Saturday, November 17, 2018

Reflections From Roma #11

Reflections From Roma #11
17 novembre 2018

Photo Update Alert:

Anne and I took a couple of trips recently, one a weeklong excursion to Sicilia, the other an overnight to Orvieto, a town not far from Roma. Both trips were enjoyable, but the approach to each was necessarily very different.

The Sicilia trip necessitated flights on a low-cost airline with inevitably horrible seating, a talking rental car possessing a polite British accent, and several eclectic Airbnbs of decent quality. Our friend H did a great job setting up the logistics for the three of us and, notwithstanding a run of rainy weather (we departed the island just ahead of the worst floods in many years) and a nerve wracking reliance on the rental’s GPS in navigating narrow, steep, and treacherous one-way streets in Sicilian towns, things came together pretty much as planned. Among the highlights:

Piazza Armerina- A classic Sicilian hill town featuring a historic duomo (cathedral) at the top of the pile: One-Way up, one-way down through an area known as “The Fishbone.” Piazza Armerina is the Gateway to…

Villa Romana del Casale– An elaborate Roman villa with an enormous collection of mosaics dating from the 4thcentury AD. An utterly fascinating place and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Caltagirone– A town renown for production of ceramics, where I found the kitchen utensil holder of my dreams.

Agrigento– Another hill town and Gateway to…

Valle dei Templi– (Valley of the Temples) Located on a ridge - not a valley - this is a ginormous archaeological site that includes the remains of seven ancient Greek temples. Thoroughly spectacular, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a huge attraction.

Ragusa– This is a very picturesque pile, although a hard rain prevented us from seeing as much as we would have liked. Perhaps another day.

Siracusa– Specifically, Ortigia (aka “Città Vecchia”), a small island that is the historic centre of Siracusa, an ancient city. This is a great place to just schlep around and features Greek ruins, Baroque churches, and a scenic waterfront on the Ionian Sea.

Noto- This lovely little city, notable for its Baroque architecture, has been discovered by tourists in a big way. Fortunately, it being the off-season, the ZOTA™ was somewhat muted. (Fun Fact: In 1091, Noto became the last Islamic stronghold in Sicilia to fall to the Christians.)

A few other observations on Sicilia, per favore. The food is great, and the antipasti were the best we’ve had in Italia. Sicilian scenery can be quite dramatic, although much of what we saw of the island seems to suffer from a (very) serious trash collection problem. But the Sicilians with whom we interacted (not including motorists, of course) were very friendly, hospitable, and helpful. We had a good, if occasionally challenging, week.

The trip to Orvieto was a very different experience. Located in Umbria, 120 km from Roma (1.5 hrs. by train), this place has seen habitation since before the Etruscans. An underground cave network lies beneath a butte where Orvieto perches, and the main attraction is the Duomo di Orvieto which dates back to 1290 and sports the most fantastic façade this side of Firenze. The town also features 50 churches (half of which are actually open), museums, and (Yes!) ceramics shoppes in abundance. Also, some excellent food, in particular, the wild boar specialities.

We stayed in a nice hotel on the main piazza, where we had a lovely view of the duomo. Orvieto is an easy outing and I recommend it to anyone visiting Roma. I definitely hope to go back… so many ceramics, so little time.

Next up: To Verbania with LaBanana to visit la famiglia italiana, and then Christmas in Vienna.