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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Trip Continues

We returned  to Mazara del Vallo for a rest, a shower, then a drive into town for dinner in a local pizza parlor. We were served swordfish roll ups, which to me tasted wonderful just like French quenelles. I miss my husband on this trip. Comparing foods we had shared was a big part of our life together. Once again I was served an alternate dessert with small amaretto cookies and sweetened sheep milk ricotta cheese which I find easy to digest.
 We left the next day to  drive to Agricento and we visited the temples of the Greeks which were consequently destroyed by the Romans. This is described as the first of two devastating civilian events in Sicilian history, the second being the expulsion of the Jews by Ferdinand and Isabella, the first Spanish Catholic rulers who wanted Italy to be wholly Catholic.The Jews were in Agricento  from the 12th to the 15th centuries, had their own section of the city, their own butchers and were the business community of Agricento.
Then we drove along the southern coast of Sicliy past the place where the Allies landed in 1943, the site of Sicily's oil refinery and on to an agritourisme where we watched a wedding reception, had a lovely dinner and we will leave early in the morning to beat the Germans and the Japanese to see the mosaics at the Roman villa which was recently uncovered having been covered for millennia by a landslide.

The mosaics were wonderful. We were the first group to enter which was great, but Katya rushed us through as other groups were encroaching on 'our' space. The mosaics were wonderful but not as racy as we saw in Pompeii when the old man opened the locked doors with his keys.
We drove to Ragusa, learned about Ragusa superiore and Ibla below , the earthquake in 1692, the reunification of the 2 Ragusas by Mussolini and the competition between Ragusa and Modica. Walked to the cathedral in upper Ragusa, ate dinner together --snacks, pizzas, veggies for me, ice cream for everyone else. I was exhausted from riding on the bus so I did not go to see the parade,concert and fireworks celebrating St George's feast day, but went back to the hotel for an early night. But Carolyn and Sam's room opens to a patio with seating, so we joined them and Susan and Dan joined us with a bottle of Marsala wine which we drank before we retired.

That was Saturday. Sunday we left at 9:15 and walked 350 steps down to Ibla with Graziella as our guide. It was rainy and I used the poncho Phyllis leant me in Cuba(thanks Phyllis) We stopped under an overpass, then in a museum to get out of the rain. The city is lovely with narrow streets, wrought iron balconies and pastel-colored painted houses all attached to prevent more damage from an earthquake. We met Salvatore, an old man without teeth who lives in a house with so many antiques my grandparents would have felt very much at home, but spread out in many more rooms. He played the piano for Maria Callas in 1962 and for us. On our own for lunch I joined Ruth, Dana, Adreinne and Mary. I  had  cod ceviche with a Sicilian sauce made of capers, olives and tomatoes, not cooked. 
Free time was used up by waiting for the bus that never came.

 Dana, Adrienne and I finally took a taxi back to the hotel, just a half hour before we had to meet the group. We traveled to Modica by bus, then transferred to 6 Fiat 500 cars from 1957. Tiny, they drove us up and down the narrow streets, with hairpin turns, that looked like dead end streets until we drove right in front of a wall and suddenly turned right or left. San Francisco looks tame by comparison. Then we visited the highlight, well another highlight of the trip for me. Chocolate made without cocoa butter or milk. I tasted lots of different favors and bought out the store. Not really. Then we had a delicious dinner with fava bean soup, bruschetta, they had several cheeses and goulash. I ate orange and fennel and black olive salad. And plenty of white wine! On our way back to Ragusa, we parked the bus and watched more fireworks in Ibla,again celebrating the Feast of St. George. Made me less sad that I had missed out on the party the night before.
Tomorrow we visit a farm for the day.

A day in the life was the title of Monday's adventure into the countryside of southeastern Sicily. After an hour's pleasant ride among hills, olive trees, almond trees and wheat fields we arrive by very narrow road to a farm. All of the properties are divided by low stone walls created without the use of mortar or even mud to hold them up. On this property we first see six cows, under the shade of a few trees.Then we arrive to the hearty welcome of Ture, short for Salvatore, the farmer. Concetta, his wife awaits in the spacious courtyard where the many plants remind me of Arizona. There are succulents, palm trees as well as flowering plants and lots of birds flying around. Ann says they're swifts.
We are invited into a sitting room lined with chairs and sofas. They expect OAT travelers whenever they are in town, everyday for the past ten days and from today, a three day break! No tours in July and August. It is just too hot.

We are served  coffee and cookies made just like my mother made when I was a child, with a screw top machine that gets loaded with cookie dough and gets spit out of the front. This machine also made cookies, depending on the shape of the disc.

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