Noto, Palermo, Selinunte,
(thanks Ben, great feedback.)
Seems like the travel angels have continued the magic, with strike/scopiro perfectly timed to coincide with visit to Sicily by one of my wonderful friends.
It was a little touch and go when I left by train for an 8 hour journey from Noto to Palermo instead of risking the bus…. Information equally haphazard and difficult to judge …. but after one or two hitches, I got to Palermo and then to the airport to meet Ruth and collect our rented car.
This was where the fun began. Would there be any fuel stations open? Would we head back towards Noto or stay put?
As we made our way towards our first stop in Selinunte we made a diversion to avoid a road block of long lines of lorries, which was the first indication of the reality of the strike. Then each gas station chiuoso/closed. Hmm!
When we arrived it was clear that whilst one night in Esther’s unheated flat would have been fine, the prospect of a longer stay no longer felt too easy… Esther had already foreseen this and so took us to see Wera who offers B&B in her very comfortable, warm and spacious house. Yes, decision to stay put an easy one!
This turned out to be the first of many scopiro- serendipities!
Wera really deserves a complete post and that would not do her justice. With her multiple talents and life experience (wonderful dance leader, tour guide, linguist, former aid worker with Tibetans in Nepal, major life-changing surgery, to name but a few) she became a much valued and welcome part of our stay, as she made countless phone calls on our behalf to glean local info about the strike, and also pointed us in the direction of the exquisite nearby Greek Temples. If you are reading this Wera, huge thanks. Also to Esther for pointing us to you.
So the pace slowed and between rests and great food, we spent spacious time meandering around between the magnificent pillars and magical flowers with their evocative and beautiful scents. The beauty of friendship and shared sorrows and joys took on a particular flavour thanks to the sense of the ancients in this gorgeous environment. The soft and bright colours; the fall of light on the warm stone against the perfect blue sky; the long paved street along which so many feet would have trodden, and which was adorned with herbs and shrubs of sage green and silver grey; purple orchids and pristine spiralling and prickly shapes of new growth; the shimmer of the sea and the shafts of light streaming heavenwards as the sun was setting, casting its rosy glow back onto the temples. This in a season devoid of tourists was an especial blessing and freedom.
The mission to experience the wonderful Hammam for our last night back in Palermo was not disappointing. We revelled in the warmth, intimacy, heat and luxury of water, massage, soap and scrub before resting on cushions with tea. Impossible to do justice to this one, except to say GO AND DO IT!!! ( allow 3 hours…. 🙂 )
Suddenly it was time to say goodbye, and the airport was now transformed from arrival to departure and the remembered pleasure of a new friend made over those brief few days.
I returned to Palermo with the idea of perhaps one more day in which to
sight-see before heading back to Noto. Time to grin and gasp again!! Raffaella, my lovely musical B&B host, has a friend who works in the Theatre Massimo and I was treated to a fascinating tour behind the scenes of this classic theatre, including back stage where there was a flurry of activity to prepare for the evening ‘s performance. A red rose stood out amongst the clutter, reminding me of friends back home, and from the magnificent romantic backdrop, it was obvious that something special was in store. A couple and their daughter-in-law on the bus earlier had said that they were going to see son and partner in the performance that night and I had sort of thought “oo that sounds like such a lovely thing to do… go to the opera in Palermo” and the thought disappeared like so many do! Imagine my delight and excitement when Francesca offered me her discount?! A central box for Terry Gillian’s production of ” The Damnation of Faust” how could I say no?
It was a spine chilling and stunning evening, with a gruesome final image of Faust crucified upon the sign of a swastika amid Hell fire. Such drama, colour, staging and performance.
I haven’t quite finished. Yesterday I took the bus to Monreal. (A little aside was a wake up call to vigilance. A speedy and skillful foursome crowded around me in a somewhat uncomfortable squash as I punched my ticket. Result. All my zip pockets on trousers, jacket and bum bag undone. Nothing taken, thank goodness.)
The walls of the church and the mosaic floors are a phenomenon. The stories of New and Old Testamant are exquisitely illustrated for the illiterate, non-Latin speaking congregation, in cartoon form all over every square inch of available wall. The centre piece, an unusually soft depiction of Christ, looking almost shyly sideways and with softly blushing cheeks… not the familiar stern gaze, but one seeming to invite the answer to a question. All in teeny glass fragments which sparkle on account of the gold leaf backing and the iridescent colours of the glass pieces. Utterly astounding. To the side at the back was a sweet bearded man working on an area of floor which he was renovating, and we struck up a conversation. He plays all sorts of lutes from eastern countries and loves cycling. Somehow in my pocket, thanks to a little wink from him, I have a precious piece of twinkling glass. I probably shouldn’t be telling you this…. but it is just yet another example of the immense wave of gratitude for these gorgeous moments that keep coming my way, and it is lovely to share them.
In order of appearance… Walking strikers in Palermo; Palermo from Montepeligrino; sunset and temples in Selinunte; Wera at home; backstage, Teatro Massimo and scenes (The romantic German painter, Freiderich could have painted one of them) from Terry Gillian’s production of The Damnation of Faust; market Palermo; Monreale Duomo, restoration and artisan; Etna from the coach approaching Catania.