We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, May 13. 2014
Sunset from the long curvy drive down from the mountaintop town of Erice on the west coast. Tons of history in that little town. We could not find the cable car, so we just drove up.
1. Sicily is safe. No Mafiosi are going to bother you (and there are very few creepy Somalis the way there are in mainland Italy and nowadays in Europe generally - Sicilians do not welcome black-skinned people very much). Very few Muslims either. Anyway, Mafiosi don't do low-life things like break-ins or street theft: they just run the place as a shadow government. They don't know much but they love brutal politics and unions. On several occasions, we left our rental car in parking lots for hours at a time, loaded with all of our stuff. It's not recommended, though - even in many parts of the USA.
2. Almost nobody there speaks English. Example: Mrs. BD orders a Pistachio gelato at a cafe. I say I'll have the chocolate, and a caffee. Guy brings her what she wanted, brings me an espresso (ok, fine) - and a cup of hot chocolate. Sheesh.
Lots more below the fold -
3. Oftentimes, the credit card machines "aren't working" for
4. Related to the above, Sicily seems about as prosperous as Spain,
5. In 12 days, we encountered a total of 6 Americans. Our favorite
6. I would not drive around Sicily without a GPS. It's not perfect
A pic from Palermo airport, waiting for our good Peugeot.
7. They tend to give you far too large helpings of food, and feel
8. "What do all these people do?" We wondered that often.
9. On the whole, urban people seem friendly and want to be helpful,
10. Sicilian dialect is punchy and rough without the musicality of
11. Almost everything is a little shabby and not up to American
12. Sicilians, like other Italians, are a very social breed. They are
We tried Arancine for a lunch snack in Ragusa Ibla. It was OK, sort of like a corn dog. I like panini even less.
13. Except for the mountains (of which Sicily has many), the island
In western Sicily there is lots of couscous. The Arabs (Saracens) were there for a long time.
14. I'd recommend Sicily travel for late April/early May. The
15. Sometimes there will be a guy in a parking lot (parcheggio) who
16. Unlike mainland Italy, Sicilians are breeding. Tons of kids
17. Caffee. A thimbleful of Italian espresso with a dose of sugar is a
18. More on food: Italians are not big on breakfast. Generally, other
A tenuta antipasto would normally be a full meal for me, but there it is just a warm-up.
19. Do stores and restaurants still close from 1 or 2 pm to 3 or 4 pm? They sure do. Italians dine at 8 or 9 pm.
20. Does Sicilian - or Italian - food taste good without wine, or
Pic is Roger the 2's Duomo in Cefalu - a real tourist town on the beach. Norman church.
21. In most places, an American cell phone and internet will not work. That's probably a good thing.
22. Everybody in Sicily has a brother, sister, child, or cousin in New York or New Jersey.
23. How do you pronounce Sicily in Italian? SEE - chilia. In Italian,
24. Some small towns you drive through are neat and clean, but there is nobody on the street
25. As in mainland Italy, urban Sicilians dress with flair and style.
A pic from the evening passeggiata in Ortygia. Even the old folks dress up for the evening stroll, arm in arm. What a fine and civilized cultural tradition.
A travelogue with many mediocre pics and foodie items to come, if and when when I get organized.
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My daughter and I traveled by train in Italy. I highly discourage anyone from doing likewise.
I think there is pleasant travel to be had in Italy but we didn't find it.
Man at the ticket booth at the train station in one city simply turned his back when presented with english speaking customers and it went downhill from there.
PS, we don't go in ugly American costume etc.
We took the train from Florence all over Italy - bought tickets at vending machines. Be careful, there are helpful pickpockets around. however, most machines had several languages to instruct you. Only uncomfortable situation was one Italian holiday we didn't know about where everyone under 25 was going to the beach for the day and it was just overcrowded. But the crowd was nice - we are old and were smiled at and ignored, just as we liked.
I'll disagree with you again on the subject of Pizza, never had a bad one in Italy yet.
I was in Sicily about 15 years ago. The issue of crime was almost exclusively a Palermo issue. The more expensive hotels in the center of town were targets for thieves who ripped earrings and necklaces off of women foolish enough to wear their jewelry ostentatiously. That aside I found the people were indifferent or friendly, no hostility. I got lost trying to leave Siracusa. I spoke Italian about as well as Sid Caesar except I knew a few words and that caused a problem. I sounded so authentic asking for directions, :scuzi, dove l'auto-strada?" that responses in presto Italiano were not clear. I heard "a sinestre" (left) and "a desto" (right) but not in a clear sequence. After arriving in the little town square for the third time, like Robert Wagner in "The Pink Panther," a very nice woman gestured for me to follow her and led me to the autostrada. A nice experience. I hope you got to Catania and saw Aetna smoking. It erupted the week after I left.
Video - Found after 500 years, the wreck of Christopher Columbus’s flagship the Santa Maria
RE: #5 - the US Navy Chief was more than likely stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella it's in eastern Sicily, near Catania.
You certainly seem to know how to travel right. Local people and their ways are the greatest subject.
So what do they do with pomeloes? I have a prolific pomelo tree in my backyard here in California. My wife tried making polemo-aide, like lemonaide, but it was so acidic I couldn't put it in my mouth a second time.
I guess it depends on the type of pomelo/grapefruit. I have tried white grapefruit from California- very sour. I eat Texas Ruby Red grapefruits nearly every day- just peel them and eat. But Ruby Reds are a lot sweeter than white grapefruit. My guess would be that white grapefruit would need a lot of sugar- whereas I never add sugar to a Ruby Red.
Right now, their two highest and best uses are decoration and compost.
A local Oriental grocery retails them for $1.99 each though so there must me fans.
Thank you for your fine travelogue posts; I can hardly wait for these and I look forward to your trips with great eagerness, since I know we will get this benefit.
If you want to be treated with exceptional kindness in Sicily (see CHIL ia) or the mainland, learn a bit of Italian. But try to pronounce it correctly: the accent is 99% on the second-to-last syllable, not the first syllable, as claimed in the article. Otherwise Maggie is very much on target, especially comments on Italians' stylishness.
If you get the chance, you must go and see Taormina (NE corner of island towards Messina). One for the bucket list. Also, the Aeolian Islands off the northern coast are interesting. Only stayed at Stomboli, which is an actual active volcano and if you are in good shape, you can hike to the top and watch the eruptions.
Hopefully later an I can make some other comments. I was with the Canadian military stationed in Naples from '99 - '03. Traveled on several occasions to Sicily.