14 Day Adventure In Sicily – by Gary Smolker
This post is about Sicily.
I recently spent fourteen glorious days (March 20 through June 4, 2017) with my daughter Leah Graham Smolker seeing great art and eating classic Sicilian food with wild abandon in Sicily.
During those fourteen days, my daughter Leah and I had one tense adventure and one eye opening experience after another.
My trip to Sicily resulted in me gaining a better understanding of how the “world” works, a better sense of what is going on in the world today, and improved my perception of reality.
This trip gave me a new perspective on the differences between how we live in the United States in comparison to how people live in other parts of the world.
This trip made it very clear to me, that the United States doesn’t have a history; that is to say that compared to other countries the United States is a very young country.
This has practical consequences.
For example, where I live in Los Angeles very few buildings are more than 50 years old.
In Sicily many buildings are more than a thousand years old.
The buildings that I saw everywhere I went had a big impact on my perception of the place of the United States on the world stage.
Seeing those buildings and how the businesses conducted in those buildings are conducted completely changed my mind about how prepared the typical person in America is to make good decisions about the top echelon of people who are the leaders in America, the people who “lead” and make and determine what happens in America and in the rest of the world.
During my trip to Sicily I stayed in a farm house which had been converted to a bed and breakfast (bnb), the Tenuta Cammarana.
The Tenuta Cammarana bed and breakfast hotel is owned and operated by a married couple, Silvia and Giuseppe Pulvirenti.
Silvia and Giuseppe’s farmhouse and their farm surrounding their farmhouse – which has been converted to a bnb by Silvia and Giuseppe – has been owned by members of the Pulvirenti family for over 300 years.
Silvia and Giuseppe Pulvirenti’s pride of ownership of their farm/their bnb and and feeling of responsibility they have for everything in and related to their bnb is obvious.
They maintain and operate their bnb farm at the highest standards all the way down to the table cloths they place on the tables on which meals are served to the silverware they set out for their guests to use to eat the dishes served during the courses served at meals served at the bnb.
Below photos of food lovingly placed on breakfast buffet table for the enjoyment of their guests by Silvia and Giuseppe.
Look at the design of that tablecloth.
Look at those tomatoes.
Look at that meat.
Look at the cheese.
Look at the cherries.
Look at the strawberries.
Below are photos of the breakfast I self-served myself during breakfast on two separate mornings while I was staying at the Tenuta Cammarana Bread and Breakfast in Ragusa Sicily.
In the photos below you are looking at real china plates, real china coffee cups and real china containers of milk/cream, sugar and coffee.
You are also looking at real silver, real silver silverware and a real silver plate under pitcher of coffee.
Leah and I ate dinner several times at Tenuta Cammarana.
Each of the courses served during each dinner each dinner Leah and I had at Tenuta Cammarana could only have been created and could only have been prepared by a passionate chef having the highest level of skill.
Sicilians have a cultural inheritance built up over millennia.
Arguably, Americans do not have a cultural inheritance.
If Americans have a cultural inheritance, the American cultural inheritance has been built up for a little more than 200 years.
Comparatively speaking, Americans don’t have a cultural inheritance.
That is to say: There is not one single American culture in the continental United States:
- the “culture” in the “South” of the United States is markedly different than the culture in the “North”;
- the culture on the East Coast of the United States is different than the culture in Middle America;
- the culture on the East Coast is different from the culture on the West Coast;
- the “culture” in the City of Los Angeles is markedly different from the culture in the City of San Francisco, and so and so forth, etc. etc. etc.
All I knew about Sicily and Sicilians, before I went on this trip, was what I saw portrayed in movies such as “The Godfather.”
The movie the “Godfather” does not accurately portray life in Sicily, the Sicilian people, the “land” of Sicily.
The movie the “Godfather” does not portray what I saw in Sicily or what I experienced in Sicily.
The food (vegetables, fruits, cheeses, etc.) I ate in Sicily tasted different than the food I have eaten my entire life.
I have spent my entire life living in the United States.
As a result of how food in Sicily tasted I now believe we Americans don’t have/eat “real food” in the United States.
The Sicilian/Italian life style I observed/ experienced in Sicily is on one end of a spectrum of possible ways to live which the extreme other end of the lifestyle spectrum compared to the way I live in the United States.
I don’t know anyone in the United States who lives the way people I saw people in Sicily are living.
Sicilians “live slow.”
Sicilians talk to each other while having a meal together.
Sicilians don’t look at their cell phones while eating a meal with someone else.
Americans “always” look at their cell phones.
The typical American looks at his or her cell phone while having a meal with someone else.
Sicilians don’t rush their meals.
Lunch in Sicily takes more than an hour.
Lunch in Sicily involves eating several courses.
While eating a meal almost 100% of the time someone else is eating a meal with you.
A Sicilian would feel lonely eating a meal by himself or by herself.
Eating a meal with someone else includes having an animated conversation with at the other person or persons a Sicilian is eating with.
Sicilians eat great food.
Sicilians savor their food.
Sicilian food is great; it is fresh and delicious.
Some Americans think the food they eat every day is great.
But it is nothing compared to the food Sicilians eat every day.
At all times Sicilians are surrounded by beautiful countryside and great art.
Sicilians are surrounded by art that is so amazingly beautiful that it is overwhelming to look at.
Sicilians are family oriented.
It is every Sicilian’s obligation – an obligation for everyone in a family from father and mother, to grandfather and grandmother, to children to grandchildren) – to eat together at an extended family meal 0n Sunday.
That way cousins get to know one another and get to know their aunts and uncles and their grandparents.
Everyone stays in constant regular touch with everyone else.
In my opinion, Sicilians are a people who have made pleasure, art, spirituality, family, family life, beauty and luxury complimentary experiences.
In contrast, people in the United States rush through life; extended family members in the United States don’t get together to enjoy an inter-generational family meal together every Sunday, cousins don’t see each other for years, sometimes they don’t see each other for decades, cousins don’t stay in touch with one another.
In America the only time friends and family get together is to
- celebrate a major positive occasion in a family member’s life, like a marriage, or a birth, or
- at a funeral.
In America it is not unusual for an adult to not know what is going on in his or his aunt or uncle’s lives, or in his or her cousins lives.
Americans are always in a rush, too busy to stay in touch with other family members.
Americans intensely pursue individuality.
As a consequence of their intense pursuit of individuality, Americans miss out on some of the best experiences of being human.
Sicilians, as a result of their joyous pursuit of family, enjoy some of the best experiences of being human that happen naturally (and accidentally) while being in constant contact with other family members.
I felt the presence of human history every where I went while I was in Sicily.
I felt the history of a multitude of civilizations literally oozing out of stones everywhere while I was in Sicily.
Sicily is a place where the presence of early history is everywhere.
Archeological traces found in and around the present day City of Siracusa (in Sicily) confirm human presence in Siracusa Sicily in the XIV Century BC.
In the 5th Century, Siracusa was the bastion of Greek Civilization in the West.
Evidence of the Greek presence is everywhere.
There are archeological parks in Sicily that contain Greek ruins.
There are Greek ruins in Sicily that are better preserved than the Greek ruins which still exist in Greece.
Below are photographs of a few of the Greek ruins I visited in Sicily.
After seeing these well preserved Greek ruins, I kept asking myself questions:
- Why are these ruins still standing?
- Why weren’t these ruins knocked over by an earthquake? There have been lots of earthquakes in Sicily.
- The largest active volcano in Europe is located in Sicily.
- Did the Greeks know something about geology, volcanoes, earthquakes we don’t know, (a) like how to locate structures where there will not be earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions, or (b) how to build structures that will withstand earthquakes?
- How in the world did they lift those columns/pillars/cross-beams upright?
Without a doubt the ancient Greeks were master builders and engineers.
The Cathedral of Siracusa
While in Sicily, I visited the Cathedral of Siracusa in the City of Siracusa Sicily.
- It is one of the first basilicas of the Christian era; it was built in the 5th Century AD in a Doric temple dedicated one thousand years earlier to the Goddess of the City, Athena.
- Its Christian reuse saved the pagan architecture from destruction and oblivion and gave new life to the sacredness of this ancient place.
- Entering the cathedral is like stepping into the past.
