Posts Tagged With: Erice

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 25 Pepe 0003 (November 11, 2014)



1. Antonio’s House

In the morning after I woke up, I walked down the stairs and was greeted by a six-foot three-inch tall skinny Nigerian named Friday.

Friday comes by in the mornings to assist Antonio servicing his guests. Friday’s goal in life is to become a blues singer and while he putters about, he sings snatches of songs, sotto voce.
George, Friday (actually Venerdi) and Maryanne

Antonio’s home, surrounded by his garden, nestles, oasis like, in an uninspiring neighborhood on the outskirts of Canicatti.
The entrance to Antonio’s home.

It has been his home and that of his father before him and has the well settled feel of at least two generations arranging things for their long-term comfort.  Bookcases lined the walls alon with cabinets filled with various personal acquisitions. There is even a stand containing a walking stick collection.
Clockwise from the top left: The patio; Maryanne and George in the garden; Antonio preparing dinner; The main room with fireplace and table set for breakfast.
Antonio is a pediatrician and a beguiling host. He fancies himself a gourmet chef of Sicilian cuisine and for good reason — he is one.
Antonio at his favorite place in the house

I could not possibly describe all the various dishes he made for us but a few stand out — a dessert made with fresh (one day old) flaky ricotta covered with home-made fig jam — fried meatballs of finely ground pork and veal incased in breadcrumbs from fresh Sicilian bread soaked in water — an infinite variety of preparations featuring eggplant including a compote with olives and other things to die for — calamari stuffed with almonds — freshly made tagliatelle in a pesto sauce made with basil picked from his garden that day — An ice cream dessert (cassata) he called the history of Sicily containing Arab, Norman and Angevin originated ice creams — and on and on.
The Sicilian History ice cream

Most of his spices, vegetables, fruits and nuts come directly from his small garden each day. FullSizeRender
Pookie, glass of wine in hand, prepares to eat home-made Rigatoni with crayfish.

I sleep in his daughter’s room complete with pictures and favorite things seemingly just the way she left it before departing to study medicine at the university in Milan. Rather than an interloper, I felt like I was in a place built over the years to provide security, comfort and joy to whoever occupies it. I sleep well there.

In fact I would prefer spending my days there rather than touring or visiting relatives I had not seen for 40 years.

2. Meet the Relatives: Part I

I first arrived in Canicatti in 1968 with my son in tow having driven from London in a three wheel vehicle. The American side of the family had not laid eyes on the Sicilian since 1928 when the patriarch of the family unceremoniously, but for the good of the family, married his newly orphaned 16-year-old niece and sent off her younger siblings, my mother included, into indentured servitude in America thereby securing for himself his brother’s inheritance — for the good of the family.

Here I am in 1968 standing in front of a part of that inheritance with the patriarch himself, Vincenzo with one of his sons Giovanni who we will meet later. As I learned at the time from other townspeople feared Vincenzo  and reviled, all four-foot ten inches of him. The beanpole on the right is me in 1968. I can truly say that I am twice the man now than I was then.

Since then, Vincenzo has died and as is typical among Sicilian families they have broken into two warring groups who do not speak to or about each other. The reason for their enmity is unknown and probably forgotten by now.

The first group we visited with were the sons and daughters of the banking side of the family. Giuseppe the oldest son of Vincenzo was director of the local bank. now retired. Guillermo, the son of Giuseppina one of Vincenzo’s daughters, is a rising presence in the bank. We spent a delightful evening with them all, large and small.
Sitting on the sofa


At Dinner, of course

Playing with the children

Maryanne George, Guillermo and his wife.

Guillermo is an enthusiastic marathon runner as well as a banker. I promised him that should he visit us in California I would speak to Bill Yeates about the possibility of him running in one or two while he is there.

3. A visit to Enna and Piazza Armerina

The next morning we departed to visit a few of the sites in the area. Our first stop was Enna.

Enna was the last stronghold of the Saracens before the Normans conquered them under the Great Count Roger. Unlike the Reconquista in Spain three hundred years later, the Normans did not expel the Muslims and the Jews, nor did they forcibly convert them. Instead, they welcomed them into their administration and military and adopted many of their cultural practices, (Most of Italy’s great pastries and desserts come from this period).

Enna, like Erice in the West, sits on a mountain about three thousand feet above sea level and commands the view of much of southern Sicily.

Unfortunately, the stormy that day limited touring.

A statue in Enna that reminded me of me: walking stick, fedora and protruding belly.

A portion of the castle at ENNA

We then left for a site that a visitor to Sicily should not miss: The Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina, perhaps the finest collection of classical mosaics in existence.
The so-called Bikini girls – (actually depicts Roman female athletes in competition.)

A fanciful scene of Putti living it up on a boat.

4. Meet the Relatives: Part two, a night at Giovanni’s

That evening we spent with the other side of the family at Giovanni’s house. Giovanni, brother to Giuseppe and Giuseppina, as far as I know, did not pursue higher education and perhaps as a result was not as formal as his siblings.

We were met at the door by:

The following photo is of me and my cousin Giovanni. As you can see, I appear considerably heavier and shorter than I was forty years ago.
photo 1
Pookie and Giovanni

Maryanne and two cousins, Teresa and Maria

All the relatives gathered that night at Giovanni’s


“The state is a good state if it is sovereign and if it is responsible. It is more or less incidental whether a state is, for example, democratic. If democracy reflects the structure of power in the society, then the state should be democratic. But if the pattern of power in a society is not democratic, then you cannot have a democratic state. This is what happens in Latin America, Africa and places like that, when you have an election and the army doesn’t like the man who is elected, so they move in and throw him out. The outcome of the election does not reflect the power situation, in which the dominant thing is organized force. When I say governments have to be responsible, I’m saying the same thing as when I said they have to be legitimate: they have to reflect the power structure of the society. Politics is the area for establishing responsibility by legitimizing power, that is, somehow demonstrating the power structure to people, and it may take a revolution, such as the French Revolution, or it may take a war, like the American Civil War. In the American Civil War, for example, the structure of power in the United States was such — perhaps unfortunately, I don’t know — that the South could not leave unless the North was willing. It was that simple. But it took a war to prove it.”
Carroll Quigley



Only in San Francisco…

(For those still confused, they jacked up one side of the building after taking the first photograph.)

