March 14, 2017
Even though we have not been sailing since last fall, there are some events and experiences to report. We’re well adjusted to our apartment in the “Centro Storico” of Licata, and shortly after our return to Sicily Birgit was able to successfully complete a trip to Germany for medical and other errands.
We were very fortunate to have a visit from our friends Morten and Anne-Inger shortly after Birgit’s return. Morten and Anne-Inger, their boat Vid Vandre, and their dog Louve, figured prominently in our lives last year in Licata and in Greece, and it was a treat to see them here again. Best of all, Serafina and Vid Vandre will be in the same harbor here in Licata this coming winter. That comes very close to a reason to look forward to an end to the summer! We’re also hoping to see Sarah and Hannah and Andy and Anita this fall (maybe Pete and Nancy too?).
A big highlight of Morten and Anne-Inger’s visit was a trip we took with them to Palermo, to see the Bellini opera “Norma” in the beautiful Teatro Massimo. Over the last couple centuries, Sicily has produced a rich crop of distinctly Sicilian artists and intellectuals, and Bellini was one of them. Some of the others include Pirandello, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giovanni Verga, Leonardo Sciascia, and of course, Andrea Camilleri.
The theater is the largest opera house in Italy, and the acoustics are amazing. We were in what are called, in a baseball stadium, the “nosebleed seats,” and we heard every note and every word, without the use of any amplification in the theater at all. When we asked one of the rare ushers where we would find our seats, she said, “Just go up until you can’t go any higher!” Despite it being the winter season, the house was full.
Built in the 1890s, the building itself was the subject of a 24-year renovation, begun in the early 1970s. There were, if you can imagine such a thing, rumors of corruption and malfeasance, “featherbedding” and Mafia shenanigans, but the end result, nevertheless, was the preservation and enhancement of a great treasure of an institution.
We were hooked, and we’re taking the bus for the 3-1/2 ride back to Palermo next week, to see Verdi’s “La Traviata.” We’ll also take some time to see the cathedral and catacombs that date back to the 10th Century. More on that next time. Built right after the 300 year Arabic occupation of Sicily, the cathedral apparently reflects the prevailing “Moorish” standards of design.
We’ve gotten back into some of the regular cycle of cruiser events centered at the marina, including the Sunday barbecues, and even the happy hour gatherings at the Café Letterario – but the crowd is a little smaller than it was the previous winter.
I’ve been serving as a substitute and/or assistant teacher in a language school on the main drag, Corso Umberto, for a class of younger Italians wanting to improve their conversational English. It’s been a huge amount of fun, and also an avenue to become more acquainted with the people, issues and events in town. Why, just last night I had to explain what was meant by “Talking to Ralph on the big white phone!”
In other events, we took an exploratory walk through an uphill part of the town – less prosperous than the oldest part of the city – of which the most memorable part was me being emphatically bitten on the butt by someone’s very large, angry, and truly unpleasant guard dog. Two teenagers, who saw the sudden attack unfold, pointed at the dog and explained, “É un cornuto!” More or less equivalent to the English, “He’s an asshole!” Couldn’t agree more! It should be clear that this beast was not part of the pack of very fine and kindly stray dogs in town, but more of a well-paid Sean Spicer type, with more hair. Sorry, but no photos…
Last Sunday we were fortunate to be able to participate in a wonderful locally-sponsored event – the “Walkfood” tour run by a local association a few times a year. It’s a guided walk through historically or architecturally important areas, along with exposure to some of the natural beauty of the district. This year it was about a six-mile circuit, including a gain in elevation of some 300 meters (about a thousand feet!), concluding with a multiple course meal, wine, music and art.
Nearly 100 people participated, including 17 boaters from the marina, and the theme for the closing part of the event was the coming 90th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Balistreri. She has been mentioned in this blog before, being the home-town celebrity of Licata (and whose former home is just down the street from our apartment). She was a great advocate for Sicily and its language and culture, and there will be further celebrations of her life next week. For a glimpse of her music, and a good short series of images of postwar Sicily, check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYbTbF2yVYI&list=RDJYbTbF2yVYI#t=0
Enough talk! Here are some pictures from the walk: