Saturday, December 29, 2007

A little longer than expected

Snowstorms have gotten the airlines all screwed up. Somehow I've ended up in Dallas. Things like this shouldn't happen. 8am flight to Raleigh tomorrow. Should be painless. No weather down here. Downright balmy in NC if I believe the weather report. This is probably the most amateurishly run, unprofessional hotel I've ever stayed in. But after I found my room hadn't been cleaned from the night before, I asked for another one, and somehow ended up in the luxury suite. Kitchenette that I'm not going to use, king size bed, that I'll only use a tiny bit of, and a hot tub/shower that I might just have to go ahead and use. Even if I have now officially been awake for 24 hours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I made it to Napoli. I'm pretty impressed with the hostel I've landed in. No real plans, really. We'll see what happens!

Friday, December 14, 2007


I´m here. I´m in a hostel. They have free internet. Their keyboard is a little fucked up. It´s late, so even though I´m not particularly tired I think I´m going to go to bed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Per Caso

Here's why I like Catania. It's Sunday night. I'm getting antsy for lack of exercise. I need a walk. I go out and head downtown. The streets are packed, and I mean packed full of people. Ok it's Christmas shopping season. But it's kind of cool that things are so lively. With everything open improbably until 8 on a Sunday night, all the Christmas lights, the people in cafes and bars and crowding the streets, it feels like a big party. I don't feel like doing anything complicated for dinner so I just get an arancino. Then I go wandering about a bit more and by chance run into a couple of guys I met the other night at Indigena and then at the Blonde Redhead concert. I join them and we have a beer. They play in a band here that's going to be touring the US in March. They're playing SXSW. I've never been to Austin. You should come out for SXSW then, they say. Idle chatter, probably. That's a lot of money. And time. And I will have just had a three month vacation. But, you never know. We wander down towards the Teatro Bellini which is covered with Christmas lights and is blaring opera at incredible volume into the square, which sounds like it would be obnoxious, but it's actually quite nice. It turns out none of the three guys I'm with have ever been inside the place. I've been inside once, to see Tosca with Christa and Mary, but Rosa (the professor's wife) was terribly disappointed afterwards when I told her we had gone to our seats, watched the show, and then left without exploring the building--we supposedly missed some cool stuff. They're giving small guided tours of the place, so we go inside. This is exciting. I'm with locals who have now also become tourists. There's a fairly impressive salon that I hadn't seen before. Very fancy. That was about it. Another beer in another place. We chat about a lot of stuff, but one thing I hear about is the Benedectine monastery and the crazy unfinished church there in Piazza Dante, which already is one of the most impressive building complexes I've seen in Catania from the outside. (No picture--Laura was the only visitor I managed to make it over there with, sorry.) Apparently there is a whole series of tunnels underground that exploit the existing roman city that modern Catania was built on top of, that go all sorts of places, and there's lots of strange stories. He offers to show me around sometime and so we make a tentative appointment for Wednesday lunch time. Then home. It's nice to be out and about with the locals. I don't know very many people here, so it's pretty cool that I can run into them by chance and we can go out and have a good time. That's all. Good night.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Man am I incazzato. I was all geared up to watch the Catania vs Lazio match in the series A championship. I found out what channel it would be on, Mediaset 1, and turned it on well before the game and left it on while I did other things. At some point I realized the game should have been on already and I started poking around. As near as I can tell the game is actually on a Mediaset premium channel that requires a subscription. The only coverage of the game I can find is a local channel that has a graphic with the logos of both teams and then a terrible sounding audio feed with someone in the stadium. Occasionally, and I shit you not, they cut to a TV studio where there's a guy watching the game on a TV that we can't see and who talks to the guy out in the stadium. Ridiculous! I can't watch the game but I can watch a guy who's watching the game! How am I supposed to root for the local sports team? I presume the rights to broadcast the game are owned by Mediaset, which is owned by Berlusconi, who is a stronzo, so there you go. Grrrr. Fanculo.

Anyway, Catania was not favored to win and they didn't. No big surprises. It's cold out and raining. Bahh.

Photos Updated

Photos are all up to date on my site. I'd write more but the sun just came out and I feel like going outside. More later.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Tonight I went to go see Blonde Redhead with some friends. I enjoyed them in a nice background music to my thoughts kind of way. Anyway, you basically know what you're getting into with them at this point. I paid too much, but there's a dearth of concerts here and it was an excuse to go out with people. I met some new folks and had a good time. A good evening on the balance of things.

