Noto – A Stone Garden in Sicily’s Valley of Baroque

Porta Reale (Royal Gate) Arco di Trionfo – visitsicily.info

Noto is another Sicilian town revered for spectacular Baroque architecture. I visited on Saturday. The Mediterranean has been stormy and weather was overcast and windy – not great for photography.

Chiesa Santa Maria del Carmelo – Camin Vattin

Everything in the complex has unique symbolism and historical significance, I hoped to hire a local guide. Understanding the history and culture of countries makes travel more fulfilling. There weren’t any groups, and Noto private tours are expensive – €120 or more for 1 to 2 hours. Although I’m sure a guide would provide vast information, I’d probably forget most of it, so I decided to do research and guide myself.

Balconies Palace of the Princes of Villadorata – tourisminsiciliy.net

There’s something to be said for well-crafted smartphone tours. They’re effortless and lead you step-by-step from point A to Z allowing you to stop, start, and go back to points of interest at your leisure.

Fontana d’Ercole – Hercules

Noto History

Like Modica, Noto is a small city (population 25,000) in southeastern Sicily. It’s part of Siracusa Province in the Valley of Sicilian Baroque known for captivating architecture. There are about 50 buildings of major interest, mostly churches and palaces.

Dome La Cattedrale Di San Nicolò

Conquered by Arabs in 866, Noto became a “highly armed stronghold” ruled by Muslims for two centuries. Later it fell to Christians and Normans. Totally destroyed by the 1693 Sicilian earthquake, Noto was rebuilt to become “a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque“. Known as Giardino di Pietra – The Stone Garden – it’s listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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“Noto is built as if it were a scenography, studying and putting up perspective in a singular way, playing with the lines and curvatures of the façades, with the decorations of the shelves, curls and volutes, masks, cherubs, and balconies from parapets in wrought iron that fold into graceful, bulging shapes.”

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Franciscan Monastery

Porta Reale and Corso Vittorio Emanuele

You enter the city center through Porta Reale (Royal Gate) Arco di Trionfo. Corso Vittorio Emanuele is the main thoroughfare leading to the three main squares. All three are brilliantly “oriented from east to the west for illumination by the sun”. Each Baroque piazza has its own glorious church:

Santissimo Salvatore Church

The churches and palaces were built with local golden-yellow limestone. A flexible stone “enabling elaborate cutting of the monuments and giving off a strong light.”

Cathedral di San Nicolò – tripinsider.net

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“At sunset the warm color of local limestone used to build Noto’s palaces and churches mixes with sunlight, creating an atmosphere that grabs your heart.”

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Piazza XVI Maggio Church of San Domenico – visitsicily.info

Like Modico, there’s much to learn and experience in Noto, a day trip isn’t enough. Even the side streets are a special adventure. In addition to the architecture, there were other distractions – almond sweets, pistachio crème brulée, street musicians, and an art exhibit with paintings by Klee, Dali, Picasso, Mirò, and Giorgio de Chirico. Entitled The Impossible Is Noto, the modern art exhibition “exposes the principle artists of experimental art movements” that seemed “impossible”.

Palazzo Nicolaci May Infiorata – visitsicily.info

La Cattedrale Di San Nicolò

Designed by architect Vincenzo Sinatra, the reconstructed eighteenth-century Noto Cathedral is near the entrance. It’s magnificent! Dedicated to San Nicolò of Mira the cathedral is the “most important place of worship in Noto”.

Cathedral of San Nicolò Rosario Cusenza – visitsicily.info

The Cathedral is across the street from Noto Town Hall – Palazzo Ducezio. Construction began in 1694 and completed in 1703. The façade and interior have undergone many alterations, including a neoclassical dome built after the original collapsed during a violent storm in 1996.

Works of art inside the cathedral were a highlight of my visit. Beautiful art in the three naves is considered “one of the last great sites of contemporary sacred art”. The paintings are indescribably beautiful.

Cathedral San Nicolò and La Chiesa di San Francesco – Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo Ducezio – notoinforma.it

Via Nicolaci, near Cathedral of San Nicolò, is famous for its May Infiorata (flower festival). This floral exhibition is dedicated to the world. Every year the theme features a different country.

Palazzo Nicolaci I. Mannarano – visitsicily.info

Palazzo Nicolaci

Palazzo Nicolaci was built in 1731. It has 90 rooms, frescoed vaulted ceilings, and eighteenth-century paintings. Balconies adorned with forms of animals, spirals, and arabesques surround the palace, the residence of the Princes of Villadorata.

