Posts Tagged With: Vespa

Liberation Day in Sicily

April 25, 2012

Happy Liberation Day Sicily – Today they celebrate the 1943  landing of the Allied troops on Sicily and the beginning of its liberation.

Today we visited Tindari by way of Messina. Tindari is home to the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna. The story of how the Black Madonna arrived in Tindari

is the stuff that legends are made of. According to local tradition, the statue, which is certainly of Byzantine origin, was one of many works of art smuggled out of Constantinople in the 8th and 9th Centuries. A storm forced the ship carrying the Black Madonna into the port of Tindari, where the sailors deposited their load at the local abbey for safekeeping. She now sits behind the altar with the inscription “nigro sum sed formosa” (black am I, but beautiful). People still make pilgrimages to the Black Madonna.

At Tindari there is a wonderfully preserved Greco-Roman archaeological site which includes Roman habitations, thermal baths, as well as a Greek theatre and during the summer it is possible to see Greek plays. There are several mosaics that have survived and can be viewed in the baths.

We had lunch at a restaurant with stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Aeolian Islands. While  walking down the hill to the bus I stopped and got some fresh picked and roasted hazelnuts. I’ve never been a big fan of them but these tasted sooooo good – I couldn’t resist.

We stopped at Messina on the way back to our hotel. Messina is the closest point to the Italian mainland (2 miles). The main mode of transportation between the islands is ferries. There are even ferries that transport trains. The trains are broken down and then reassembled.

While we were at Messina there was a gathering of vintage Vespa enthusiasts. These people have taken broken down, rusting Vespas and brought them back to their original condition. This reduces the motor tax paid on them. Enrico went around and took photos as many of the Vespas, as he has two vintage Vespas himself that he has reconditioned.

No gelato today – just fresh roasted hazelnuts.

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Roman Holiday – Part Two

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Buongiorno Roma! What a beautiful day.

I did a LOT of walking today. Met the tour I’d booked at 8:30 a.m. in order to try to get into the Colosseum. SUCCESS!! They opened the gates – a surprise because the public transportation strike was still taking place for 4 more hours.

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire it is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture. The Colosseum held more of fifty thousand spectators, and was used for gladiatorial games and public spectacles.

We went into the underground portion of the Colosseum after viewing the layout upstairs. The underground has only been opened about two years and was closed this past winter due to flooding. It just reopened on April 7, which is why I was so excited to obtain my ticket. Being in the underground portion gives the opportunity to better understand how people and animals were moved around for events. The use of concrete (invented it), arches (invented it, to build multi-story buildings), intercoms and elevators reconfirmed what an advanced civilization the Romans had.

When I came out of the underground portion I encountered one of the few remaining Colosseum cats – I was quite surprised when he came over to me and let me pet him as I was told they were very feral. Guess he sensed that I give good ear rubs.

The Roman Forum set in a valley between Palatine hill and Capitoline hill was the marketplace of Roma, considered the central area of political and social life around which the ancient roman civilization developed. Not much has survived, but what has is pretty impressive – such as the triumphal arches.

The Palatine hill one of the seven hills of Roma, considered the ancient part of the ancient town and according to the legend where the twins, Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf. Romulus killed his brother and then founded Roma on the Palatine hill on April 21, 753 B.C. – yes, that was 2,765 years ago today! No, I didn’t plan to be here on Roma’s birthday. As I walked through the ruins on Palatine hill I could hear the music from a concert in the Circus Maximus area for the birthday celebration. Buon Natale Roma!!

After the tour finished I decided to walk by the Circus Maximus area to hear some of the concert and to see the sight that had been the host of chariot races in Roma’s past. It is enormous. It is easy to use your imagination and visualize a chariot racing around the long oval shape.

Continuing on I strolled through various neighborhoods and found a cute little shop selling – you guessed it gelato! This time I tried the standard chocolate. Yummy again – any surprise? I rounded a corner into an alley and viewed a terrace filled with what appeared to be multi-colored pots – nope – it was the Spanish Steps covered with people wearing all different colors. Quite a beautiful sight. I’d anticipated not enjoying seeing the Spanish Steps because I thought it would be too touristy. I bought a cone of roasted chestnuts – one of my favorite foods, and enjoyed them while walking around the piazza. I saw a dog with his family enjoying a relaxing afternoon on the steps. After taking his picture I was about to leave the piazza when the family got up and started to leave as well. I showed the father and mother the photo I’d taken and they were very excited that I’d thought to take a photo of their dog. With broken Italian and English we realized that they were from Sicily and that I am going there to find family. Apparently, my Sicilian origins were recognizable to them. It was a lovely encounter that I will always remember.

After walking what I think were six of Roma’s seven hills, I headed back to my accommodations to rest a bit (been walking for 8 ½ hours without sitting) before a much-anticipated Vespa tour with Nerone Tour Italy. No, I won’t be driving, just a passenger.

Valerio arrived at 8:00 p.m. to take me around Roma ala Roman Holiday. For those of you who don’t know the classic Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck movie check it out and you’ll understand just why I HAD to take this tour.

Valerio made me feel totally comfortable and took me to the sights of Roma that must be seen at night: A beautiful vantage point for the Colosseum at night; The Appian Way and the arch which was the main entrance to the old city of Roma; St. Peter’s Square to see if the Pope was still up – perhaps watching Italian Idol; Trevi Fountain to throw another coin In so I can

return again to Roma (I threw one in as a child and it worked); Victor Emmanuel Piazza; Baths of Caracalla (this was an ancient bath house that now hosts operas and ballets during the summer).

We then stopped at Valerio’s favorite gelato shop. I can understand why the place was packed – I had a trifecta of gelato: After Eight (mint), chocolate, fiore di latte (cream). It is amazing how they can get three flavors all in a tiny little “cuppa”. Valerio informed me that I would love the gelato that I would eat in Sicily. Unbeknownst to me when I decided upon the title of this blog – gelato was originally created in Sicily using the snow from Mt. Etna. I can’t wait to eat more gelato in Sicily!

Valerio was so knowledgeable and entertaining I hated for our ride to end. But it did and Valerio, as promised, took me to where the evening celebration for Roma’s birthday was being held. We arrived just in time for the spectacular visual show and fireworks at Trajan’s Market. I bid Valerio buonanotte.

The birthday celebration finale show was incredible. There was a projection of Roma being built, Roma burning, Roma being built again, a tribute to Roma films all projected on the remaining ruined walls of Trajan’s Market. A truly unique and beautiful way to celebrate the birthday of an enduring city. The fireworks show was about 45 minutes long after the film projection and was in true Roman spectacular style. It’s kind of weird because I felt a sense of “national” pride while watching it even though I’m not Roman. Although my feet were still tired from the long day of walking, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk past the Roman Forum and around the Colosseum at 11:45 p.m. surrounded by the hundreds of thousands of Romans that had gathered to celebrate.

Arrivederci Roma – Hoping my coin will bring me back again!!

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