CASA VALENTINE…

………WHEREVER WE ARE TOGETHER, WE ARE HOME

Scicli to Ortygia….(Part 2)

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 22•16

The first thing you do when you wake up in a seafront hotel is to look out over the water.   This is what we saw

Parking Problem, Ortygia, Sicily

Parking Problem, Ortygia, Sicily

when we looked out over the Ortygia waterfront to see what all the truck noise was about.  Two police cars and a tow truck with lifting device showed up at the same time, very skilled workers jumped out, harnessed up this little red Fiat and turned on the hydraulic lift…….

Parking Problem Solved, Ortygia, Sicily

Parking Problem Solved, Ortygia, Sicily

…..and without any exaggeration at all, sped off within five minutes.  Good luck traveller, in finding your car again and paying for your civil disobedience.
Once again being grateful that we are using public transportation on this trip, we set off to have

Cathedral, Ortygia, Sicily

Cathedral, Ortygia, Sicily

a look at Ortygia’s charms.  Its enormous cathedral jumps out at you not only because of its statuary and whiteness, but because it’s in such contrast with the size of everything else around it.  We had to visit, of course,

Quiet Alley, Ortygia,  Sicily

Quiet Alley, Ortygia, Sicily

but we were soon drawn into the surrounding maze of alleys which beg to be investigated.  I love to see the plants that mark entrances to shops or homes, to see the beautiful street lamps, even to see the colorful laundry that adds its own charm.

Via Crocifissa, Ortygia, Sicily

Via Crocifissa, Ortygia, Sicily

Upon turning into via Crocifissa, however, I had to get out the camera because there was so much going on.  For one thing, we were drawn to the tidiness and sweetness of the few tables set up outside a small trattoria.  Then there was the cat headed our way.  But the real grabber for me was the basket of goods being hauled by rope up to the top floor apartment a few doors away.  You can see the  basket just above the roof of the little white Cinquecento parked on the right.

Delivery in Progress

Delivery in Progress, Ortygia, Sicily

As we neared the restaurant and Umberto, the clever, well-dressed, polite maitre’d noticed our approach, the basket was well on its way to the top

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

where its shirtless recipient welcomed his prize without having to face yet another endless round of stone steps.
Our attention by now was fixed on the menu at Il Nuovo Fermento, and under the watchful eye of Umberto we scanned and made choices very quickly because everything we wanted to eat was right here…..

Caponata, Ortygia, Sicily

Caponata at Il Nuovo Fermento, Ortygia, Sicily

Caponata, one of my absolute favorite things to eat, came out of that kitchen with its aromas preceding it.  I didn’t even share.

Ortygia Antipasto, Sicily

Ortygia Antipasto, Sicily

The other side of the table (and he didn’t share either) was a selection of antipasti, old-style, with local cheese, salami, olives, and a bit of caponata sprinkled with pistachios.  Wow.

Cannolo, Ortygia Style, Sicily

Cannolo, Ortygia Style, Sicily

We were urged to try this dessert……instead of a traditional cannolo rolled into a little cylinder, this was a pistachio laden ricotta filling topped with crumbled cannoli shells, cinnamon and powdered sugar.  We heeded Umberto’s advice…..and we weren’t sorry even though we knew we had a measured amount of time to get back to that hotel room before we would both be comatose.

After Lunch, Ortygia, Sicily

After Lunch, Ortygia, Sicily

On our way, we passed another restaurant’s doorway and came upon a little creature who expressed our feelings perfectly.

Birthday Wishes, Ortygia, Sicily

Birthday Wishes, Ortygia, Sicily

It was a good birthday party……started off right and kept going for the two days we were here.  By the time the food coma wore off, we were boarding that sweet little one-car train again and heading back to Scicli.   Older, wiser, happier……and feeling like we won’t need to eat again for another few days.


Scicli to Siracusa…..the Birthday Trip

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 20•16
Scicli Chugger

Scicli Chugger

Lucky Russ has a birthday in July so we are usually free to have a birthday trip.  This July, since we are already in Sicily, he wanted to visit Ortygia (the little peninsula at the end of Siracusa).  Only fitting, don’t you think, for a retired math teacher to visit the birthplace of Archimedes.  So, we bought tickets and headed out to the Scicli train station early one morning, to be greeted by this sight…….it’s a one track arrangement (the second track is covered with overgrown greenery) which was perfect for the one-car train.  It’s been a long time since I was in a train that shifted gears as it picked up speed, but this little chugger moved at a pretty fast clip, stopping at a few coastal towns on the way to its last stop…..Siracusa.

Ortygia Street, Sicily

Ortygia Street, Sicily

Ortygia seems like a Sicilian version of Venice to me.  There are no canals, but there is water all around and the city itself is a warren of narrow and winding alleyways.  We wandered through whatever shady alleys we could find until we emerged

Temple of Apollo, Ortygia, Sicily

Temple of Apollo, Ortygia, Sicily

at the Temple of Apollo, oddly enough the starting point for the huge fresh market that goes on every morning.  It’s a riot of color

Sicilian Tomatoes

Sicilian Tomatoes

and aromas………even the fish section smells more ocean-y than fishy and it’s jammed with all kinds of

Oysters in Ortygia

Oysters in Ortygia

specimens……and quite a few characters as well.

Fishmonger and Client, Ortygia, Sicily

Fishmonger and Client, Ortygia, Sicily

It was nearing noon by the time we got to the end of the market and our attention was drawn to a huge crowd of people who seemed to be in line….all milling around a tented area…..