Cava Grande Nature Reserve – thinkingnomads

Chiesa San Francesco

The Church of Saint Francis – also designed by Sicilian architect Vincenzo Sinatra – stands atop an “impressive staircase”. There’s a Franciscan monastery attached to the church, and the inside has a single nave with rococo stucco walls.

Calamosche Beach Vindicari Nature Reserve – lolhostel.com

Interior Chiesa di Santa Chiara – Hermes Sicily

Church of Santa Chiara

Designed by architect Rosario Gagliardi around 1730 the Church of Santa Chiara – known as the church of Santa Maria Assunta – is noted for its “delicate baroque style”. The interior has works of art including walls with stuccoes and cherubs and a nave surrounded by 12 stone columns topped by statues of the Apostles. There’s an adjoining cloistered convent with a beautiful view.

Church of San Carlo and the Jesuit College – visitsicily.info

Nature Reserves in Siracusa Province Near Noto

There are interesting nature reserves, islands, and beaches near Noto. Some are described below. I didn’t find a group hike, but these more isolated areas are on my list for the next visit.

Hillside Asinaro Valley Overcast Day

Oriented Nature Reserve Cavagrande is renowned for its canyon and small mountain lakes created by the Cassabile River. The reserve is a natural quarry surrounded by steep rock walls and known for hiking trails and fantastic panoramic views.

Beach Vendicari Reserve – lacortedelsole.it

Cavagrande Natural Reserve is wild and untouched with hiking paths though Mediterranean woods “thick with berry patches and flowers”. The hiking trails lead to a canyon and pass the remains of villages and a stone necropolis. At the bottom of the canyon there are ponds, lakes, waterfalls, and beaches.

Noto Stone House

Uncertainty of the Poet 1913 Giorgio de Chirico – tate.org.uk

Vendicari Nature Reserve hugs the coastline along the southeast tip of Sicily. It dates back to the 5th century BC. The undisturbed ecosystem is known for migrating flamingos and some of Sicily’s best beaches.

Vindicari has famous beaches including Eloro, Marianelli, Marianeddi, Cittadella dei Maccari, and Calamosche. Popular Calamosche is on a sandy cove bounded by rocky headlands that provide shelter from the currents and an “always calm and crystalline sea” perfect for swimming.

Romans, Byzantines, Normans, and Saracens conquered the area “leaving their mark on the landscape by constructing a necropolis, catacombs, and forts”. Remains of the 2500-year-old Greek city of Eloro are hidden beneath Vindicari.

Isola delle Correnti – Vendicari Reserve

Isola delle Correnti at the southern point of Sicily is where the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas meet. The landscape is “made of wild and rugged dunes, in a rarefied atmosphere that bewilders visitors”.

May Infiorata Noto – Dooid

 

Modica Sicily – Baroque Architecture, Earthquakes, and Chocolate

Saint George Cathedral Modica

I’ve been relaxing in Pozzallo, content with long walks on the beach and uninspired to post on my travel blog or chase Sicilian attractions. Daylight hours are long (6:30 am – 8:30 pm) and April weather is mild. Like most coastal areas, Pozzallo’s wind can be fierce and unpredictable with temperatures changing quickly. We’ve had a few sudden Mediterranean squalls – ominous skies followed by rain, thunder, and lightning – almost as exciting as African storms.

Sicilian Poppy – chainimage.com

Transportation

I’ve considered the best way to navigate Sicily and explore places of interest. You don’t need a car in Pozzallo. For other parts of the island, depending on where you want to go, you can rent a car or bike or take a ferry, bus, or train. There are multiple daily departures. Ferries are costly but buses inexpensive and reliable. Figuring out the schedule and pickup and drop off points is the hard part.

Sicilian Wildflowers

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Buildings in Modica Alta “almost climb the rocks of the mountain”.

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Modica Architecture – Scopri Modica

Bus stops aren’t marked and the website and learning where to catch buses is confusing. Contacting the bus company directly helps but don’t expect English.

Hyblaean Mountain (Monti Iblei) Gorge Sicily – footage.framepool.com

Once you find the pickup point, if you have the exact fare bus drivers may sell you a ticket when boarding the bus. If you’re friends with the driver, a new pickup point might even be created in your honor… If not, you’ll have to figure out where to buy your ticket – sometimes it’s a nearby gelateria or café. You can miss a bus trying to buy your ticket – not fun but it happens in Sicily.

Sicilian Modicana Cattle – sicilianroots

Spring Scenery

Tuesday, I took a day trip to Modica. It’s close to Pozzallo in the southeastern part of Sicily, about an hour away. The drive was beautiful with glorious scenery reminiscent of favorite coastal areas in Greece and Turkey. We passed stone villas and ruins, olive groves, vineyards, grazing cattle, and open fields of purple, white, and yellow wildflowers with patches of bright red poppies. The other passengers were Sicilian men of all ages – most fell asleep during the gentle ride.