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 22 Pepe 0003 (November 6, 2014)



1. Segesta and Erice

I flew Ryan Air from Rome to Palermo. It reminded me of flying Icelandic Airlines in the 1960s. Among other things the seats did not recline. One woman sitting across the aisle from me boarded with a toy Maltese dog sporting a “service dog” emblazoned jacket. What sort of services a dog of that size could provide I refuse to speculate on. Although the woman had carefully complied with all procedures and was approved by the departure desk, the pilot insisted he was not authorized to fly with dogs. After many, many tense minutes the crisis was somehow resolved and we took off, dog and all.

I met my sister and George at the airport in Palermo and we immediately left for Erice.

Before arriving at Erice we stopped to view the impressive classical ruins at Segesta.

Pookie in front of the temple at Segesta

Located on the top of a massif about 3000 feet above the plain and sea below Erice can be seen from most of western Sicily. At times because of its height it disappears into the clouds. I loved the place as soon as I saw it.

Upon our arrival, we checked into an old Carmelite nunnery converted into a hotel. Similar to my lodgings in Rome, the hotel maintained an aura of religiosity. It retained all of the religious trappings of its prior life, including a chapel for devotional use by guests.

Checking into the “Carmine.”

We set off to explore the city and to have dinner. We were enthralled by the views from the city walls and the quiet peacefulness of the town. Now and then a bell would ring out marking the liturgical hours. The City, as small as it is, has 60 churches, most of which state appropriated during the Risorgimento and now house museums, artistic or scientific institutes or simply stand empty.

A view from Erice


Later, of course, a fine dinner at a place suggested by the hotel.

Maryanne and George at dinner

The following morning we continued our tour. One side of the city still has its ancient Phoenician walls.

The ancient Punic walls— VII-V Century B.C.

The city, like Sicily itself, is triangular-shaped. At one point is the Cathedral and main gate. At another stands the Saracen-Norman castles.

Castello de Pepoli

At the third point are the old Spanish and Jewish Quarters where our hotel was located.

A street in the old Jewish quarter.

The city is high enough that I watched some clouds float across the plains and creep into Erice like tourists looking for espresso.

Erice collage

A final view from the heights of Erice

2. Camilleri — Vigata (Puerto Empedocle) and Montelusa (Agrigento)

Following an extended and mostly uninteresting drive from Erice we arrived at Agrigento, the Montelusa of the Montalbano novels by Camilleri. Agrigento an ancient Greek City boasts some of the finest examples of Greek classical temple Architecture.
Maryanne at the Valley of the Temples

It was also the home of the playwright Luigi Pirandello. Camilleri’s first published book was a biography of Pirandello. The playwright, in a novel of his own written over 100 years ago, first named Agrigento Montelusa.

George in front of the Pirandello homestead

We began at the Questura where Montalbano unhappily spent much time explaining his actions to his superiors. It stands across the street from its rival police force, the much reviled Carabinieri.
The Questura

We visited the site of the school at which Camilleri was studying for his final exams when the Allies bombed it during WWII killing over 300 people. The event played and important role in the Terra-cotta Dog novel.

The Churchyard where the school was located.

Camilleri’s middle name was Calogero. Saint Calogero, a much beloved saint in Sicily, is the patron saint of Agrigento. Calogero was black and arrived in Sicily from Africa sometime in the forth century. Calogero is a common name and surname in Sicily.

The Church of Saint Calogero where Camilleri was baptized.

In one of the novels, I think it was The Snack Thief, Cantarella is sent off to collect some information from an accountant in the Arab Quarter of the city.

The Arab Quarter – the accountant’s office is off to the right.

We visited a several other locations and then set off for Porto Empedocle, the fictional Vigata.


In almost every novel, at some point Montalbano will eat lunch at his favorite restaurant and later walk out on the jetty, sit on the flat rock beneath the lighthouse and consider whatever case he is working on or more than likely his life in general.

The lighthouse and flat rock at the end of the Jetty

We drove past Marinella where Montalbano lived next to the beach in a much more modest house than the one pictured in the TV show. Unfortunately, because of construction of a project promoted by the very ambitious current mayor of Marinella, we were unable to get on to the beach itself.

We then went to the Turkish Steps an unusual marl formation that appears in The Voice of the Violin, I believe.

The Turkish Steps and our guide Michelle

After visiting too many scenes from the novels to recount, we stopped at the restaurant owned by Enzo that Montalbano, after his beloved lunch place near his office was closed, with great trepidation tries and falls in love with. Enzo was not there but his brother-in-law was and we visited with him for a while.

Pookie in front of Enzo’s restaurant.

Finally, we set off to our lodgings to rest before facing the city of Canicatti and our relatives.


Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

I sincerely apologize for sending these pallid travelogues to those devoted readers of T&T who look forward to my scintillating prose, trenchant observations and insightful clichés.


“… some alternative method of organizing large numbers of men had to be devised so that the energies of such men could be coordinated and directed and so that they could be deprived of much of what they produced in order to accumulate capital to be used for the creation of non-subsistence enterprises (from art and literature to war and monuments).”
Carroll Quigley.

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: