the Comune offices in Ragusa with my brand new identity card, I twisted my ankle. At first I thought I had broken something but x-rays at the Emergency Room showed no sign of a break maybe a tear but probably just a sprain. They recommended I stay off of it for a few days, apply ice and elevate it. So that's what I'm doing. A bit frustrating though because we only have a few short weeks before we are scheduled to leave Sicily and there were still a few things we wanted to do. Oh well. We'll just have to see how it goes. In the meantime, here I sit, on ice. Thankfully, this did not happen while my family was here (actually they had taken a flight to Rome that very morning!) so it did not interfere with their time here. Which, by the way, was wonderful! We enjoyed having them here so very much and I'll write about that in a separate posting.

But, back to the Permesso. We had an appointment to return to the Questura on 4 May to pick it up. When we arrived, there was a short line of people waiting to receive documents. It was not the madhouse Perugia had been and we just waited our turn. The office here in Ragusa is smaller than in Perugia and it didn't take long for us to get to the front of the line. We were aware, however, that many people were being turned away, their papers not ready yet so it didn't surprise us to be told that we had to return next week to pick up ours. Which also meant that I couldn't request a new identity card until then either. Apparently, Bob's is good until 2011. We thought since our Identity cards had our old Perugia address that we would need to get new ones but that was not the case. As it turned out however, and we didn't realize it, my birthdate was incorrect on both the original Permesso and the identity card! My birthday is the 25th of May and it was written as the 26th. The efficient woman at the Comune office insisted that we correct it on the Permesso before she would issue a new identity card.

On the afternoon of May 11, we returned to the Questura and took our place in line. This time the line was out the door and we waited about an hour to reach the sportello (the window). As it was a nice day, we really didn't mind the wait, except for the people who thought they didn't have to wait in line and tried to just go right up to the front or the two guys who somehow managed to end up in front of us. We were pleased when the man behind the window insisted people get in line and not just walk up to the window expecting to be helped.

When our turn came, our documents were ready. We signed our names and off we went! Permission granted to stay another year!! Yeah!! For all our worrying, it went smoothly and we are all set to begin the next part of our adventure. We never dreamed it would take so long for all of this to happen. But we are grateful to Elio and Giovanna and their friend Romolo who helped get everything going.

The next day we went to the Comune office to request a new identity card with the correct birthdate on it. In Perugia the cards we received were the latest technology, more like a credit card and everyone we know was surprised to see it and didn't really recognize it as a "Carta d'Identita." The woman behind the counter remembered me and took my Permesso, with the new (corrected) birthdate, my passport, a fee of 10.80 euros and the passport photos and asked me to return within the hour to pick it up. After a celebratory cappuccino we walked back to the office and Bob stopped to take photos while I went into the office to pick it up. It's so lovely! This looks so much more like the cards the locals have, it makes me feel more Italian!! Seriously, it's a little folded ivory-colored card and the design seems more like a passport-type document. I bought one of those little plastic sleeves everyone has to protect it and limped back to our car.

So now we are all up to date with our Permissions and Identity cards. Elio wants Bob to apply for an Italian driver's license. We had been told that you have to take a big test (all in Italian) and so he was worried about that. His language skills are good, but not that good! Elio thinks all you have to do is have it changed to an Italian one but we aren't really sure. Bob found out that in Verona, you can take a test online in English at their Drivers' License offices. So I guess that's what he wants to do.

In the meantime, there are only 17 more days for us in Sicily. We are very sad to leave here but know also that once summer gets in full swing it will be very hot and very crowded here and that is not something we would enjoy. So the time is right for us to go and we have so much to look forward to in Verona and the Veneto, we are getting excited about what this next part of our adventure holds.

Happy Mother's Day!
Rosemary e Robert

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cinco de Mayo in Sicilia

Bob, a beer and a margarita. It's Cinco de Mayo!


A woman at La Cantina, checking out the handsome waiter.


We should have taken a "before shot." Here's the "aftermath."