Temple in a Field of Sicilian Wildflowers – pixabay

The Mediterranean climate encourages flowers year-round, but in spring Sicilian wildflowers are spectacular! They thrive in the rich volcanic soil “fed by ash and lava from the volatile tantrums of Mt. Etna and other volcanoes”.

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In April and May Sicily is “awash with a ribald rush of color”.

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Santa Maria di Betlem – Scopri Modica

Baroque Architecture, Earthquake, Economy

Modica is an elegant Baroque town – population about 60,000. In 2002, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Pozzallo it’s in Ragusa Province near the southern Iblei Mountains.

Easter Sunday Festa della Madonna Vasa-Vasa – Le Case dello Zodiaco

In 1693, a devastating earthquake reshaped southeast Sicily drastically changing  Modica and destroying its charisma and political importance. Reconstruction helped the city regain its current popularity and Baroque appearance.

Modica – italythisway.com

I explored Modica by foot covering as much territory as possible in four hours. I couldn’t find a guide and didn’t see any other tourists. It’s off-season, so you do your own research. Later I heard about Hermes-Sicily – guides who organize visits in southeastern Sicily. I’ll contact them before visiting Syracuse and Noto.

Stray Cats Modica Old Town

I got sidetracked following networks of winding side streets with houses, buildings, stray cats, and cafés. I entered Santuario Madonna delle Grazie and spent quiet time inside with about ten faithful Catholics. Some backstreet houses seem to be built into the rocky hillside. The quiet cobbled streets were mostly empty with and several abandoned houses in disrepair.

Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie

Modica has Greek, Roman, Arab, and Phoenician ties. From the seventeenth until the early nineteenth century it was known as the “City of Hercules“. The 1693 earthquake destroyed Modica and other cities in the Valley of the Sicilian Baroque.

Il Duomo di San Giorgio at Night – typicalsicily.it.

The Noto Valley has eight Medieval late-Baroque cities – Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, and Scicli. These cities “were rebuilt (in part or entirely) after the 1693 earthquake”. Their architecture marks the end of one of Europe’s last Baroque Periods.

Hillside Old Town Modica

Modica’s economy is mostly agricultural, “characterized by olive, bean, wheat, and cereal production”. The area is known for prized Modicana cattle that flourish in the Mediterranean climate and produce “quality meat and milk”.

Church of the Carmine Modica

Modica – Bassa and Alta

As we approached central Modica, the bus veered sharply down a steep rocky ridge with stone houses sprawled along the hillside.

Bell Tower

Modica Bassa is in a valley where two rivers – Ianni Mauro and Pozzo – meet. Because of destructive flooding locals “covered” the rivers. Today, the area – Corso Umberto – is a historical center with spectacular churches and monuments. The third part of Modica – Sorda – is a new residential, commercial area.

Church of St Mary of Bethlehem

I divided my time between Modica Bassa and Alta. Bassa buildings guaranteed to blow you away include:

Antique Horse-Drawn Cart

Notable Corso Umberto attractions include Palazzo Grimaldi – the “finest example of neo-Renaissance style buildings in Modica”. The Palazzo’s art gallery displays paintings by famous nineteenth century artists from the karst plains of the Iblean area. Palazzo Polara has exquisite Baroque architecture and Palazzo de Mercedari – attached to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace – which was previously a convent and hospital during the 1709 plague”.

Fountain Palazzo Grimaldi Modica Bassa

History

Modica’s history dates back to 1000 BC when the Sicels (ancient Sicilians) became part of a Greek colony from Siracusa. Following the Punic Wars, the Romans took over the colony and later passed it to the Byzantines, Arabs, and Normans.

Modica Hillside

The first settlements began during the Bronze Age. After Arab conquest, Modica became an important commercial, agricultural center.

Palazzo della Cultura

Churches, Palaces, Monuments

Modica is a powerhouse of history, culture, and architecture. A day trip is a tiny intro to exploring and understanding its treasures. Known as “the city of a hundred churches” Modica is rich in Baroque Period cathedrals, convents, and monasteries. Most of these religious structures were built with “local golden stone”. There are brief descriptions of some in this post.

Reliefs Church of San Domenico

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A special feature of Modica Baroque churches is that instead of overlooking squares, they face “imposing and spectacular flights of steps modeled on the slopes of the city’s hills”.

