Posts Tagged With: Road Scholar

Ah, Palermo! Haven’t I Seen Your Face Before?

April 30, May 1 – 3, 2012

Throughout history Palermo has been dominated by many powerful invaders due to its strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean. Some of the invaders include the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the French and the Spanish Bourbons – just to name the major ones. They have all left a mark on the beautiful architecture of Palermo.

Our Road Scholar group arrived the day before May Day and the city was very quiet as most of the population had ventured out to the countryside or seaside for the May Day holiday tradition of picnics and relaxation. Because of this we had a couple of days where we were able to wander the streets and alleyways without much concern of being run down by a car. You need to understand that cars drive through alleys that are barely able to hold one car width, let alone one car driving past a parked car. The cost for car insurance must be sky-high – like the gasoline. Must be why so many people ride scooters. The tourists seem to prefer the horse carriages.

A fellow group member, Sandy and myself had an adventurous walkabout late one afternoon. We wandered around a supermarket, ogling the cheeses, various cured meats and were amazed by the looooong aisles of dried pasta. Palermo had returned to business as usual and we crossed major thoroughfares, dodging cars along the way and hugging the brick walls of the alleys. As a reward, we enjoyed a gelato while watching the cars whiz past the designer clothing stores. Several times we encountered people who would start speaking in Italian to me (assuming I understood what they were saying). Then I remembered that our guide, Enrico had told me, that once we reached Palermo, I would start to see my face in the faces of the people of Palermo. He was right – I found that my face belonged in that region. I’d always been proud of being half Italian – more specifically, if someone asked – Sicilian. I just never realized that I had a look about me that actually belonged to the Western region of Sicily. That night I met Ciro Grillo, who would take me to my family in Santa Ninfa, he asked me if I’d been at a certain street corner at a certain time that afternoon with another woman. I said yes, why? He said he thought he’d recognized me from my blog photo, but didn’t stop because he was driving his scooter. I was amazed that I could be recognized on the streets of Palermo by someone I’d never met.

One day while walking through the Palermo back streets deciding what to have for lunch, several of my fellow group members and I came across a small wedding  in progress when we decided to have a look inside a church – oops. It was a very traditional Italian Catholic wedding and we went back outside to wait for the bride and groom to emerge from the church. We cheered along with their family and friends. What a beautiful sight and a beautiful bride. In case you are wondering we had arancini (fried rice balls with parma ham and mozzarella inside), and I finished with, of course, a gelato.

Palermo with its diversity of people, flavors (of gelato) and architecture have left an indelible mark in my memory. What wonderful city.

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Ciao Sicily – Nice to Meet You

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Early morning departure for Catania, Sicily. Today I join up with the Road Scholar tour group for my journey through Sicily. Roma airport was chaotic. Had a bunch of American teenagers on the flight – several “Snookie” wannabes. Please don’t let them be at the Hellenia Hotel in Gardini Naxos.

I met up with the tour escort, Enrico outside of baggage claim. Once the rest of the group arrived we climbed on our bus and headed to the hotel. We had some wonderful views of Mt. Etna during our drive to the hotel. What a spectacular view it was a really clear day and the volcano was smoking. Eruptions have caused the closure of the Catania airport a number of times in the last year due to ash and smoke, so I was a little concerned about the status of my flight. It is the most active volcano in the world and highest in Europe. It has the longest period of documented eruptions in the world. On January 6th of this year a new crater was formed during an eruption. Recently it has erupted about every 12 days. Here is video of the eruption that took place on Friday, April 13, just prior to my departure from the U.S. It is really spectacular.

We arrived at our hotel in Gardini Naxos, had a lovely lunch and went to our rooms to settle in for the next four nights. The Hellenia Hotel fronts the Bay of Naxos. I have a lovely room with a patio facing the bay. I also had a lovely surprise – no roommate, although I had agreed to have one. Had a nice dinner and a chance to get to meet the members of my tour group. It seems to be a good group and experienced travelers so that should bode well.

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