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.
Rosemary and Bob