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Teatro Garibaldi Modica – Nuovo Sud

A “fanciful rococo church”, the Cathedral of St. George looks like a “wedding cake topper”. Perched above 164 steps San Giorgio is the Modica’s mother church and on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Modica Street – typicalsicily.it

The Cathedral of St. George is a monumental symbol of Sicilian Baroque art. Italian architect Rosario Gagliardi helped reconstruct the church after the 1693 earthquake. It reopened in 1738.

The Church of San Pietro is at the top of a staircase lined with statues of “saints resembling a statuary welcoming committee”. San Pietro is the Patron Saint of Modica Bassa and a typical example of eighteenth-century Sicilian Baroque.

Modica Panorama – typicalsicily.it

San Pietro’s original foundation dates back to the 1300s but the current structure is from the seventeenth century. Destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, it was rebuilt on masonry structures that survived the earthquake. Statues of San Cataldo, Santa Rosalia, San Pietro, and the Madonna embellish the residence of the second order of mendicant nuns. The church façade has a sculpture of Jesus.

Interior Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie – Scopri Modica

The Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie was built in 1615 after discovery of a slate tablet depicting the Madonna with the Child in her arms. The tablet burned incessantly for three days in a bramble bush without being consumed. The tablet is preserved in the central altar of the church. In 1627, Madonna delle Grazie was proclaimed the main Patron Saint of Modica.

Frescoes Rock Church of San Nicolò Inferiore – izi.TRAVEL

The Rock Church of San Nicolò Inferiore is the oldest church in Modica. It’s a rare example of the Byzantine rock architecture of Ragusa’s Iblea area. Discovered in 1987, it reflects original architecture created by rock excavation. The interior has paintings of icons “articulated around a rectangular hall and an apse”.

Enzo Assenza – Colasanti Aste

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Known as “the city of a hundred churches” Modica is rich in Baroque Period cathedrals, convents, and monasteries.

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Chiesa di S. Maria del Soccorso – lasiciliainrete.it

Jesuits built the Rock Church in 1629. It’s near the Jesuit College. Architect Rosario Gagliardi designed and helped rebuild it after the 1693 earthquake.

Chiesa del Carmine Franciscan Rose Window – Scopri Modica

A fourteenth century Gothic-Chiaramonte style monument, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmelo (Carmine) accommodated Carmelite friars. A beautiful Franciscan rose window adorns the church portal. Carmine is one of few churches still showing “architectural traces from before the violent destructive 1693 earthquake”.

Church of San Domenico

The seventeenth-century Baroque Church of San Domenico is in Piazza Principe di Napoli. The Dominicans built it in the fourteenth century. It was destroyed by the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt.

Church of San Domenico – Discover Modica

The Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem also dates back to the fourteenth century. Traces of its past are visible in “bas-reliefs depicting adoration of the shepherds”. Inside there’s a late Gothic style Palatine Chapel. The arch has Arabic, Catalan, and Norman decorative elements. It houses tombs of the family of the counts Cabrera.

Church of Santa Maria di Betlem

Restored after the earthquake, Duomo di San Pietro is one of the most beautiful churches in Modica. The façade has four statues representing San Cataldo, Santa Rosalia, San Pietro, and the Madonna. The church includes a sculpture of Jesus and statues of the twelve apostles.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Gian Battista Ragazzi

Modica Chocolate

Modica has a history of chocolate making detailed in its Chocolate Museum. The ancient chocolate recipe came from Spanish conquistadors during their domination of Sicily. They got it from the Aztecs. Modica produces chocolate in many flavours like orange, cinnamon, and chili pepper.

Palazzo della Cultura

Palazzo della Cultura is Modica’s Civic Museum. In the seventeenth century it was San Placido’s Benedictine Monastery and during the fifteenth century a palace for the Platamone Family of olive oil fame.

Eracle by Cafeo – ragusanews.com

The most valuable piece in the museum is the Eracle by Cafeo, a bronze statuette “depicting Hercules naked in a standing position dating from the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 4th century BC”. Found in 1967 along the Irmino River, the statuette is one of the most important Hellenistic finds in Sicily.

Teatro Garibaldi Modica Interior – commons.wikimedia.org

Garibaldi Theater

Described as “a jewelry box of velvet seats surrounding an opera stage.” Garibaldi Theater’s first foundation dates back to the 1820s. Expanded and embellished the theater reopened in 1857 with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.

After the unification of Italy, the theater was named for renowned independent thinker Giuseppe Garibaldi, a leader of freedom and independence. Garibaldi theater became an important center of cultural life in Modica with opera, music, art exhibitions, and prose and theatrical performances.

Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem Palatine Chapel – Cosmo Ibleo

Famous Modica Residents

Twentieth century poet Natale Salvatore Quasimodo was born in Modica in 1901. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959. The house where he was born is now a museum displaying his books and furniture.

