Monday, June 2, 2008

Recollections by Laura Blanco - 23 May 2008

We traveled from Palermo to Sircusa a couple of days ago and have been staying in Ortegia while we explore another side of the island. The bus ride unveiled a beautiful and versatile countryside that at one point was verdant on our left, while arid to the right. There were brief moments that reminded us of Litchfield County.

The members of the Lizard Lounge set-up shop at the back of the bus early on. They have had their raucous moments tempered by the silence of a well-deserved nap. The sound of empty wine bottles rolling on the floor broke that silence.

Along the way we have seen a patchwork of farms situated at angles that seemed almost impossible to comprehend. Some long-forgotten remnants of stone structures don’t even look man-made anymore. Fields of wheat seductively undulate in the wind. Miles of highway are lined with Andromeda, Ginestra and Rosemary. Cypresses punctuate the landscape while swatches of red poppy give this beautiful monochromatic land a jolt of color. It’s an intoxicating country.

Our guides are three Roman gods. Our driver maneuvered the controlled chaos of the Italian roads along with the seemingly impossible hairpin turns with perfect aplomb.

Some of us will continue our travels and not arrive home until mid-June, while others will start making our way back. We have enjoyed each other’s company and talk of another trip next year – Buenos Aires or Capetown?

As I write this, a series of Italian bands are making a stab at American rock just outside our hotel. A thrash band with a lead singer that makes Rob Zombie sound like a choirboy just finished their rendition of “Sweet Dreams.” I’m getting homesick.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Recollections by Laura Blanco - 20 May 2008

We are where we started - in Palermo – gritty Palermo. It is no different from many other cities with its graffiti, junkies, prostitutes, stray dogs and the constant sound of the backhoe at work while the salty wind reminds one of its ancient origins. It is a city that uncomfortably combines the architectural beauty of the past, with the blight that modern man has built. To live here you probably resign yourself to these realities and try to focus on the strength of family, community and history. You share a meal of the incredible agricultural bounty of this country and you experience an emotional shift and a sense of wellbeing.

The people we have met are warm and always accommodating – from the gentleman who drives our bus, to the hotel staff, to the owners of the homes we have visited. Eye contact is instant and comforting.

Our hosts have generously opened their beautiful homes to strangers who appreciate their efforts and every detail. At Lanza Tomasi the owner cooked for us, taking great pride in her Venetian heritage.

The extraordinary Principessa Calvello walked us through Palazzo Gangi, a vast structure lovingly and impeccably restored for the past thirteen years. After hearing about the difficulties she has encountered along the way, I will think twice before I complain about our restoration efforts in the States. This woman is doing important work against extremely difficult odds. At all times, these vast, magnificent palaces felt like someone’s home, regardless of the historical importance of the settings.

Four days of memories and it’s overwhelming: The arid geography with its gorgeous plant life; a grouping of black cats curiously staring at us from an alleyway; a lone dog of questionable pedigree taking a nap; the coolness of the courtyards; and finally, the rugged and poetic beauty of Segesta. This countryside with its soaring, vertical mountains – black hovering clouds with a perfect spotlight of sun on the horizon. A John Gandy painting has just come to life. I get it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day One - Palermo - the capital city of the Sicily

A Beautiful hot clear day... all but one of our travelers had arrived. And we set off to explore some of the amazing churches of Sicily with parts dating from as early 12th C.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Again, welcome to our blog! We'll be testing things for a few days as we get used to making entries... And we'll start posting on Saturday, May 17th! Regards, Chas