Monday, May 18, 2009

Italy Vacation (Day 4) – May 10, 2009

I woke up suddenly with the realization I had overslept and MO was waiting for me to get up so we could go sightseeing. My legs were still infuriatingly locked up from the knees down, so I scrambled as best I could into the shower and got dressed. I hobbled downstairs to make my apologetic entrance. Hmmm… no MO… no dogs… also no clock anywhere in the house for me to look at. I hobbled back up the stairs and found my phone which read 7:30am. Well that was a waste of adrenaline. I thought it was going to be 1pm or something. That also means I got about 4 hours of sleep. I sent a couple of emails and texts (my apologies about the texts some of you got in the middle of night you time. I forgot about the time difference…)

MO eventually got up, had breakfast, and took a shower. Our only time constraint was we had to be to the gas station before 1pm when everyone took afternoon naps (“reposo” in Italy) and everything closes. And… we didn’t make it. We did find one that was open. One of MO’s friends told her about the most beautiful city in Sicily - Taormina, so we thought we’d go check that out. Didn’t think there would be much walking (which was nice since both of us were still hobbling around), and we could see lots of things from the car.

We drove past Mt. Etna, Sicily's very own active (and smoking) volcano.

We got to Taormina super fast (under 2 hours), but right when we got there, we thought there was some sort of wildfire running loose. Funny, it didn’t smell like a fire.

Was it fog? Oddly, yes it was. And only in the small bay where this “supposed” beautiful city was. We couldn’t see ANYTHING.

So we just laughed and kept driving. We drove up the steep hillside and took some photos of the fog. Actually, some really good photos of the fog from above once we got high enough on the hill. It kind of had a mystical Avalon sort-of feel to it.

We hit the road and went to a street festival in Trecastagni. It was a festival of onions, garlic, and patron saints. The Italians love to throw festivals and since they have a patron saint for everything imaginable, they invite them along to join the fun. They even take the statues out of the churches and parade them through the streets with candles and stuff.

MO and I hobbled around and tried to get a horse-meat sandwich, but the place we went to was all out – I guess they’re very popular during festivals. So we settled on a pork sandwich with eggplant and tomatoes, which was delicious! We people-watched a ton and went to the church where the patron saints would soon be returning to. MO collects patron saint cards like baseball cards. Kind of hilarious, but I guess if that’s her worst vice, it’s probably ok. Soon the crowds became more mob-like and less tolerant of a wobbly fat white guy bumbling around their town. It was time to leave.

On the way towards our car, we had to stop and get the Sicilian equivalent of funnel cake. It’s just fried dough in various shapes, but whatever – it’s a festival and it would probably be rude to NOT get it. I didn’t want to take that chance. We got two different ones just to be on the safe side. One was drizzled with really thing honey and the other one was covered in sugar. Deep fried dough with sweet stuff… it’s hard to go wrong with that. Both were awesome.

And then just as we were about to leave the festival, MO reminded me I hadn’t had Cannoli. I’ve never had one before and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a dessert with kind of whipped goat’s milk-ricotta cheese, cinnamon, nuts on the outside and all shoved into a pastry shell tube. Then I think it’s deep fried – which makes everything better. It was awesome. MO didn’t think it was the best one she ever had, but it tasted good to me.

We drove home. And by “we” I mean MO since I fell asleep in the passenger seat about 30 second after I sat down. When we got home, MO called one of the local restaurants to see if they were open (Sundays things get weird, so it’s better to check). Marakessa is a local restaurant where actual Sicilians go to eat dinner and watch futbol (soccer). Milan was playing Juventis this night so we got to hear all kinds of yelling and general disgruntled-ness. Awesome.

We ordered an appetizer (antipasta) of slices of prosciutto, salami, and spicy salami and a chunk of traditional farm cheese. The meat was plain, but really tasty. Makes me want to eat cold cuts for every meal back in the U.S. I got a half bottle of the house red since MO wasn’t drinking (they do breathalyzers on the base and she didn’t want to get pegged for something stupid like that). I ordered Maccheroncini alla Boscaiola (I think), which was penne pasta with mushrooms, sausage and sauce. It was really really good. I’m really digging the Sicilian sausage I’ve discovered, so I plan to eat as much of that as possible in the future.

When I finished that, I got a second course of Salsiccia Nostrana alla Brace – a homemade sausage, which ended up being amazing as well, especially after I squeezed some lemon on it.
Wisconsin has got nothing on Sicily when it comes to sausage – I’m just saying. I didn’t bring enough cash to cover dinner and not a lot of places take credit cards in rural Sicily, so MO paid for dinner. Score. Ha ha ha

We went back to the base, got me checked in again, and headed home. We opened up a few bottles of wine and popped open a couple of photo albums from grad school. Hilarious photos in fact. Just then, I remembered it was mother’s day and before I got too spin-y, I called my mom and wished her well. I’m a good kid like that sometimes.

Couple bottles of wine later and I hit the sack, much later than I had wanted to, since we were going to check out castles the next day… I intended to sleep MUCH later than 7am this time around.

Top 5 things about Day 4
1. Sicilian sausage
2. Street festival for onions, garlic, and saints
3. Cannoli and Sicilian funnel cake
4. The fog gave me a reason to go back to see the most beautiful city in Sicily
5. MO and I were moving at the same pace, so neither of us was holding the other back

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved street festival food and may even have been convinced to try horse
2. Fog
3. Woke up waaaaaaaay too early
4. Stupid legs and their non-cooperation
5. I’m feeling guilty for “assisting” with the growing holes in the wine cabinet… ha ha ha

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