Poet Salvatore Quasimodo – Sicily Widespread Hospitality

Quasimodo’s archives appear at Museo Civico F.L. Belgiorno in the Palazzo della Cultura. The museum also has archaeological and historical collections and the modern art of Enzo Assenza.

Enzo Assenza – Antonio Randazzo

Tommaso Campailla Philosopher and Poet – RagusaNews

Tommaso Campailla was an Italian philosopher, doctor, politician, poet, and teacher. Born in Modica in 1668 to the aristocratic family of Antonio and Adriana Giardina, he studied law in Catania at the young age of sixteen.

The Castle of the Counts of Modica – typicalsicily.it

Castello Dei Conti Di Modica and Clock Tower

Castello Dei Conti Di Modica and the Clock Tower are two iconographic symbols of Modica. They dominate the historical center of town and the Counts of Modica and County Governor lived there. Built for military purposes, the castle was the seat of Modica’s political and administrative power. It also served as a prison and courthouse.

St. Peter’s Church Modica

Easter in Modica

Easter in Modica includes a special celebration. “On Easter Sunday two processions, one with the Madonna and one with the risen Jesus, start from two different paths and meet where the two hug and kiss each other. In the dialect the kiss and the hug are called ‘vasata’ – that’s why it’s called Vasa Vasa.” This popular celebration is held in cities throughout Sicily.

The “moving and engaging meeting of Madonna and Jesus” includes the release of white doves. It’s Modica Easter tradition to continue Easter celebrations on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday – Idria Tuesdayin the homonymous sanctuary on the hill of the Idria overlooking the city.

Farm Ristorante Al Monaco – almonaco.it

There is so much in Modica! This blog post doesn’t touch many cultural and architectural attractions or local restaurants and cuisine. Farm restaurants are popular and Modica has a renowned cookery school.

Buona giornata, più tarde…

Pozzallo Sicily

Pozzallo Torre Cabrera – lidoisolaverde.it

Pozzallo is a sleepy Sicilian seaside village on the Mediterranean – as “Italian / Sicilian” as you can get! I arrived Monday afternoon after flights from Belgrade to Munich and Munich to Catania followed by a 1.5-hour bus ride from Catania to Pozzallo. Each leg of the trip had unique challenges which I won’t belabor in this post.

Central Pozzallo

Italiano or Siciliano?

After a few days it’s clear not much English is spoken in Pozzallo. Even cats don’t understand it :o) … I visited Rome in 2017, so it’s been a few years since last speaking (or rather trying to speak) the Italian language. I’m starting each day with 15 -30 minutes on Babbel hoping it helps me improve.

Considered its own language, Sicilian is a “distinct and historical Romance language of the Italo-Dalmatian family”. Many Sicilian words are of “Greek origin with influence from Norman, Arabic, Catalan, Spanish, and other languages”.

Parrocchia Santa Maria di Portosalvo

My landlord – Saro – speaks some English but when his eyes go blank, it’s clear he doesn’t understand. Most locals are patient but after a poor pronunciation there’s usually a good-hearted boffola followed by a correction and then – usually – a smile. Europeans appreciate efforts to speak their language even if they’re not perfect.

Basilica Cattedrale San Nicoló Noto Sicily – Wikimedia

It’s interesting to note how patient (or not) countries are with tourists and foreigners. I’ve learned it’s unrealistic to expect locals to understand how it is to be new to a place learning everything from directions to local customs and food. I think the only way someone can relate to that is by experiencing it themselves – this usually makes everyone a little humbler.

Some days are a test of survival. Travel isn’t always fun – maybe with an entourage and someone doing the hard work for you… If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m experiencing some long-term travel grouchiness…

Spiaggia di Pozzallo – VivaSicilia

I had lunch yesterday at a café along the promenade where locals eat. I sat at a window table and soon 5 or 6 Italian guys (regulars for sure) piled in and joined me. They probably figured I wasn’t Italian and didn’t speak their language… I said “ciao” when leaving and thankfully got smiles all around.

Unknown Tree Central Pozzallo

Meals and Riposo

Time has new meaning in Pozzallo – a massive change from fast-paced Belgrade! In Belgrade lunch begins around 2 pm. Food is available whenever you’re hungry, but you’re likely to get a funny look if you order lunch early.

Sicily Map

In Pozzallo lunch is between 11 and 1 and everything closes for riposo from 1 until 4…. Dinner is after 8. Most gelato shops stay open all day, even during siesta, and locals start flocking to them around 4 pm.

