The winner of Patti’s recent release, The Rhythm of Secrets, is ANN LEE MILLER.
Congratulations, Ann! Please send me your snail mail address at email@example.com.
Back to the trip. As the plane descended, an island of mountains rose from the sea. Finally, all the books and Google images were about to become reality. The first couple of days were spent in Palermo, Sicily’s capital, where everyone drives teeny cars or motorcycles inches apart from each other, miraculously avoiding accidents. Traffic signs are viewed as mere suggestions. Note to self: never, ever drive in Palermo. For this reason and many others, I was happy to have a tour guide, and happier still that our group numbered only six.
Our hotel faced an apartment building from which laundry hung from every banister, just like you’d imagine. Couldn’t resist snapping a few shots.
While staying in Palermo, we visited two cathedrals in the Monreale area, built by the Normans who conquered Sicily when it was occupied by the Greeks. The Greeks had built enormous temples to their gods, which the Christian Normans destroyed. The used some of the pillars and other parts to build churches, decorated with magnificent mosaics and statues. Walking into these cathedrals filled me with awe and a sense of peace. Photos could never truly reflect the wonder of these masterpieces.
Our first lunch on our own served as an interesting lesson in Sicilian dining. On the plus side: meals are beyond delicious, made with fresh ingredients, colorful, masterfully seasoned. Desserts: Mama Mia! Creative and vibrant, rich with ricotta, mascarpone, almonds, pistachios and fruit, often artfully decorated with marzipan. Wonderfully decadent! On the flip side, you are charged a sitting fee (usually $2 or $3 per person, depending on the location) and always charged for water, which is room temperature. Waiters tend to leave you alone once the meal is served, so if you need anything….oh well.
If you visit Sicily, don’t miss a visit to Erice, a mountaintop village with an amazing view of the coast and a castle dedicated to Venus, as well as a lovely church. Narrow winding streets are lined with artsy shops selling ceramics, souvenirs and more. A quaint square (piazza) is surrounded by cafés and pastry shops with tempting cannoli shells waiting to be filled upon request. A visit to Erice transports you to another world, another time. Put it on your bucket list.
That’s probably enough on Sicily for one post. Stay tuned for a few more sights, tastes and photos, along with a recipe, next week.