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.
That's a menu for tourists. Note that their prix fixe menu includes a primi, a secondi, and a side of something. Only tourists eat dessert. Tourist menus are generally in Italian and English, but not because of Americans. It's to keep it simple: European travelers read and speak English better than many Americans, especially the Dutch, Czechs, the Germans, the Swiss, and the Scandinavians. Aussies always the most fun to meet - warm, open, exuberant, and they will try anything. Brits stand-offish and chilly which is annoying when you are of Brit extraction yourself and want to see them as your paysans. I liked the Czechs we encountered best: adventurous, curious, friendly, energetic, with joie de vivre and happy to travel on the cheap. Wood-grilled meat is the typical Sicilian secondi, but they love their seafood too - and their eggplant (melanzine).Pretty much all kitchens have wood-fired grills.Wish I had an old stone-lined one indoors, but my iron grill is outdoors. I too prefer wood to charcoal.
Before we left western Sicily to head to the Madonie Mountains in central Sicily, we took a side trip to take this tiny ferry see Motya. Phoenicians founded this walled island colony in 800 BC (along with many other cities in Sicily). The Greeks drove them out, but they came back again and were finally eliminated by the Romans when they just got fed up with them.
Lots more fun stuff below the fold.Have you planned your trip yet? Or have we saved you the trouble?
Friends consider us to be adventurous travelers because we plan our trips ourselves, drive ourselves, study the books ourselves, educate and guide ourselves, visit places where few people go, etc. Happily, our kids now can do the same.Mrs. BD is a great travel-planner, relatively fearless with a great sense of adventure and economy and she doesn't mind mountain driving which sometimes gives me the creeps (and she doesn't really mind getting lost - figures she's still somewhere safely on planet earth). But come on, people - how about some guardrails for the narrow cliff-edge roads? Sheesh. Some of us have a touch of acrophobia.
Not much left to see on Motya, but one thing is always welcome:
Lots of archeological digs going on at a Mediterranean pace:
Plenty of salt flats with windmills producing sea salt down around Trepani.
We drove back up north and then east. Nice highways. Pick your speed because nobody cares and you will never keep up with the minimal traffic anyway.
Along the way, we stopped at Cefalu (tourist trap for northern Europeans, like Taormina). Fun strolling its medieval streets and alleys, and checking out the beach and Roger 2's Norman church. You can see Odysseus' Aeolian Islands from the town.
It has that mix of Norman and Byzantine in the apse. I think the baroque decor was a later addition.
Oh yeah, we stopped in Caccamo too, on our drive, just to subject me to another cliffside mountain drive and to see their Norman (expanded in medieval times) fortificationa. Oooh I want to take you up to Caccamo, we'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow...
Castle up on left
Most of the castle was closed for renovation. We parked on the street with all of our stuff in the car, walked around the gloomy hilltop town (what do these people do? And where are they?) and had lunch at a great place full of locals. No touristi there. Fun to see real places.
We just had local pasta dishes there, and they thought we were nuts to want so little - plus no vino. Bean sauces, interesting but not wonderful but the overall menu looked great. Nobody can eat like the Sicilians. We'd weigh 200 lbs.
Eventually we got to our next tenuta. a farm in the Madonie foothills. It's all wheat there. The 4th-generation (at least) owner had 2000 hectares in wheat, was a businessman from Palermo, and used his apartments there for weekends. They have a nice pool, gardens, etc. Quite chilly in early May. The grow apples, peaches, and oranges too. Strange. There was a framed thank-you note in our bedroom thanking the owner's grandfather for his support of the fascisti.
That tenuta's courtyard, unloading our car:
Big terrace overlooking their what fields:
The quarters are not exactly the Four Seasons, but functional with a front room/kitchen and two bedrooms. We only need grand luxe once in a while, and this is real country. We met two American couples there who were traveling Sicily together - old college friends, one a Colorado rancher and one a businessman from Utica!
The farm crew works from 7 am to 7 pm
They had donkeys and sheep, raised lots of pigs too and enough chickens for eggs for the guests and farm hands
What's for supper? Mostly grilled vegetables with a bruschetta to start.
Then an eggplant pasta,
then something really delicious that I had never had before - a slice of wood-grilled baby pig with roast potato on the side. Very tender meat, delicious, tastes like very tender veal.
Jam tart for dessert
While staying in the mountains, we did a bit of mountain hiking at around 4000 feet. There was never anybody up there:
We witnessed an old-time Sicilian funeral there, and met two Aussie couples with their backpacks who were covering the Madonie Mts. on foot, point-to-point, in front of this old church. Nobody else there except the locals. Darn Aussie guy turned out to be the Australian distributor for Osprey outdoor gear - and I had my good old Osprey day pack on my back! Made in Dolores, Colorado. He said they make them in Vietnam now and that mine was a collectors item. The good guy was Robert Pallin, from Paddy Pallin.
There was this church also (in Sicily, seems like one church every block) which was first built as a mosque:
Huge views of mountain farmlands from up there
The village's only supermarket, where we bought some bottles of water - cheap:
Then we drove halfway down the mountain to Petralia Sottana (nobody goes there) and found a toilette and an interesting lunch. There was a older Brit couple in the bar there, wondering what they were doing there, but otherwise no out-of-towners at all.
Antipasto - wood-grilled veggies, wood-grilled tater, and a square of bruschetta with sausage. Yep, they grill artichoke:
We tried two random pastas on the menu. Mines was unique: Ricotta and spinach with shells, cooked in fresh ricotta whey. Mrs. BD likes to know what she is ordering, but I like to take a chance and order something surprising and strange.
One more Sicily post to come, with more food, Roman artifacts, Norman castles, etc. To those who persist, thanks for your indulgence.
I've really enjoyed the posts on Sicily. I don't travel much, due a little to circumstances and a little to not wanting to, but you've made me very interested in planning a trip there one day (we're long overdue for a real vacation.) We skip luxury on trips and don't mind being off of the beaten path and would enjoy the type of trip you describe.
I have a couple of questions, if you can find the time.
1) Does Mrs. BD speak any Italian? How hard is it to get around with only a few rudimentary phrases?
2) Where does one start if he wants to stay in the out-of-the-way places that you do? Do you plan it all out ahead of time?
3) Would you recommend Sicily or visiting several different cities in Southern Italy if you had to make a choice? Is it realistic to do both on the same trip?
I apologize in advance for trying to make your duties at The Farm busier than they are.
I very much enjoy your travel segments. The pictures are wonderful. I looked for more info on the island of Motya and it has a very interesting history. Did you take pictures there? Didn't Mrs. BD used to scuba dive? Did she find any documentation of underwater archeology of that area?