Pozzallo House – Casa Vacanze Pozzallo

Fish, Food, New Apartment

Pozzallo is a fishing village (population 20,000) with a commercial port and “ancient nautical traditions”. It’s a popular seaside resort for Italians but few tourists from other countries know about it. If you’re not fluent in Italian, the language barrier is challenging.

Central Pozzallo

You can buy fish from fishermen coming back to the harbor early in the morning. There are fresh fish shops everywhere and it’s super clean and pink – zero smell. Fresh vegetables and cheese are also great.

Sicilian Sunset Pozzallo – casevacanzapietrenere.it

This is my 6th kitchen since I began traveling in October, each one with a new stove, pots, and cooking utensils to learn. This Italian kitchen has a gas stove hooked to a propane tank. You turn on the gas and then use a lighter to start the burners – new for me. I’m getting better at it and hope I don’t burn myself while lighting the stove or forget to turn the propane off at night… The mocha pot makes fantastic strong coffee!

Central Pozzallo

Saro has a beautiful villa on the coast that he rents for 250 € / night. It has a swimming pool, sleeps 7 to 8, and looks beautiful.

High tourist season begins in June. I’m an early arrival. The apartment is comfortable with beautiful knotty pine doors and closets. It has a wrap-around deck and the sea is visible between buildings. A walk to the promenade takes a few minutes.

Central Pozzallo

There are a few problems with my apartment that Saro is addressing – slowly. Like kitchens, this is my 6th landlord – enough said… Pozzallo internet is slow and I haven’t been able to download many photos – succeeded with a few. Not sure why some download and others don’t – probably the size.

Ferries, Catamarans, Tours

For the time being, I’m content not renting a car. Anything you might need or want is within walking distance. Pozzallo has ferries and catamarans to Valletta Malta, Catania, and points along the Sicilian coast. Buses are inexpensive and easy for exploring nearby Sicilian villages. I may rent a bicycle and will take a few group walking tours. For now, I’m acclimating. Nearby places of interest include:

Catania and Mt. Etna

Weather is mild in the 60s – 70s. Since we’re on the coast, early spring can be windy and bone-chilling cold at night. Thunderstorms come and clear quickly. It’s raining today, with a series of storms on the way.

Nearby Beach

Beaches and Environment

The FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) awarded Pozzallo four Blue Flag beaches. To qualify a beach must meet “strict criteria for water quality, environmental education, management, and safety”. Eight beaches in Sicily have the Blue Flag designation, including the four in Pozzallo.

La Spiaggia di Pozzallo – Case Vacanze Pomelia

Pozzallo’s recycling procedure is formidable. The Italian instructions describe preparation and pickup days for organic waste, glass, plastics, and rubbish. Sorting the containers and determining the correct day for each pickup is confusing. I learned to watch what others put out and follow their lead.

Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Valletta Malta

Torre Cabrera

My apartment on Via Carlo Pisacane is near Torre Cabrera is an ancient tower in the heart of Pozzallo. It was part of a coastal defense system built in the early fifteenth century to protect Pozzallo from pirates. The complex includes piers, warehouses, and equipment for loading ships.

Sicilian Arancini – The Passionate Olive

Lido Isola Verde

Lido Isola Verde, a promenade Beach Club, provides loungers and umbrellas for beach bums, sunbathers, and swimmers. There’s also a picnic area and a small bar. It’s off season so no one is there now :o) – a great place to ponder the sea. I took a short walk today in the rain and the surf was wild!

Central Pozzallo

Piazza della Rimembranza

Piazza della Rimembranza is in Pozzallo’s city center. Gorgeous buildings line the uncrowded streets. I’m still exploring the piazza and side streets

Sicilian Purple Cauliflower – Banggood

Spiaggia Pietrenere

A narrow, long beach hugging Pozzallo’s waterfront Spiaggia Pietrenere is a scenic 7-mile walk from Pozzallo to Santa Maria di Focallo. The walk is definitely on my to do list – maybe a few times a week. The firm golden sand is great for walking and the shoreline surf is shallow for some distance.

Pozzallo is all about the sea!  I’ll be here through April. Addio – più tardi…

Arrivederci Roma!

These two weeks in Rome have passed so quickly! It’s sad that just as I’m settling in and finally beginning to conquer the Italian learning curve, it’s time to move on to Istanbul.

I sometimes resist the “moving part” of each leg on a long trip – knowing that everything is going to change completely overnight and the orientation process will begin anew ;o(. Once aboard the airplane, it’s better.

