Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sicily




I'm back from Sicily.

I enjoyed it a lot. Sicily has a lot of history; being a fertile island, it was invaded by everyone you ever heard of: Phoenicians, Saracens, Normans, French, Spanish, Muslims. The only people who didn't invade it were the Jews, and they were probably getting up an expedition when Garibaldi unified Italy.

Remnants of all these cultures remain. The Normans were a little peevish about the Muslims, and tore down about 300 mosques. I believe it was the last time anyone tore down anything on the island. The place is full of abandoned farmhouses, apartment houses, Greek temples, Roman villas, viaducts and God knows what else. Unlike the Americans, when Sicilians abandoned a place they didn't tear it down and replace it with an Acme or a Walmart. These just left it to fall down by its ownself and form a picturesque ruin.

Stuff I noticed:

There appear to be no traffic rules, no traffic lights, no stop signs. I don't know how Sicilian drivers know when to stop, but they sometimes do. You can't count on it, though. Palermo is full of graffiti and dirty, but charming nevertheless. There's an amazing fountain at the city center and several beautiful churches there or nearby. There also appeared to be a lot of young people, even though Italy has a declining birth rate.

No matter how small the town, the inhabitants tend to live on top of each other in apartments. No lawn-mowing for the Sicilians. They do have gorgeous roses, though.

Taormina is one of the most beautiful towns on earth. It's on a hillside overlooking a bay, and picturesque as all getout.

No matter which ancient people inhabited a place, they tended to place buildings of interest on top of steep hills. Perhaps this was in order to see who was coming to attack them next.

5 comments:

dick stanley said...

Sounds like fun. Perhaps they put the attractions on steep hills so the tourists would dehydrate themselves getting up and down and require refreshment--at a price. Any indication of the mob, you know, the mafia, which supposedly got its start in Sicily?

Siciliamo said...

Great post. Although I have one comment; while it is true the Normans replaced many mosques, as did most "crusading" invadors of Arab lands, of which Sicily was part of around the ninth and tenth Centuries, they also used the arab-style architecture as an inspiration for the new Arab-Norman style of buildings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab-Norman_culture). This style was further exemplified by the Norman Roger II, an arabo-phile King of Sicily who employed an army of Arab engineers and builders. Even today, if you go the the rooftop of a building in Palermo (the centre of Arab Sicily) you will see a "roofscape" of the city consisting of arab domes, everywhere. This will leave you in no doubt that a strong influence of Arab architecture remained with Sicily long after the Arabs were defeated. But of course, no mosques remained ;)

Siciliamo said...

Also, regarding the insane driving, here are my refelctions, http://siciliamo.blogspot.com/2007/03/complete-idiots-guide-to-driving-in.html .

miriam said...

Siciliamo: Thanks for your enlightening comments: I noted the Domes, of course.

Dick: There is a place on the highway where a judge was assassinated for prosecuting the Mafia. Actually, the natives have great pride in the fact that parts of the godfather movies were filmed there.

Sra Scherzophrenic said...

I have eaten lotsa food, too. I only wish I could do it in Sicily!