Below are photographs I took of the exterior of a church on June 3, 2017.
On June 3, 2017, I had lunch (main course fish soup) while sitting at an outdoor table bordering the plaza in front of that church.
While I was sitting at my table, I listened to an accordion played by a musician who was sitting on the steps leading up to the front door of that church.
Below are two photographs of the fish soup I ate at lunch that day as a main course, as I was listening to the live musical performance, and also two photographs of my dessert.
At One Time Sicily was The Middle of the World
In the Fifth Century, the Mediterranean Sea was the middle of the civilized world.
At the height of Greece’s splendor, in the Fifth Century, the Greek Colony at Siracusa was as splendid and magnificent as Athens, in no way inferior to the capital of the Greek homeland.
The City of Siracusa Today
I explored the City of Siracusa on June 3, 2017.
The idea/concept of architectural beauty has a whole different meaning in Sicily than in does in the United States.
In the opinion of many scholars,
- In ancient Sicily, leaders built beautiful buildings because they believed in beauty for its own sake.
- In ancient Sicily leaders built beautiful buildings because they wanted beauty to be the essence of their buildings.
- A multitude of beautiful ancient buildings in Sicily have been recognized by UNESCO as being worth preserving as a historical site, in perpetuity, for the benefit of humanity.
- The City of Siracusa Sicily has everything it needs to become one of the cultural capitals of the Mediterranean.
- For historical, geopolitical and strategic reasons Siracusa has the qualities necessary to become the motor for the rebirth of an idea for the rebirth of Europe.
- The City of Siracusa is qualified to play a role in the future as the fulcrum (heart) of Mediterranean-European culture, the beating heart of the Mediterranean.
- The logos of Western Thought was born in Siracusa.
- Historically Sicily has been the meeting place of all the arts.
- In a cosmic sense emotional solidarity exists between Sicily and every human inhabitant on Planet Earth.
I saw “soulful art” everywhere I went in Siracusa.
I saw recently painted/created/designed/artwork painted on furniture, painted on canvases hanging as paintings on walls, designed into and part of highly functional furniture.
All of this art tugged on my emotions, made my heart beat faster, increased my feeling of alertness.
The art I saw made me feel more human more alive with every step I took as I walked around Siracusa.
Photos below taken by me in MOON, a vegetarian cafe in Siracusa.
MOON stands for Move Ortigia Out of Normality.
Note that the “bar” table top is the top of a piece of furniture containing a multitude of drawers.
Ortigia is one of the oldest sections of Siracusa.
By the way, the women in the above photographs are absolutely stunning, amiable, graceful and fun to talk to.
One of them to told me, “She is twenty-three years old and has the soul of an eighty year old.”
She asked me to come back Thursday night to hear her sing and play the guitar.
The Street Scene in Siracusa Today
Below are photographs I took while walking along the streets of Siracusa on June 3, 2017.
Modern Day Magnificence – The Liberty Hotel in Catania Sicily
Leah and I spent our first two nights in Sicily at the magnificent Liberty Hotel in Catania, a bnb (bread and breakfast), located at Via S. Vito, 40, Catania, Sicily.
The above photos were taken by me in the Liberty Hotel.
Italian/Sicilian Elegance In Attention to Details
The first photo is a photograph of the green carpet and gold carpet I saw directly ahead of me as I passed through the front door entry to the Liberty Hotel from the street.
One must go through the gold curtains at the end of a marble entry way when entering Liberty Hotel from the street in order to proceed to the lobby of the Liberty Hotel.
The lobby of the Liberty Hotel is located on the other side of the gold curtains.
There Was A Slight Delay in Our Arrival at the Liberty Hotel
Leah and I flew together to Rome from Los Angeles.
We were supposed to both catch the same connecting flight in Rome to Catania, Sicily.
Things didn’t work out that way.
Leah missed the connecting flight we were supposed to fly on together from Rome International Airport in Italy to Catania Sicily.
The Airline we flew on didn’t take all passengers to airline terminal from the plane in an orderly fashion.
Once deplaning passengers got to the terminal in Rome, via bus, there was no-one to greet the passengers arriving from Los Angeles or to give guidance on how to find the gate for the the connecting flight to Catania.
It was mass confusion — I luckily took the appropriate escalator to the appropriate floor in the terminal to go to.
Once on that floor, I couldn’t determine [after looking at a list of constantly updated departing flights, flight numbers, airlines, destinations and gates] out of which gate my flight to Catania would board.
I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to proceed to in order to catch my flight from Rome to Catania.
Luckily, another passenger in the terminal (a native Sicilian) who was a complete stranger took my hand and led me to the gate at which I was supposed to board my plane to fly to Catania.
When I boarded I asked if Leah had boarded. I was told she had not.
I caught the connecting flight, thinking it would not depart until Leah arrived; Leah didn’t arrive. The plane took off without Leah.
Once I arrived at the airport in Catania, I contacted Leah by cell phone.
Leah advised me that she had been misdirected by Alitalia Airline personnel several times to the wrong gate and that is why she had missed our flight from Rome to Catania, but that she had been re- ticketed and would be catching the next flight from Rome to Catania.
Leah directed me to wait in the baggage claim area in Catania Airport for Leah to arrive on the next flight and that Leah would arrive in Catania in two hours.
I waited in the baggage claim area of the airport in Catania for Leah to arrive on a later flight.
Our Arrival at the Liberty Hotel Catania
Leah and I arrived at the Liberty Hotel in Catania in the early evening on May 21 instead of arriving there in the late afternoon.
The second photo above, of a red/pink carpet, is a photograph of the red (or pink if you see pink instead of red) carpet we walked on when we walked from the lobby (located on the second floor of Liberty Hotel) each morning down one floor to Liberty Hotel’s intimate cozy brilliantly decorated dinning room.
The third photograph is a photograph of one of many couches in the small intimate lobby of the Liberty Hotel.
All the furniture and furnishings in Hotel Liberty are artist.
Whoever decorated the Liberty Hotel has great sensitivity and created an environment in every room which provokes sensory delight.
Walking through the common areas of Liberty Hotel is more of exercise in art appreciation than walking through most museums and most churches containing great works of art.
The fourth of the photographs above is a photograph of an outdoor patio located adjacent to the Liberty Hotel’s lobby.
One entire perimeter wall of the outdoor patio in the photograph above is covered with blooming jasmine plants, jasmine flowers galore and the patio is filled with the rich smell of Jasmine.
The remainder of the above photographs were taken by me while at breakfast in the small (but elegant) dinning room at the Hotel Liberty.
The Almond Milk served at the breakfast at the Liberty Hotel is/was divine.
By comparison, Almond Milk I’ve tasted/consumed in Los Angeles is watery diluted something which pretends to be Almond Milk.
More Attention to Details
You should see what the bedroom (with Tiffany Lamp above my bed) and bathroom (exquisite tile work) looked like in my suite of rooms at Liberty Hotel.
Attention to Women
You should see how the dinning room in the Khalisah Bed and Breakfast in Palermo, located at Via Scopari – Palermo, is decorated.
Below are photographs I took of three paintings hanging of the walls in the intimate dinning room at the Khalisah Bed and Breakfast in Palermo.
I was told:
- The first painting is a current painting of the owner’s 18 year old daughter. Painted by the owner’s wife.
- The second painting is of the owner’s wife. Painted by the owner.
- The third painting is a painting of the owner’s mother when she was a young woman.
The owner is an architect, Arch. Sergio Sanfilippo.
You should also see what the bathroom in my suite at the Khalisah Bed and Breakfast looked like.
The shower was/is illuminated with/by a blue light source in the shower.
The shower curtain was/is green.
The sink was/is a bright orange.
Each bedroom suite in this bnb had/has a different decor.
More Attention to Detail
You should see what the grounds, the dining room and my bedroom suite at Casa Talia Bed and Breakfast look/looked like and hear me describe and/or read how I describe the City of Modica, Sicily.
Modica is known as “The Chocolate City” of Sicily.
Each and every part of Casa Talia is a work of art.
My stay at the Casa Talia was a hypnotic experience.
While in Modica, I saw the cutest most charming bookstore I have ever seen.
Below are two photographs I took of one of the murals in that bookstore, which I took while I was in that bookstore.
First Tense Moment
Leah and I had several tense moments during our trip.
The first tense moment occurred when I summoned Uber to pick me up at my home and then then pick up Leah at Leah’s home and then take us to LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, to catch our flight to Rome.
After I pushed all the buttons on the screen of my cell phone, I was informed (by Uber) that my order could not be processed because I did not have the latest version of the Uber app.
Second Tense Moment
The second tense moment occurred when I discovered Leah was not on the flight from Rome to Catania that with me that Leah was supposed to be on.
Third Tense Moment
The third tense moment occurred when we arrived in the bus station in Palermo to purchase bus tickets for a 10:00 a.m. bus ride from Palermo to Erice.
When we arrived the bus station we were informed that the bus drivers were on strike, and there would be no bus [scheduled or not scheduled] leaving Palermo at 10:00 a.m. bound for Erice.
However, we were also informed the bus strike would end at 10 a.m. and therefore we could purchase bus tickets for a 1:30 p.m. bus trip from Palermo to Erice.
We purchased bus tickets for the 1:30 p.m..
We then waited in the bus terminal for the 1:30 p.m. bus to arrive and load passengers.
Fourth Tense Moment
The bus leaving at 1:30 p.m. finally arrived.
We loaded our suitcases in the cargo bins under the bus; then we stood in line to board the bus.
When the line got to the front of the bus we looked up through the entry door to the bus at the bus driver standing at the top of the stairs collecting bus tickets at the top of stairs leading into the bus.
When it was our turn to give the bus driver our tickets, the bus driver said, “No! Only one you can get on the bus. There is not enough room for both of you on the bus.”
I told Leah to take that bus to Erice, I would take the next bus to Erice and to take her suitcase and my suitcases off the bus when when she arrived at the second bus stop in Erice.
We had arranged in advance to meet a personal driver at the second bus stop in Erice.
Fifth Tense Moment
The fifth tense moment occurred when Leah realized she had to go to the bathroom, and there was no bathroom on the bus.
More Tense Moments
A description of additional tense moments will be added later.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Smolker, All Rights Reserved
Gary S. Smolker, Traveler, Blogger, Social Commentator, Movie Reviewer, Book Reviewer, Publisher Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange Blog www.garysmolker.wordpress.com Gary Smolker, Fashion Blogger Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes www.dudesguidetowomensshoes.com Follow me on Instagram @garyspassion
Posted on July 5, 2017, in Sicily and tagged Alitalia, Almond Milk, American Dollars, Arab, Arch. Sergio Sanfilippo, architecture, aristocracy, aristocrat, art, artifacts, artistic value, artists, balconies, bnb, book stores, books, bread and breakfast, bus ride, Byzantine, California, candelabra, cash, Catania, cell phones, countryside, craftsmen, credit cards, cultural syncretism, culture, decorative environment, details, earthquakes, elegance, enjoyment, enjoyment of life is in the details, environment, Eriche, Euros, family, food, gelato, geology, Giuseppe Pulvirenti, goats, good taste, Greek, Greek Ruins, history, horse drawn carriage, Hotel Liberty, human thought, individuality, interweaving of cultures and civilizations, intimate, Irish Pub, Islamic, Italian, Italy, Jasmine, Khalisah Bed and Breakfast, Kingdom of Sicily, Latin, lava, lava caves, lava flow, Leah Smolker, Leslie Gonzalez, lifestyle, live slow culture, Los Angeles, Lyft, magnificence, magnificent, magnificent living, marble, masterpieces, Mediterranean flavor, Mediterranean Sea, Moorish, mosaic decorations, Mount Etna, nature, Norman, Normans, outdoors, Palermo, passion, PayPal, personal assistant, political power, power, private driver, Pulvirenti, pursuit of family, pursuit of individuality, quality, refinement, Roman, Romanesque, Royal Palace Palatine Chapel Palermo, rural, seismology, sheep, Sicilian, Sicily, Silvia Pulvirenti, smart phones, splendor, symbol, taste, taxi, the essence of life, the Italian way of living, the Kingdom of Sicily, train, transportation, Uber, UNESCO, United States, USA, vocanology, volcanos, wealth, Wine, World Heritage List, World Heritage Site. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.