Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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 d├ęcor 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

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