Istanbul Beyoglu and Galata – The Telegraph

Turkish Airlines seems efficient – but as with all European airlines their baggage policies and allowances are skimpy when compared to the US. Clearly the rules are designed to boost revenue and glean every Euro or Turkish Lira possible from their passengers. They seem to allow MUCH more baggage for people flying from Africa or to the US… Haven’t figured that out yet but there must be a logical reason – to their benefit of course. Qatar Airways has a more reasonable baggage allowance but….

Next visit to Rome I will stay longer and heed suggestions from locals to arrive in October, November, or December when the weather is cooler and there are fewer tourists. Rome is an unbelievably rich city – so much to see and learn here! I’ve attached some photos taken near the Coliseum.

Luca Brasi

Most of all, I will sorely miss the indescribable delights of my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant – Sora Pia. I will always have a soft place in my heart for a waiter there who looks like Luca Brasi (really) from the Godfather. He speaks little or no English but always looked after me and never watched me eat my pasta or frowned when olive oil dripped down my chin! He taught me about “digestivos” when noticing a distraught look on my face after a full meal – starter PLUS primi piatti and secondo piatti!

Magic Rome

Ruins Near Colosseum

More later from Istanbul – a huge city of 15 million. After this time in Rome, it will be a massive change – basilicas to mosques! I’m prepared for the same Internet restrictions experienced during a previous visit in 2013 – won’t know until I get there. My hotel is in the Beyoğlu District. During the last visit, I stayed in Sultanahmet where most of the major tourist attractions are found.

Beautiful Roman Skyline

Skyfall 007 Movie Shot of Istanbul

Ciao!

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Ancient Rome’s Appian Way

Road to the Catacombs

Sunday afternoon I visited the Appian Way, “ancient Rome’s most important military and economic artery”. Built in 312 BC, the road is one of the “oldest roads in existence” and called the “Queen of Roads”!

19th Century Domine Quo Vadis Church

History

“The Appian Way was a crucial road for the Roman Empire. It connected Rome to its most distant settlements. Originally built by Appius Claudius Caecus, the censor of Rome, the road connected Rome to Capua near Naples. Eventually, it extended more than 300 miles to the Adriatic Coast, making it the widest and longest road in existence at the time.”

Catacomb San Callisto

Road to Catacombs

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The Appian Way is best seen on bicycle using worn dirt tracks along the road.

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Catacombs of San Callisto

Catacombs of San Callisto

Along Appian Way

Appian Way

Entrance San Callisto Catacombs

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In 71 BC, before the road was built, gladiator and slave leader Spartacus was crucified on Via Appia.

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Near Catacombs

Rome in the Background

Catacombs of San Sebastian

Statues Appian Way

Statue Near the Catacombs

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“The road is made of large, flat stones firmly set in place by thousands of years of rain, wheels, and feet passing over them….”

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Vista Near Porta San Sebastián

Getting There

The Appian Way starts at Via Appia south of Rome’s Coliseum. Circo Massimo metro station is the best access point. For me getting there was an effort and required connecting through metro lines A and B, and then taking a bus. It’s a beautiful area and I enjoyed the afternoon despite the heat. On Sundays, cars are not permitted.

Villa Appian Way

Well-Preserved Pavement

I walked portions of the incredibly well-preserved road and visited the Catacombs of San Sebastiano and San Callisto. The road is made of “large, flat stones firmly set in place by thousands of years of rain, wheels, and feet passing over them”.

Stones Appian Way1

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“The Ancient Appian Way was the first and greatest, a surviving testament to the mighty Roman Empire.”

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Stones Appian Way3

Walking gives you a funny feeling wondering whose footsteps previously passed on the historical road. You imagine emperors like Julius Caesar, merchants, saints, and even St. Peter.

Along Appian Way

Catacombs and Points of Interest Along the Appian

You can continue for miles though about 30 roads fanning out from Rome. Beginning at Porta San Sebastián, there are various points of interest:

Roman Ruins

“The Ancient Appian Way was the first and greatest, a surviving testament to the mighty Roman Empire. The road is strewn with historic tombs and ancient ruins, all nearly unchanged since the 4th century.” There is so much ancient Roman history along the Appian Way – you would need lots of time there to absorb it all!

Catacombs of San Callisto

Dedication to My Parents

This post is dedicated with love to the memory of my mother and father whose birthdays are June 10 and 11th.

Exhibitions Complesso del Vittoriano – Botero, Giovanni Boldini, Rome’s Fire Artist

Botero Horse Sculpting

Museums and exhibition halls in Rome’s Complesso del Vittoriano, the “Altar of the Italian Nation,” are known for hosting great art. The complex was built as a “symbolic monument” to “celebrate Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy, the first King of a unified Italy”. Two incredible showings are now running:

  • Fernando Botero
  • Giovanni Boldini

Fernando Botero

Colombian Artist Fernando Botero

The Botero show celebrates the Colombian artist’s 85th birthday and exhibits art from almost 60 years of his career – 1958 to 2016. His signature style, known as “Boterismo, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece”.

