Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 11 Ragusa

Our last evening in Ragusa, we were treated to some unexpected events:

A procession of Saint Mary through Ragusa Ibla, just outside our window.

A homestyle Italian meal, with my friends Daniela and Elvira and some of their friends, in Modica. The table was layed out with plates and plates of food, appetizers, cheeses, pastas, meats and dessert. Some of the guys even went out for a smoke break between courses! It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, we didn't take our camera out during the dinner. But we had our video camera for the procession! (Don't worry, I edited it down some.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 10 Ragusa

Bill made breakfast in our little apartment and we were SO excited to put that little washing machine to use! Until now in the trip, we'd only been able to do a few items at a time in our bathroom sinks.

We spent most of the rest of the day meeting up with old friends.

And we spent the rest of the evening celebrating Bill's birthday and enjoying beautiful Ragusa Ibla. (And the delicious Ragusano cheeses!)

Room @ L'Apparthotel60
dinner @ Locandina36
cheese & salami17

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 9 Ragusa

We left Letojanni and headed towards Ragusa, but first we had to get a look at the beautiful Taormina and it's high-end hotels. We found a great view of Mt. Etna.

We stopped in Catania for lunch--who's idea was that?? Traffic was unbelievable, especially with all of the schools and businesses emptying for the lunch hour. High school kids were whizzing through the cars on their Vespas. Businessmen were picking up their grade-schoolers. Some kids were texting at the bus stops. It was so congested that people were leaving their cars in the middle of the road to better navigate the mess and/or berate other drivers.

But we had some really yummy arancini and gelato.

Our little apartment in Ragusa was SO CUTE!

and what a view!
Room @ L'Apparthotel60
gelato & brioche1.2
lemon drink0.8
groceries in Ragusa10
dinner @ il Barocco22

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 8 Savoca/Letojanni

We were excited to make the trip into Sicily. We got to Villa San Giovanni just in time to miss the ferry, so we had to wait in line for the next one (about 20 min). It was a beautiful day to be on the water.

As we drove towards our hotel, we HAD to make a stop in Savoca--filming site of certain scenes of The Godfather. It was so fun to see a bit of modern history after so many antiquities.

The church where Michael Corleone and Appollonia Vitelli married in the film:

And the Bar Vitelli, owned by Appollonia's father, where Michael asked permission to court her:

I can't help but wonder what the film crew must have thought as they drove up this road to get to the town:

We drove in a few circles before we decided to stop for lunch, and then to get to our hotel in Letojanni. But the hotel was nice and right on the beach!

We enjoyed strolling along the seashore, checking out the menus of the little restaurants set out on the beach. We decided that this was the perfect place to try Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia (Spaghetti with squid ink).

And, guess what, we LOVED it!

Room @B&B Casa Faminani80
lunch 8.5
dinner @ Sikania27
gelato @ 7mo Cielo2.8

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 7 Castrovillari/Tropea

We were really wondering why we had only booked one night at Il Gabbiano. But we were excited to see what we found further into Calabria!

My grandfather's people are from this region so we really wanted to go visit some of the places where my ancestors had come from. My great-great grandfather was born in Castrovillari--up in the mountains--in 1847. There's a story in the family that he was studying to be a priest when he met his wife. He married in 1876, had a few children in the same town before moving to Alessandria del Caretto--another town on the eastern side of the mountains. They had a few more children there, one of them my great grandfather that later came to America to raise his family here.

We did a lot of driving. In our cute little Fiat Panda.

The mountains were really beautiful, but so hazy. We got to Castrovillari after lunch, when pretty much everything had closed up until 4 or so. But we poked around as best we could, looking for places my ancestors might have seen when they were here.

I'll translate the best I can..and also with the help of Google Translate: "In this piazza named for Giovanni Andrea Cedraro, survivor of Vigliena, in the 100th year since that carnage, reminding you, O Parthenopian heroes, knights of the Ideal, the people admonish that free thought is martyrdom, but the victims of tyrrany rise again in the civilization's ages and in legend. 1899"

Now that I've read up on Google and Wikipedia, this man was a son of Castrovillari that survived the battle at Fort Vigliena in Naples. The French-backed republic, the Parthenopian Republic, was formed within the Kingdom of Naples around the same time as the French Revolution, as the idea of a republic government rather than a monarchy gained popularity among many aristocrats. Those that were for a republic had to fight the lower classes that were dedicated to the King of Naples--and this battle at Vigliena was one of those fights.

So it doesn't seem like this church would have been built when my great-great-grandfather was there, but probably the hero and the events mentioned in the plaque were well known to him.

This is a Franciscan convent or monastery. Founded in 1220-22 by Pietro Catin a companion of St. Francis of Assisi. It was transformed into a military hospital in 1809 (Napoleonic Wars), a theater in 1845, and sustained damage during the bombings of 1943.

And this plaque lauds another native son of Castrovillari, Giruseppe Pace. "...born in 1827. Was a fervent patriot and fought in the movements of 1848. Condemned to death in 1852 by the Bourbon government, then changed sentance at 30 years to imprisonment, 9 years in the bath of Procidia. Exiled in England, he could rejoin the country as soon as the age of the Risorgimento erupted. In 1860, he organized a regiment of Calabrese volunteers called the Military Legion, and in the rank of Colonel pleged to Garibaldi, led them to Capua, earning the Miltary Cross of Savoia from the Italian Parliament. Died in 1867."

The movements of 1848 were, according to Wikipedia, a general peasant uprising that sprung up all across Europe. And Garibaldi is the man revered for uniting Italy in 1861 as the nation it is today.

This plaque talks mostly about the architecture of the church, but also mentions the "suppression of convents" (or monasteries) under the French rule from 1806-1815. Several plaques mentioned this.

Does this mean that the convents, monasteries, and seminaries were re-opened in time for my great-great-grandfather to study there and meet his bride? We poked around a little longer in what seemed to be the old part of the town.

We found this plaque, dedicated to those "Children of Castrovillari" that died in the air raids in August of 1943. A few other plaques mentioned the damage sustained by the town structures due to the bombings.

It is amazing to me that my great-great-grandfather was born right in the middle of these uprisings and revolutions and wars. Who knows what it was that caused him to leave, but as beautiful as it is here, I am so glad his children took a chance on America!

We made it to our hotel, Il Tirreno, just outside of Tropea. You could see the main city from the hotel, and there was also close access to a white sandy beach. The hotel even gave us a voucher that was good for an umbrella and two chairs during the two days we were there--we could even use them after check-out!

Room @ Il Tirreno81
lunch @ Osteria La Torre Infame18.4
Bills hat8
dinner@ Tirreno27

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 6 Maratea

After driving most of the afternoon, we were approaching our hotel in Maratea, and we started to notice how close we were to the sea. It looked so beautiful, we had to stop and take a few pictures from a little overlook.

As soon as we did, something looked familiar. Our hotel, Il Gabbiano, is right in that little cove and just out of view in this shot. We were really excited to get there after we realized what a beautiful spot we had found!

It was BEAUTIFUL! And the hotel was half empty so they gave us three room keys and told us to go look at them and pick the one we liked the best. And in every room we would throw open the windows, and there was the sea crashing into the shore!

Those red panels that you see are the roof of the hotel restaurant. Which was pretty great, too!

Bill sampled the Calabrese specialty, n'duja--a very hot & spicy spread made with sausage and red peppers. (We brought a jar home with us.)

And I tried a dish that I had read about as being a specialty of the Amalfi region that we had just left behind: fish in "acqua pazza"--which I guess means broth with carrots, tomatoes and shallots. This is possibly the first time I've been served a fish head to tail.


Room @ Il Gabbiano65
car rental321
Autogrill snacks5.8
dinner @ hotel restaurant47

Day 6 Paestum

We picked up our rental car in Sorrento, after leaving our amazing hostess Rachele. And so began our driving adventure south to Calabria!

First we stopped off a few miles south of Salerno to see the Greek ruins in Paestum.

And we took a lot of pictues. The temples were amazing. And the weather was pretty beautiful too.

Plus, there was a great souvenir shop just outside the park. Much better prices than in Sorrento.