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