Cinco de Mayo (cinque maggio) in Italia 5.5.06

Yesterday was the 5th of May. In Arizona and the American southwest, they celebrate this Mexican holiday that commemorates a battle in Mexico’s war for independence mostly by eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas and Mexican beer. Friends of ours, George & Bitsy in Phoenix, used to have a yearly bash at their house complete with margarita machines. They are excellent cooks also and the food was always delicious. After their little daughter Nina was born (I think she is 6 now) they paused for a few years but we always had fun hanging out with the neighbors and meeting the other interesting people who were invited and looked forward to this yearly occasion. The history of this day is really interesting. If you want to read more, go to: http://www.vivacincodemayo.org/history.htm

Last year we noted the date but as there were no Mexican restaurants in Perugia we did not have the opportunity to eat tortilla chips or chimichangas or even an enchilada or two. The margaritas they made at the Punta di Vista (the bar just off Piazza Italia with the lovely view of San Domenico and San Pietro) were strong enough to curl your hair so I didn't have too many of those!

But, believe it or not, here in Marina di Ragusa, on the south east coast of Sicily, there is a Mexican restaurant! It’s called La Cantina Tex-Mex and I have wanted to try it for some time now but Bob was skeptical as to how good it might be. It does seem a strange concept. But with yesterday being Cinco de Mayo I talked him into at least going in to try a margarita. We ended up having the fajitas, a chicken enchilada and an order of tortilla chips. The way they prepared all of this was quite different from the way we are used to in the states but it was, nevertheless, quite good! The chips seemed almost home made with a spicy taste and served with three different dipping sauces - a mild tomato salsa, a spicy cheese sauce and a little mixture of spicy ground meat. Now you should know that I cannot eat anything that is too spicy and Bob has a delicate stomach so we try to stay away from anything overly hot. This was just the right amount for us. Which probably means that for all of you back in Phoenix, it was pretty mild stuff. But we enjoyed it very much. The enchilada had nice big chunks of white chicken meat. The fajitas were accompanied by some bean concoction, the hottest of what we were served, corn and another bean, with tender pieces of chicken. The tortillas were thick and crispy. The guacamole left something to be desired and we were told that it is difficult to get limes here in Sicily so that may have something to do with it. But otherwise the meal was delightful. The margarita was a bit too strong for me and I was feeling very giggly by the time the food arrived which might account for my positive opinion of the meal!

The place was very empty when we arrived, after 8:30pm with just a few young people hanging out outside. We wondered how popular this might be with the Sicilians but we know how late these Italians eat dinner.* They seated us at a table near the rear of the restaurant where they had tables for two. Otherwise it looked like they had the place set for a party with long tables of 20 seats or more. The music they played was a mix of Jose Feliciano type Mexican guitar and Mexican rap and reggae - so some of it was very pleasant to listen to, some not so and all of it at the decibel level young people enjoy but us old folks tend to complain about! By the time we left the place was filled to capacity. The young guys who ran the place were adorable and full of energy and enthusiasm. It turned out the brother of one is married to a woman from Mexico so perhaps that is where they got the idea to open a Mexican restaurant.

All in all it was a fun evening and if I can talk Bob into it I might have to go back one more time before we leave Sicily. Maybe this time I can ask them to put a little more mix in the margarita and not so much tequila so I don't get so tipsy so fast! Besides, I'd like to see how they do the chimichangas. I must admit also, that while I love Italian food - it's what I grew up on - it was also nice to try something different for a change.

We spoke to my family yesterday. They are in Palermo. Jim and Evie leave for home tomorrow. Fred & Elaine and Andy & Marnie will be back here on Monday for a few more days. They're having a wonderful time and we look forward to having a little more time together.

The weather looks good. We had a little rain the other day and wind yesterday. But the sun is fully up now (I started writing about 6am) and I think I will go take a walk on the beach. We spent some time yesterday packing up our winter things and starting to get organized for the move. I cannot believe our time here is coming to an end. It will be very difficult to leave but we are excited at what the next adventure holds.

