Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sicily, Italy - days two and three

cheese at the market
See Day One here.

I woke up on Friday feeling a lot better, and one of Francesca's friends came over for breakfast. We had granita (like ice-cream without the sugar) with brioche (a kind of sweet, light bread) for breakfast, a typical Italian thing. Bit different to marmite on toast! We walked down to the market to get fresh fruit, you could see huge swordfish cut in half lying on the tables, waiting for people to order fillets of it cut straight off the fish. Some of the fruit and vegetables are a bit different, like a kind of round eggplant and peaches that look squashed, and the cheese here commonly comes in a funny shape. It has a softer taste than French or Swiss cheese, I quite like it.

swordfish at the market
We met Daniella and Val, the two Canadians as we came back to the house, and decided to go to the beach with them. We were trying to find a beach in a nature reserve that they had visited before, but ended up somewhere else but just as nice. Not as clean as NZ, but not as dirty as Palermo either, they gave us a big rubbish bag going in but what really bugs me is people smoking and chucking their butts on the ground. I guess I haven't been to the beach anywhere else in Europe yet, but compared to NZers Italians wear swimsuits that are a little on the skimpy side. Valerie is an olympic-medal winning synchronized swimmer, so she's really interesting to talk to.

It was great to lie in the sun and swim in water that was pretty warm. The whole week in Sicily the temperature was around 35 degrees, and it's really humid, it feels like being back in central america again. We ate a lot of the fruit we had brought for lunch, and headed back to Siracusa around 6pm.

It was just Francesca and I for dinner, so we ate pasta and the cheese and vegetables thing again on the terrace, with humoungous slices of watermelon. I really like the whole terrace thing, the sun goes down late and it stays warm so its just perfect to sit out there. Then we picked up Francesca's friend Antonio, who just returned from an AFS year in China. We went to the bar/cafe her parents run, in the nearby town of Avola, and I had an ice-cream with nutella flavour, 'little nuts' flavour (we weren't sure of the translation) and the most epic, white chocolate-almond-caramel flavor. Only the addition of speculoos could have made it better, I reckon it was the best ice cream I've ever had!

Antonio eating Brioche with icecream, and me
We picked her mum up there and then headed off to Noto a town a little further away from Siracusa that is famous for really elaborate balconies and baroque style architecture. Francesca is a fantastic tour guide, she knows everything about the different towns in Sicily and all about the different buildings and types of architecture, so I learnt a lot!

The main road coming into Noto is cool, because once they built it they lowered it and all of the original doors going into buildings like the church don't work anymore, they had to add another level below and it looks really funny. We walked all around the town, there were a lot of people out and about, whole families, even though it was almost midnight, and then returned home and went to bed.

Old and now defunct church door in Noto
For breakfast on Saturday morning I had a chocolate filled croissant, they actually inject the chocolate in with a giant syringe, its awesome. We spent the morning at 'the rocks'. The waterfront at Siracusa don't have a sand beach, so they have built some scaffolding around some rocks that allow for easy access from the shore and down to the sea, with a big platform. I really liked this, because I love the sea but hate the sand! We could lie on the platform to sunbathe, and get straight into the deep sea to swim without getting sand everywhere or having to wade out really far.

'The rocks' in Siracusa
In the afternoon we headed to Taormina on the train. The trains in Sicily are a few decades behind those in central europe, but I always love sitting there and watching the countryside pass by. I wish I could take photos of everything that passes, it was an amazing trip. It took us a couple of hours to reach the train station in Taormina, and then we had to catch a bus up the hill to the town.

Taomina greek theatre
Taormina is perched on a hillside with amazing views of the sea, little villages scattered around the bays, and an ancient  theatre. The architecture around here was amazing, all of these lovely villas built onto the slopes. We went to the greek theatre first, its special because it was exhibits features of both the greek and roman periods. It's in pretty good condition, they still host performances in there, and on a clear day you can sit there looking at the stage and see the sea, the mountains and Mt Etna volcano in the background.

View from Taormina
Then we walked through Taormina. I think this was my favorite place in Sicily, its really beautiful. There are a couple of plazas outside churches that have phenomenal views of the sea, we passed a couple of weddings taking place. Unfortunately my camera died at this point, and I didn't bring the charger to Italy (normally the battery lasts weeks, not sure what happened there!) so I don't have any photos from this point onwards, the last I managed to take was me standing in the narrowest street, which really was only wide enough for me to fit inside it, and then I only took a few using Francesca's camera the next couple of days.

The narrowest street in Taormina
We brought arancini from a cafe. These are kind of balls of rice and a filling like eggplant, ragout or pistachio, covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried, invented for a nobleman or king or something to take when he went hunting. They are amazing, my favorite out of all the sicilian food I tried. Waiting for them made us late, so we had to run the whole way back through the town, pushing our way through all of the tourists and wedding parties, back to the bus.

We got back to Siracusa around 10pm, and a lot of Francesca's aunts, uncles and grandmother were waiting for us to have a huge family dinner on the terrace. We had pizza and more arancini, and more of the amazing desserts, with german beer and italian wine. It was nice to meet everyone, but hard because most don't speak english, although Francesca's dad jokes away with me a lot.

Later that night we headed out with Daniella, Valerie and another friend who had just arrived that day, Mel. Finding a club to go to was quite tricky, we went to one that is built on platforms over the waters edge, it was really amazing but really empty, so we left and drove to another out of town, but all of the old people milling around to terrible 70s music convinced us that it must be a wedding or other function, so we drove past one more that was totally empty before heading to Fontane Bianche, which is maybe 30 minutes outside of Siracusa.

To me, it seems really weird that three of the four clubs we went to were so far outside of the city, but  Fontane Bianche is so far out because its part of the resort where beachgoers are during the day. This place had people in it, dancing under a kind of pergola. We stayed there for a couple of hours. The DJ was terrible, I actually looked a couple of times to make sure there really was someone there instead of just iTunes with overlap playing, he kept skipping between diverse music genres and couldn't transition the songs properly. There was also a couple of weird things going on, like a girl dressed like a playboy bunny dancing on a little stage when we first arrived, then a man playing a sax along to the dance music, and finally a really old drunk man who cleared the floor to pull out some really weird dance moves. We also got bugged a lot by guys, Italians are really bold and persistent! We were home around 4.30am

Photos of Italy are here.

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