Published: April 3rd 2012March 30th 2012
Today Mike is taking the group for a forced march to see the “hidden Rome”. I have begged off. Slept in and had a lovely breakfast at the hotel. Wandered around with my camera and toured the Castle San Angelo. The crowds are getting bigger as Holy Week is coming. Returned to my corner restaurant for sautéed clams and mussels and artichoke, Roman style. Yummy. Worked on my pictures and read for a while until it was time for dinner. Ten of us walked across the bridge, past the Spanish Steps and into a little cul-de-sac where a charming restaurant welcomed us. The vino flowed and the conversation was happy and the food was luscious and the service superb. Pam and I shared artichokes cooked Judea style, double deep fried in hot oil until the outer leaves and tips are crisp like potato chips and the inside tender and tasty, and zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried. Then I finished with fresh made ravioli stuffed with spinach and mozzarella. We took a well-needed walk over to the Trevi Fountain for gelato (always room for gelato) and just enjoyed the Roman night scene. It must be spring break in Europe as young people were everywhere, giving the city a vibrancy and air of fun. We passed by the Pantheon and just enjoyed seeing all the lighted monuments and buildings. As we crossed the river, to our right we could see the Vatican and the Dome of St. Peters illuminated against the night sky. That view in itself was worth the walk. We were back in the hotel at 11:30 ready for a good night’s sleep.
Some thoughts about the trip; all the gestures that are so particularly Italian are used in Sicily, not so much in Rome. Palermo would not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a working city, not a tourist area like Taormina and it is poor and can be dangerous if one is not careful.
We were walking around looking for the Opera House. We kept seeing the dome but couldn’t circle in on it. I walked into a corner store to ask directions and they didn’t speak English. I tried to sing an operatic soprano and they just looked stunned but finally we made ourselves understood and the owner walked us to a corner where the Opera House was in full view. He left us with a big smile, very gracious.
Zeke and Frank disappeared into the Opera House. Pam and I were taking pictures on the famous stairs when the guard told us we had to leave. Then he started to lock the gate. I told him “duo tourists are still inside “ and he had to go and escort them out. He did it with a big grin.
The demonstration we saw on the way into town was because the garbage collectors are on strike. They were working without pay for three months when they called the job action, THREE MONTHS! They couldn’t have been out long because the mounds of garbage, while large, were still rather neat and didn’t smell bad. But if the strike is not settled soon the heat and vermin will make the city uninhabitable.
If Taormina were in Ireland it would rank as a “tidy town”. It has been a tourist Mecca for hundreds of years and knows how to please. The main streets are lined with shops and café’s, artist’s workshops and historic buildings. It has all the charm and none of the grittiness of authentic working village.
Enna is a dying community. The young people are moving out, looking for good jobs elsewhere. It doesn’t have the cache of towns on the coasts and there is no industry to speak off. It existed primarily for protection like the other hill towns of Italy. The townspeople would work the fields in the valleys during the day and return to the mountain fortress at night. I guess the brigands of the time were not interested in foodstuffs or they would have just raided the crops while the farmers lay snug in their beds.
The octopus revenge, since I had that lunch shower curtains and anything Velcro have attacked me.
Out weather has been perfect for touring, cool breezes and bright sunshine. Our group was great, adventurous and interesting and non-complaining. There is not one who I would not like traveling with again.
Three days after we left Taormina, Mt. Etna erupted in a spectacular display of fire and lava.