We hope you will come along with us and see where the road takes us.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary & Bob

*about observing the way the Italians eat: This is an interesting phenomenon. There are definitely meal times here. Lunch is around 1pm. Restaurants won't even open to seat you before 12:30 at the earliest. The riposo lasts from 1 to 4ish. Dinner will not be eaten before around 9pm, with restaurants not even open until 7:30 at the earliest. But... we have noticed that around 10 in the morning people are having a second cup of espresso with a cornetto or a brioche (because, of course, lunch won't be until 1 or so and breakfast was just a piece of bread or a pastry and that won't get you till lunch so you're hungry by 10!) and then around 5pm in the afternoon, everyone is eating a gelato (because, we think, how can you wait until 9 to eat dinner if you don't have a little something to tide you over??). So we get a kick out of it because, we think, why not just eat a bigger breakfast and an earlier dinner instead of all the snacking! But, that's the way it is and who are we to suggest anything different! This is Italy! They've probably been eating this way for centuries and it is just too cute anyway.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Views of and from the diga




La Diga! (The Dam) 5.1.06

Monday was the first of May. It’s a holiday here and a lot of people showed up at the beach as if it were Sunday. That’s the way it goes here. Sundays and holidays there are a ton of people walking around – invading our quiet beach! (As if we own it!) Seriously, we much prefer the quiet of the weekdays when only the locals are here and we have the beach all to ourselves so we decided to take a short drive. Since our car accident we have had a “loaner” – a car the body shop has allowed us to use, free of charge, while our car is being fixed. And it is an OK car but not one we would trust to go very far with, so we have stayed pretty close to home.

In the morning we drove over to Ragusa Ibla and I worked a little on the painting I started of the cityscape there. Frustrated by the way it was turning out I decided to call it quits after a while and called Bob (we now have two cell phones!) and we went in search of a place to have lunch. There is a restaurant just outside Ibla called La Stazione, built in a former train station. The setting is beautiful and we have wanted to try it for a while, so the timing seemed right to go there. What we did not know was that on certain Sundays and Holidays they have what they call “barbeque” – they cook meats on a grill and serve all these wonderful appetizers and vegetables on a big table, like at a barbeque at someone’s house on the 4th of July – only much, much better than hot dogs and beans!!! We had roasted potatoes, grilled eggplant, broccoli, assorted cheeses, roasted onions (Bob especially loved those!), sun dried tomatoes (in olive oil, some of the best we’ve ever had), roasted peppers, potato croquettes and more, plus some of the best bread we’ve eaten in Italy! They grilled chicken, veal, pork and thin slices of beef. It was all served buffet style-help yourself and for 16.50 euros each, it also included wine and water. We sat outside in this garden area and it was delightful.

Afterwards we drove the short distance to Lago Rosalia to see if we could find the dam that Elio told us about. We have been to this area a few times but have never actually found the dam (diga). Boy did we luck out! We found the gate at the road Elio described but when we got there the gate was locked. We stood around a bit trying to peak over the gate to see if we could catch a glimpse of the dam and within a few minutes a man showed up from the other side of the gate, opened it and drove through, locking the gate again on our side. Obviously, he worked there. Bob started asking him about the lake and where it went and for some reason he must have taken a liking to him, he told us we could go in. He opened the gate for us and we thought he was telling us that we could drive all through it and he would meet us at the other side in 10 minutes, after stopping to see his wife. We couldn’t believe our good fortune and quickly drove through the gate trying not to stay too long there at the dam – where the water flows under the mountain – and proceeded on to the other point, waiting for him to return to unlock the other gate.

Goofballs that we are, we didn’t realize what he was really telling us was to go through past the dam, after looking at it and taking our photos, to the house, where his wife was and inviting us for coffee! We did not at all understand that this was what he meant and after about an hour (and us starting to wonder what happened to him) he came to the other gate where we were waiting and explained what he had said earlier. Then we understood! We felt really bad that we hadn’t understood completely and had missed that opportunity but being allowed to go in and see the diga was enough. We thanked him very, very much and he showed us how to open the gate and go out. When we told Elio what we had done, he laughed and said that he had never been beyond the gate! How lucky are we?