Now, last night, I was watching TV and this movie came on. An animated movie from 1968. ViP Mio Fratello Superuomo. I probably can't really explain it. It was very 60s. A little psychedelic. Comic. Ironic. Heartwarming. Social messages. It came on late so I fell asleep before it finished, but I think I need to track this down and watch it all the way through. I don't think I can explain how awesome it is, and I don't know if there's a version with English subtitles or not, but trust me. It's cool.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Petralia Soprana

Some things just have to be done. There are places that are just darned inconvenient to get to by bus. One of those places is Petralia Soprana. Petralia Soprano and her twin sister down the mountain, Petralia Sottana, are located right on the edge of the Madonie mountain range and a state park. I thought it would be good to give it a visit since my great grandfather was born there. Richard, an optimal travel companion, was amenable to an adventure to the remote interior of Sicily and happily shot photo after photo to record the experience.

First, we needed a car.

When I saw the Smart Fortwo on the list of cars I could rent, I snapped it up. We'd been seeing them around and had been curious about what they were like, so I thought I'd get some hands one experience with one. This blog post isn't about the Smart, though. Let's just say, yes, it's really tiny. It doesn't have much acceleration, but the gas mileage is damn good, it goes fast enough, and it doesn't complain at all about climbing and descending steep mountain roads.

The terrain south of Catania is a vast, rich fertile plain full of citrus and olive orchards.

As you travel west the terrain becomes hillier and more barren.

As you're getting close to the Petralie (there are two of them), you see the edge of the Madonie mountain range.

Then you see Petralia Sottana, the lower of the two Petralie.

To get to Petralia Soprana, you first drive through Petralia Sottana and then past the entrance to a state park.

What we found when we got there is a tiny medieval town on top of a mountain. At one end you can walk out of the city through the castle, now a church, onto a ridge with a nice view of the countryside.

First things first, though, we needed some lunch. There seemed to be one trattoria in town, so we decided to give it a shot. As we would learn from talking to Salvatore, da Salvatore is listed in both the Slow Food and Gambero Rosso guides. For lunch there were a handful of locals and then Richard and I. Before we left we had said at least a few words to just about everyone in the place. As it turns out, every single person we encountered in this tiny town was incredibly nice and friendly. I don't know if I've ever been to such a friendly town. As far as the food goes, we had some pasta that was just fine but didn't knock my socks off--ziti in a spicy tomato sauce with olives and capers. The best part of the meal was actually the appetizer, the antipasto rustico, which for uninteresting reasons we ate after the pasta. It was a mix of a bunch of different things, mostly all gathered, grown or produced in the immediate vicinity. Several different varietys of mushrooms, a few different cheeses, some salame piccante, pickled onions (sounds terrible, tastes wonderful), zucchine, etc. It was very fresh, simple and, well, rustic. More or less what people have been eating there for centuries.

We talked to Salvatore a bit. Apparently I'm not the first American to go there to see where my ancestors are from. In fact, Salvatore pulled out a binder filled with business cards from Americans who'd come to Petralia Soprana because their ancestors are from there. I was just one of many. Salvatore showed us some literature about Petralia Soprana and directed us to a newspaper stand and a tourist office where we could get some phamplets. Both of these were still closed at 4:45 when we left. Oh well.

After lunch we did a little more exploring of the town. There's not muc to it, so it didn't take very long to see. It's a pretty town, though. Founded in 1300 or so, it still retains the feel of a medieval town.

After our brief, pleasant stay in Petralia Soprana we made a quick run over to Caltagirone on the way home.

Then we ate sandwhiches and went home. We managed to drive all over Sicily in a tiny toy of a car without incident (except getting mad at road signs). Success!

Isole dei Ciclopi

So one day I noticed that the local city bus, 534, said "Aci Trezza" on it. Aci Trezza is a little town just up the coast from Catania which has now been made a part of Aci Castello. The 534 bus line, it seemed went through Aci Castello all the way up to Aci Trezza and then turned around and came back all the way to the south end of Catania. Aci Trezza is where we had heard the islands of the cyclopses were, as well as the museum of the sea and a protected marine reserve with flora and fauna unique to that zone. So, with an 80 cent bus ticket and some time to kill, we decided to go check it out. We rode the 534 all the way to the end of the line, got off, and walked half a block to the waterfront, and there the were. Le isole dei ciclopi. The very rocks thrown into the water by Polyphemus after being blinded by Odysseus. (Or lavic formations from an underwater volcano--which story do you like better?)

We ate a sandwhich and wandered around a bit. It was pretty but the place was pretty dead, there was a visitor center but it was closed. It looked as though the tourist boats had all been drydocked for the season. So although there were rumors of a museum of the sea and glass bottom boats to view the unique flora and fauna, all we found was a quiet seafront and some cute feral kittens.

On the bus ride back we did get off in Aci Castello and saw the Norman castle there. It is built on a cliffside of black lava rock overlooking the sea. It was pretty, too, but we didn't get any pictures. On the whole, a nice, pleasant, relaxed day.