Borderi's Patient Customers

Borderi’s Patient Customers, Ortygia, Sicily 

We joined them when we saw what was going on.  And we had plenty of time to take it all in.  We waited for nearly an hour…….and the show we saw and heard was as nourishing as the indescribable sandwich we left with.

Gaetano's Show at Borderi

Gaetano’s Show at Borderi, Ortygia, Sicily

Gaetano is the sandwich-making artista here in the family business that is fast becoming famous.  Their focus is simple…….a sandwich of only pure, excellent quality, local meats and cheeses and produce that is made sublime by very original and crafty additions and combinations…….

Not Just A Sandwich

Not Just A Sandwich

While we all wait in line, clutching our numbers, we are entertained by his swift artistry in combining unusual combinations that are okayed by the current customer…….Fresh mozzarella?  Luscious green and black olives?  A layer of Caponata?  A Dash of something called Mozzarella Crema?  Thinly sliced Ham?  A Dash of Sicilian Orange Marmalade?  A Shaving of Lemon Peel?  A Sprinkling of Fresh Basil Leaves, Shredded by Hand?  We said yes to everything.  The whole family is wonderful, not just Gaetano……but he is exceptionally focused, knowing exactly when to pop on top of the counter a wooden cutting board laden with little tidbits to help keep the hunger of those of us waiting in line at bay for a bit longer.   Meanwhile, he chats….in a couple of languages…..about his wife, his two little children, his mother-in-law (at the cash register)…..and we all feel like we’re at an afternoon party.  By the time we exit with our meal (and every sandwich is at least that) we are happy to have been here for the past 45 minutes………the cost?   5 euro.    Everyone goes back, as often as they can!

Birthday Man, Pondering Life

Birthday Man, Pondering Life, Ortygia, Sicily, July 18, 2016

Ah, but the day is still young……and there’s lots more Ortygia to see.  Not the least of which is the spectacular Mediterranean Sea……as seen from the rooftop terrace of our hotel…..Domus Mariae Benessere.    To be continued……

 

 


Sicily Hilltops…..Scicli Version

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 16•16

Ever since we arrived in Scicli, our eyes have been drawn up to the church located right behind our apartment…..on top of a high, high hill.  Early one morning, before the impossible heat set in, we decided to explore.

San Matteo Church, Scicli

San Matteo, Hilltop Ruin in Scicli, Sicily

It was an uphill climb, fascinating and

Upward Climb

Upward Climb

silent in the early morning,

Climb Continues

Climb Continues

and along the way we saw some normal every-day things that seemed to stand out in the quiet….

Patience

Patience

like the very patient (and hungry) cat intently waiting for breakfast………or the veggie and fruit

Every Day Commerce

Every Day Commerce

vendor (the one with great brakes on his little truck) stopping to conduct business with one of his regular customers who appeared out of nowhere.

We continued climbing and when we finally turned around to have a look, we were astonished to see how far we had climbed in such a short distance…..

The Path Widens

The Path Widens

A short and steep climb later, past a couple of the caves that housed citizens at one time, and

Overgrown Cave

Overgrown Cave

we found ourselves turning a corner and facing the imposing Chiesa di San Matteo.

Chiesa di San Matteo, Scicli, Sicily

Chiesa di San Matteo, Scicli, Sicily

This church, completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693, was the mother church of the town until being abandoned in 1874 because by then most of the settlement of Scicli had moved down to the valley below.

Scicli Panorama to the Sea

Scicli Panorama to the Sea

The view from San Matteo is breathtaking…..the whole town of Scicli lies beneath its shadow…..but the truly surprising thing for me was to see the absolutely, positively direct road heading straight for that sliver of dark blue in the photo…….the Mediterranean Sea.   And that’s just where we’ll be heading as soon as we figure out the bus schedule.


Scicli Sightings………I Sposi

Written By: Arlene Ridolfi Valentine - Jul• 12•16

Everyone loves a wedding, but in a small sicilian town like Scicli a marriage is much more than just a union between two lovers…..it holds promise for the future, hope that a new family will take root here and continue on with a traditional framework for modern life.

The Bride Arrives at Church

The Bride Arrives at Church

We knew something important was about to happen when we walked into the main square and found it full of flower trucks, elegantly dressed people, and ever so many regular folks like us gathered around the entrance to the monumental Chiesa di San Giovanni.  The bride arrived and entered the church to a roar of applause from all the folks outside.  As soon as she was in, everything quieted down and the sounds of the wedding march began…..but they were not emanating from an organ, they were played out with trumpets.  A truly goosebump-inducing experience, especially since the entire piazza had fallen silent.

Chiesa di San Giovanni

Chiesa di San Giovanni

As the outside crowd dispersed and the ceremony began, I popped into a back corner of the entry and took a photo of the beautiful cathedral with its solemn event unfolding.

Mr. & Mrs. Greet the Crowd

Mr. & Mrs. Greet the Crowd

A few hours later, after a high mass and photo moments, the new couple proudly walked hand-in-hand down the main street with all of their friends, neighbors and the odd tourists like us cheering them on and taking photos.  Not everyone got to experience the wonderful wedding lunch that followed, but we all felt like we were part of the event and we shared in the love that was overflowing in the piazza that day.

Getaway Car

Getaway Car

We didn’t see their getaway…..the party went on for hours, long into the night……but the getaway car was parked in the square, ready to speed them off stylishly into their future.
Three cheers for love……