The area around the lake is very beautiful also and on this holiday many people were out having picnics and enjoying their day off. It was interesting to see all the families with kids out playing by the lake, eating and just hanging out together, young and old alike. It was a very enjoyable day all in all.

Buon maggio!
Rosemary & Bob

Bivettos Take Sicilia





La Mia Famiglia in Sicilia 4.30.06

This morning we wished "Buon Viaggio" to my brother and cousins as they headed out for a week "in giro" all around Sicily. We have had fun this week with them! After the car accident Elio drove us out to meet them and escort them here to Marina. It was so great to see their smiling faces as they approached in their gigantic nine-passenger van. Especially after making a fool of myself waving and wildly gesticulating at another vehicle earlier that was not theirs! We did a lot of kissing, hugging and laughing and then all piled into the van for the short trip to Marina di Ragusa, where they would stay for the next week.

We stopped to pick up the keys from Antonio at Ragusana Viaggi, the travel agency we used to find their apartment and got them all settled in. They seemed happy with the place, decided who would sleep where and, since they were all starving, walked down the Lungomare to Serafina, one of the restaurants along the beach for dinner. It was so nice to all be together again like this. They were very tired from their long journey and after dinner we walked them back to the apartment and said Buona Notte.

The following day they decided to simply relax, sleep in, walk around Marina, shop for some groceries and get over the jet lag. The apartment had a few quirks, mainly electrical. The overall wattage is low, which meant they couldn't have the electric stove on while the hair dryer was going or wash dishes with hot water while the washing machine was going and that sort of thing. So for the first day or so, until they got the hang of dealing with it, the power kept going out and my brother running up and down the stairs to flip switches. They were really good sports about it but which was, I'm sure, kind of frustrating. Not at all like what they are used to in the states where every electrical appliance known to man can be used simultaneously even if the meter is spinning like a top. Energy consumption in the states is so effortless and free flowing but here, we are reminded that it is a precious commodity to be used judiciously. They learned to adapt and figured out how to manage it all and were otherwise happy with the place, much to my relief. The apartment is open and airy with lots of windows and a most incredible view of the sea. It has a gorgeous corner window next to the very spacious terrace with doors that open on to it from the kitchen and living room, providing a very indoor/outdoor feeling. The furnishings are a mix of antiques and comfy chairs and sofas.

They did a good job of alternating the week with quiet days mostly spent in Marina with afternoon jaunts to nearby cities, to longer drives that took all day and left them exhausted by nightfall! We went to see the Greek temples at Agrigento one day, to buy ceramics in Caltagirone another. We spent an entire day in Siracusa and its island of Ortigia, and wandered around visiting the Duomo, one of my favorites in Sicily, and the archeological museum. Just as we were leaving the museum we got soaked in a torrential downpour, laughing as we ran for the car! Evie and Jim had earlier taken a little carriage ride tour around Ortigia and declared it entertaining and informative. We had lunch at a little local place where the antipasti were delicious and everyone enjoyed the wine and the food.

Another day we drove over to Donnalucata for some fresh fish and had a literal feast with everything we bought and cooked in their kitchen. We had swordfish, tuna, sardines, and another white fish Evie remembered from her childhood. Everything was fresh and delicious. Andy & Marnie and my sister-in-law Elaine are all fantastic gourmet cooks so we ate very well! In addition to the seafood they made a fresh pasta sauce and served it over spaghetti. We had salads and tomatoes and cheeses and breads to die for.

We took them to the little wine shop where they filled empty water bottles with local wines that cost 1.5 euros a liter and enjoyed all the varieties we tried.

We introduced them to our favorite chocolate cookie called "Pan di Stelle," a packaged cookie that is my absolute favorite. We sampled those incredible cannoli at Buonaiuto's in Modica. We showed them where to buy fresh bread and all the meats and cheese and olives etc that we knew they would love. Of course we took them to our favorite gelato shops here in Marina di Ragusa and in Donnalucata, where the display of flavors is a work of art in itself. We each ordered a pizza at one of the best pizzerias here and Evie had a favorite of hers, pizza with sauce and onions and Elaine raved over the 4 Stagione with fresh vegetables representing the four seasons. Half of them had the classic Margarita and most of us finished with a lemon sorbetto that was like a granita and provided the finishing touch.

