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.
Toe tapper. Taormina.
Now for some gelato eatin’ men.
And now, other pictures taken on the streets.
Cool cat in Taormina.
Fiat driver, Taormina.
Checking out the merchandise. Taormina.
Waiting for someone to drop something on the floor. Matera.
A somberer ponderer. Amalfi.
Fresh produce was everywhere. Amalfi.
Weddings were everywhere. Amalfi.
Shoppers were everywhere. Amalfi.
Hangin’ with the guys and lookin’ good!
Finally, as we were getting ready to leave the island, the weather cleared enough to see Mount Etna from our hotel. Of course, the view wasn’t bad at night either.
Sunrise from our balcony.
Sicily from the ferry to the mainland.
It was a dark and rainy morning…
Our group assembled for a tour of the Greek theater ruins.
Our guide for the ruins, Maria.
A church door.
Oh, you wanted to see some color. Okay.
The Greek ruins (with an overlay of Roman bricks)
The tour guide, Maria, again.
Ann borrows a Vespa.
The view from our balcony included the mid-town medieval clock tower.
There were cats…
Talk about a couple of d**kheads!
Gracie sold paintings by a “very talented artist.” After Ann bought one she confided that the artist was her husband.
This text is so much more interesting than your serenade.
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.
The view from our balcony
The other view from our balcony
A rainy morning on the roof
The shopping district
The church next to the hotel (not to be confused with the many other churches in town)
Rosalie in the door of a different church
Taormina panorama (with the town of Naxos in the distance)
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.
There are many steps in Erice.
Ann was popular in Italy
Pat, Peggy, Gail, and Rosalie.
A craftsman paints his pottery by hand.
Outside one of the churches in Erice
The town has many small alleys and doorways, most with more steps to climb.
Maria Grammatico makes her world-renowned marzipan in this shop
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.
Maybe not a local
One of many beautiful churches in the town
Castle in the clouds
Gail and Peggy
Stephanie, Ann, Rosalie, Peggy, Sarah, and Chuck
The Temple of the Goddess of Love (or Fertility) – a restored ancient temple high on the mountain
Ann and I had lunch on a restaurant balcony and this was the view from our table.