Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Road to Sicily - Part 2

Here we are in Palermo, Sicily, home of the vendetta, where real men settle their differences with shotguns. Today we drive to the beautiful seaside town of Cefalu on the Mediterranean Sea. The view from above the town looks like a postcard, with the red tile roofs shining in the sun surrounded by coral blue water. The streets of Cefalu, like many towns in Sicily, are hilly and paved with cobblestones. Colorful shops aimed mostly at tourists display an array of beautiful ceramics, crafts and other locally made goods. Restaurants abound...we had lunch at Al Porticciolo, with a view of the water that takes your breath away. Local wines are usually served with meals and are wonderful to drink. The Cathedral in Cefalu is the main architectural focal point in the central square. It's hard to imagine that people live here, surrounded by all this beauty.

In the evening we drive up Monte Pelligrino to the Shrine of Santa Rosalia, built in 1625. Rosalia was born to a wealthy Norman family in 1130, but soon renounced her privileged position in society, preferring, instead, a solitary hermit’s life in a cave on top of the mountain. In 1624, as the plague devastated Palermo’s population, Rosalia appeared in a dream to a feverish citizen, instructing him to find her remains and to take them around the city. This he duly did and the miracles followed immediately: as Rosalia’s bones passed through the streets, those afflicted by the plague were cured and the city saved. Her shrine was built soon thereafter, and as you enter it, you can feel the holiness of the place and sense the presence of Santa Rosalia, now the patron saint of Palermo.

We drive down Monte Pelligrino on a winding road in the dark; not a trip for the feint-hearted. At the foot of the mountain, we arrive at Mondello, another of what seems like an endless supply of picturesque seaside towns in Sicily. Mondello is kind of the Hamptons of Sicily, with mansions and villas lining the waterfront. Strolling along the beach, we search for what every Italian looks for on arriving in a new place: a good restaurant. The evening is pleasantly warm and there are many places to choose from. We decide on da Peppino, a homey little place with friendly service and a diverse menu. We sample everything from pizza (to die for) pasta, and octopus. Back on the bus, Oliverio, our tour director, gives us instructions to properly clean and cook octopus.

Thursday is spent visiting wineries thanks to a side trip arranged by my son Matt. A van picks us up at the hotel, and with Salvatore, our driver, and Germana, our guide, we are off to Marsala to visit the Pelligrino and Donnafugata vineyards. The day is bright sunshine, like virtually all the days we spent in Sicily: thank you Lord. At the Donnafugata Winery, we meet Zane, a woman who proved to be a walking encyclopedia on wine making. She charmed and enlightened us with her stories on the history of the winery, and then put out a lovely spread of salamis, cheeses, breads and olive oil, which we washed down with eight of the wines produced there. Caught up in the excitement, we bought bottles of wine to bring home. Since we had no room in our luggage, we drank about half of them on our hotel balclony that night!

On the way back we stopped at yet another beautiful mountain town on the shores of the Mediterranean, Erice. The town is a mixture of centuries-old and modern houses, with shops and restaurants thrown in. The views from Erice are breathtaking as can be seen in the photo at left. I never believed there was so much to see in Sicily, yet every day finds us in another beautiful setting. We work up an appetite walking the hills and sightseeing. It's almost as if the Italian lying dormant in you is somehow brought to life as you soak up the language and culture that is your heritage. That evening my adventurous son, who has done extensive Googling for this trip, takes us to a local restaurant called Caprici di Sicilio where we are the only tourists present. We somehow make our orders understood and enjoy yet another great meal on this fabulous island.

Don't miss Part 3 for the final installment of our excursion where we visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, shop in Taormina, and see amazing Greco-Roman ruins in Siracusa. Ciao pisanos.


Children's Craniofacial Association

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