My brother Fred, it turns out, is a fantastic driver and navigated the crazy traffic with aplomb. Even if he was amazed and astounded at the insane way they drive here. Bob felt quite vindicated as I am always telling him he should not let it get to him. It's just the way they drive here and there's no sense making yourself crazy over it! But Fred said all the same things Bob says while he is driving, a fact that Bob did not hesitate to point out to me!

Last night we had a fun experience. We took them to a place called La Masseria, which translated, means "big farm." This is one of those places here in Ragusa, where you can eat fresh cheeses and typical Ragusana food fresh from the farm where they make it. They have a set menu and you pay 16.50 euros per person for this huge meal, including water, wine and dessert. It's amazing! First antipasti of bruschetta, different kinds of focaccia and cheese, followed by chickpeas (ceci); a bowl of freshly made Ricotta Calda (warm ricotta cheese, freshly made right there) served with local Ragusana bread, a pasta dish (cavati with a pork flavored sauce), followed by sausages and slices of beef. The finishing touch was the fried ravioli filled with ricotta and dusted with sugar.

The best part of the meal however was the conversation with Elio and Giovanna who we had invited to join us. My cousins Andy and Jim, much to my surprise, spoke Sicilian! They had grown up with their mother's parents who spoke Sicilian and still remembered many words and phrases. All the while they were growing up and I guess speaking to other Italians they were corrected and criticized as not using the right words. It was not Italian they were told and they insisted that what they knew was indeed Italian. It turns out, and I don't think they realized it, that they were speaking Sicilian, which is a language in itself and not a dialect, as some people think. It is older than the Italian language and there are different "accents" from one part of Sicily to another that vary in pronunciation. Sicilians can tell where you come from by the way you pronounce the words, just as we can tell if someone is from Boston or New York or Texas.

They were so excited to be able to talk with Giovanna and Elio and felt validated after all the years of teasing. I must admit that before I came to Sicily I did not know much about it. I knew that my grandparents had been born here, that they were peasants; that life was hard for them and so they left. I did not know the richness of its history or how varied and beautiful its landscape. Growing up I felt that it must somehow be inferior to the other places like Rome and Venice and all the more well-known northern cities because of the way it was described - mostly by non-Sicilians. I know now that this is not true. The history of Sicily is ancient, preceding the Romans. The Greeks knew how special it was. Many different people conquered it and left their mark. I've learned about the Normans and the Arabs, the French and the Spanish, the unification, the Mafia, whose negative influence has left its mark and which the people are still struggling to overcome and eradicate. It's a fascinating place with a fascinating story to tell and so many beautiful and interesting places to visit.

And now my family is off on their "giro." They will visit Etna and Taormina, Messina and Reggio Calabria, Cefalú, Palermo, Trápani and Erice. Evie and Jim will fly out of Palermo on Sunday and Fred & Elaine, Andy & Marnie will come back here for a few more days with us. We know they will have an amazing experience and go home with a new appreciation for the land of our forefathers. As for us, we'll be hanging out at the beach, hoping the sun shines on us and just taking it easy.

We wish them Buon Viaggio!
Rosemary & Bob

The Bivettos are coming! 4.22.06

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Today my brother Fred and sister-in-law Elaine arrived in Catania! We had a fun conversation with them after they got settled in their hotel and will see them tomorrow after they meet Andy & Jim's plane and they all drive here together. Until then, Fred & Elaine plan to see Mt. Etna and Catania and have a day on their own before joining our crazy group on a three-week "giro" in Sicilia. We're getting really excited now at the thought of spending time with all of them.

