I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Italy. But it was so fast and furious, and Ann and I experienced so much, that I’m still processing it. And when it comes to pictures, I mean I’m literally still processing. When we got back I couldn’t wait to work up my pictures and post them, to the point that I burned out. Now with some perspecitive, and outdoors here being in the grip of an ugly winter, I find myself taking refuge in the warmth and beauty of these reminders of our trip. And nowhere is that warmth and beauty more present than in the churches we encountered. There is so much history there, but also amazing architecture, craftsmanship, and art – in the paintings, in the stained glass windows, in the woodwork, in the tile floors – majestic beauty everywhere you look. I realize I’ve posted some of these here before, but not together as a theme, and many of these are here for the first time, or at least here in color for the first time.
Street photography is very popular these days, although I haven’t done much of it because it is just plain hard, though being in places crowded with interesting people helps. I haven’t seen my Canon EOS M camera recommended for such photography by anyone due to relatively slow auto-focus. But that is what I used for most of these. The rest were taken on an aging (but beloved) Ricoh GRD III. And, as has always been the custom, I’ve added some grain and contrast and converted to black and white for a gritty look. I really enjoyed taking these and need to do this type of photography more often.
We’ll start with the smokin’ women. Cigarette smokin’ women I mean.
Taormina is another small town perched on the side of a mountain in Sicily. But it is a lot more fashionable and touristy that the quieter, more spiritual Erice. It is home to a film festival and has long been a resort for the rich and famous. It served as “home base” on our tour for several days so these pictures will be spread out over several posts.
Palermo is over 2700 years old and is the capital of Sicily. Our first stop was the the Capuchin Catacombs, which contains about 2000 mummies and skeletal remains, all dressed in clothing that often has survived the centuries better than bodies. I saw a couple of skeletons dressed in their military uniforms, complete with Napoleonic hats. I surely would have loved this if I were still twelve years old. But the jaw dropping amazement soon vanished when we came to the bodies of children who never agreed to be displayed for centuries. No pictures, but if you want to see and read more, here is the website.
We also visited the Cathedral of Monreale, a fine example of Norman architecture on which construction began in 1174. It’s exterior is stunning.
The interior is quite impressive as well.
The trip to Palermo also included a marionette show. These are no toys but are made entirely by hand from wood with hand-made clothing, armor, swords, etc. Each one weighs about 40 lbs and the puppeteer works up quite a sweat during a show. I know all of this firsthand. There is a great deal of craft and art involved in a Sicilian “L’Opera deî Pupi.”
And, of course, Ann makes friends everywhere she goes, including Palermo.
Ann and I just got back from 2 weeks in Italy on a tour organized and led by Stephanie Chance. It has been our dream to visit Italy for years, including the Amalfi coast. This was a tour of southern Italy and the island of Sicily, so there was much left for the next time we go (including Venice and Tuscany). It began with 34 hours of flying and layovers, followed immediately by a bus ride and a huge meal with wine at an old convent converted to a modest hotel on the outskirts of Erice. The village itself is a walled medieval town perched on a mountaintop 2400 feet above the Mediterranean in Northwest Sicily.
The following day we explored the town of Erice itself, still largely enclosed within its old stone walls, so high up that it sometimes sits atop the clouds.
Maria Grammatico’s mother could not afford to feed her children and sent her daughter to the local convent, where she learned the art of making marzipan from the nuns, who eventually told her she was too old to stay and put her out on the street. She began to make her own marzipan in town and the nuns grew hostile. Today Maria is famous and the convent is no longer a convent. Got to love a happy ending! You can read more here. And even more in the book, Bitter Almonds.