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“Botero’s paintings transport the viewer into a fantastical, dreamlike dimension pervaded by nostalgia and echoes of a world that no longer exists or is fast disappearing”.

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Botero’s work was displayed in several categories – sculpting, still life, political and religious, nudes, and memories of Latin America. It was simply incredible seeing his paintings so close! I spent several hours viewing the big, bold, beautiful paintings and sculpting. Although he lived much of his life in Paris, Colombia and Latin America had a profound effect on his art. He was “attracted to the work of Spanish painters Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez“.

Giovanni Boldini

Italo-French Artist Giovanni Boldini 

The Boldini show reconstructs “step by step the outstanding career of the artist”. He “superbly conveyed and exalted female beauty – revealing the innermost mysterious soul of the ladies of the period, whom he regarded as fragile icons”. The exhibit includes Boldini’s most representative oils and pastels, drawings and engravings, and a few works by his contemporaries, a group of Macchiaioli artists.

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“Giovanni Boldini, the protagonist of the Belle Époque, was an extraordinary painter who immortalized in his portraits the most beautiful women of Parisian high society.“

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Boldini’s elegant work is amazing – but viewing his small, delicate brush strokes was a transition after viewing Botero’s much larger images. Boldini lived to be 89. In his later years, he had to give up painting because of a loss of vision.

I Say – The Fire Artist

Rome’s Fire Artist – I Say

In the alcove, between the floors of where Botero and Boldini works were displayed, the museum presented a retrospective pop-art exhibition “Combustion” by the Fire Artist, I Say, who opened Dicò Art Gallery and is known in the US and Rome.

I Say divides his work in three categories – Burning, Celebrity, and Urban. Many of his creations are “in private collections of leaders – both Italian and international – from the world of culture, entertainment, finance, and sport”.

I thoroughly enjoyed ALL three exhibits, but admit Botero was my favorite. It was a privilege to see his work in person!

Trinità dei Monti Rome

Trinità dei Monti and Obelisco Sallustiano

Santissima Trinità dei Monti Roman Catholic Church and monastery is at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Obelisco Sallustiano stands at the church’s entrance.

Borghese Chapel Cesare Nebbia

Trinità dei Monti is a French national church and one of Rome’s main attractions. The church contains magnificent Renaissance Art and has interesting history. In 1502, to celebrate France’s invasion of Naples, Louis XII began, but never finished, construction of the church.

Spanish Steps from Above

“The present Italian Renaissance church was built in its place and consecrated in 1585 by the great urbanizer Pope Sixtus V. During the Napoleonic occupation of Rome, the church was despoiled of its art. After the Bourbon Restoration in the 1800s, it was renovated and returned to its former state at the expense of France’s Louis XVIII.”

Spanish Steps Photo Shoot

Trinità dei Monti has several chapels with splendid paintings, statues, and frescoes by Italian artists:

Pucci Chapel Frescoe Taddeo Zuccari

Since 2016, members of the Emmanuel Community began living in and serving Trinità dei Monti – a place of education, meetings, worship, and prayer.  A French caretaker adjusted chairs in the cordoned off main chapel, lit candles, and asked several young women who were inappropriately dressed to cover up or leave the premises.

Ceiling Trinità dei Monti

Tourists heeded the signs of silence posted throughout the church. It was a peaceful place to sit in contemplation. Outside, the street was bustling with people and lined with Maseratis and Ferraris for a flashy sports car photo shoot near the Spanish Steps.

Daniele da Volterra – ansa.it

Daniele da Volterra Frescoe

Communication is one of the things I like most about Italy. You don’t need to speak the language to understand what’s being said – gestures and facial expressions tell all!

Daniele da Volterra Frescoe

Pucci Chapel Frescos by Perino del Vaga

It was another sweltering day in Rome. On the metro, a handsome Italian offered me his seat. I sat down next to an English couple with a baby who was clearly overheated. She was adorable and looked frazzled with bright pink cheeks but seemed happy and wasn’t fussy. The couple said they were finding it difficult adjusting to Rome’s sultry summer weather – me too….

Trinità dei Monti and Obelisco Sallustiano

Dome Trinità dei Monti

Tomorrow I’ll get an early start and try to plan shady activities with frequent café stops. I discovered a fantastic underground Chinese Szechuan restaurant – Xiang Zi – on Via Firenze in the Prati District and had a delicious lunch!

Xiang Zi Szechuan Restaurant