Today we did some grocery shopping and a little housecleaning in preparation. They have rented a house down the beach from our apartment, so they won't be staying with us, but we still wanted everything to look nice when they arrive. I wish the row of political signs that appeared a few weeks ago were not there surrounding our little Piazza Malta, but that is the way of the election season here. The funny thing is one candidate will cover all the boards that were put up for this purpose, so that you see twenty of the exact same poster. (Why are politicians such egomaniacs?) Then two days later, another candidate will cover half of those with their face and so on, kind of a musical chairs game of sorts in the political arena. Berlusconi recently lost to Prodi in the election for Prime Minister (much to our shock and delight) but he still refuses to accept the outcome. Every day there is a new story that we try to understand but so far it looks like Prodi is the winner and we only hope that he has some good ideas for the country. The sides are pretty evenly split so our Italian friends are still concerned about how this is all going to work. We just try to follow as best we can.

We posted a photo of some of the "guys" in Marina di Ragusa the other day, but I wasn't sure I ever talked about them. As in all the Italian cities we have visited, there is a group of old men who hang out in the main piazzas. I know I described this phenomena before, but in Marina, they not only hang out in the main piazza "Piazza duca degli Abruzzi" but they have this lovely long promenade along the sea, the "Lungomare Andrea Doria" to walk up and down. We would see some of them in pairs, like the two Giovannis, one in a wheel chair (before we knew their names, Bob had nicknamed him "Wheelie") and one with a cane ("Sticks"). There is also Angelo, who somehow seems younger than the other guys, and yet another Giovanni who is usually by himself, who calls us "Ragazzi (kids!)." There is Umberto, who we called "Dude" because he was always dressed so spiffy. “Antsy-guy” is what we call another of these men who never sits still and always walks back and forth with his hands behind his back like a caged tiger, occasionally stopping briefly to talk with the others. He has never stopped long enough for us to introduce ourselves but we always get a nice wave and quick “giorno” as he passes. When we arrived here in December, we would always say buon giorno or buona sera to these guys as we passed and they always returned the same, in such a big friendly way. Eventually, and it took many weeks for this to happen, they stopped Bob one day and just had to ask him who we were, why we were here and where we came from. Their first question was "Tedeschi?" (meaning "are you Germans"?) to which we had to explain that no, we were Americans but that my grandparents were born in Sicily and that was why we wanted to spent time here. Now they talk to us, mostly in Sicilian, which we don't understand at all, and sometimes in a mixture of Sicilian and Italian and the conversation usually involves the weather and how fortunate we all are to be by the sea. It's very sweet and we have enjoyed very much our little chats with these guys. Bob has also taken photos of them and made prints. The first time he did this he thinks the word must have gotten out that he had given Giovanni a print and by the time he got to Angelo, he was so thrilled to get it he was practically in tears and thanked us so much that it brought tears to our eyes too! We've also had some nice conversations with Salvatore in the coffee bar called “The Summer” just down on our corner and appreciate all the help he has offered in terms of driving directions and places to go. We don’t think he has the best cornetti in town but we just like him and enjoy patronizing his bar.

Going into some of the same shops here, people have come to recognize us now and the guy in the Delle Rose coffee bar always give us a big greeting when we pass. The first time I tried a granita there it took me back to my childhood days of eating what was called "Italian ice" but which I am sure, was the New York version of the granita. I can't wait to take my family there to try this treat that is like lemonade frozen until just slushy and eaten with a spoon. Yummmm!

Now I am looking out the window at a blue, blue sea and I think we have to just go down and take a walk on the beach. I don't expect to have a lot of time to write in these next few weeks so I hope you will check back again and see what's going on in our lives. To all my friends and family I wish a happy spring and hope life is going well for all of you, whatever part of the world you find yourself in!

Abbracci e baci,
Rosemary e Roberto

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Three Reasons We Can't Stay in Italy Forever

Our son Christopher his daughter Kyla and our daughter Jessica. At Kyla's second birthday party. Kyla has cherry punch on her lips not lipstick.

Baroque Face in Scicli

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ouch! Our Toyota got crunched

Fortunately no one got hurt but the car, now in the shop being fixed.