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Day 17, Monday, June 8, 2015 AGRIGENTO ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM

MOST AMAZING ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM EVER

sunny 78 °F

I forgot to mention that the breakfast room at the hotel has a glass bottom floor when you walk in, and you look down upon some ruins that date back to the 6th century BC. For three days, I have never quite gotten used to walking over these glass floors, sheepishly skirting the edges...my admission for the trip...it has to do with fear of heights...but the ruins below are no more than five feet...oh well!

After breakfast we set off for the Regional Archaeological Museum. This is one of the most important museums in the world, preserving the relics of ancient Akragas, a powerful Siceliot (Greek of Sicily) place from the 5th century BC. Very impressive are: the collection of craters; the wonderful marble statue of the catamite, the Efebo of Agrigento; the prehistoric collection and, above all, the colossal telamons, giant male statues, like columns, that supported the Temple of Zeus. The museum is situated near the famous Valley of the Temples and housed in the 14th century Convent of San Nicola. In the outside area there still are the ruins of the Ekklesiasterion (like an amphitheater), the bouleuterion and the Oratorio of Phalaris (a small Roman Temple) (photo). This museum contains inscriptions, splendid coins, pottery and ceramics.

Just after entering, the first room is dedicated to the ancient fountains and to the general topography .Following is a collection of various prehistoric relics. A little further on, one finds displays of archeological material from the area around Gela, the motherland of Akragas. One finds, materials made by the Proto-Corinthians and the Corinthians of the 7th century BC like lamps, vases, terracotta statues …

We then pass into Room 3, which is superb, and characterized by the richness of the vase collection. The vases come from the period of the 6th century BC to the 3rd century BC and are excellent examples of Attic pottery, in black figure, in red figure, and with white background. Dating from this period is the beautiful Attic crater attributed to the Painter of Kleophrades from about 500 BC, one of the great masterpieces of Attic Pottery in the Severe style.

The next, Room 5 is dedicated to the many shrines of Agrigento. These are mostly terracotta votives, extremely expressive, representing: divinities that often wear a headdress and a series of necklaces on their chest; and female figurines bearing gifts, (a flower, a vase, a lamp, and very often a pig) of the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic ages (6th – 3rd century BC). In the center of this very large hall is a central room, set below, that dominates the scene. It is the room dedicated to the Temple of Zeus, one of the most majestic constructions and at the same time the most original in all of Greek architecture. Today, completely destroyed (what remains are its imposing ruins), the temple originally measured around 112.70 x 56.30 meters. And it was probably supposed to be 30 meters high! This colossal monument was built by the Acragantini to celebrate the victorious battle of Himera between the Greeks and the Carthaginians (480 BC). The most striking feature of the construction were the telamons that supported the weight of the entablature. Visitors are often stupefied when observing these gigantic stones, almost 8 meters high!
Their original number was 7 on the front and 14 on the long side. A reconstructed model of the temple gives us a perfect idea of how it used to be.

In addition to the telamons, another huge masterpiece, is the Greek marble statue of Efebo, 1.02 meters tall, datable to about 480 BC. It is an original work from the era of Thiron standing with his arms and right leg extended forward and his right arm raised. At the end of the museum there is the magnificent prehistoric room. Among the many, many things are the relics from the Bronze Age.

After spending about 3 hours in this fascinating museum, we debated whether to make the hour and a half trip back to Selinunte to see more ruins of Greek temples, or to head for the pool. It was not much of a debate and, within half an hour, we were in our suits in a chaise lounge by the pool with a spectacular view of the Temple of Concordia. This was so tiring that nap time ensued followed by a cocktail out on our patio and a couple of games of doms.

Once again, the most difficult and important decision of the day was where to have dinner. I checked out a number of places on TA and we finally decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant and we were not disappointed. It is hard to describe how romantic this place is. We are seated with an immediate view of the Temple Concordia which, when it is lighted at night, is one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. Couple this with a wait staff that cannot do enough for you, and a piano player that plays one amazing romantic song after another. Tonight we had a different sommelier, a young woman, Simona, who took special time to go over the wine list and the selections we had. Then, after dinner, she brought us wonderful aperitifs from the area, and wrote out several restaurants for us to consider on our next two stops.

In addition, this time, I chose my own menu (prosciutto and melon followed by spaghetti carbonara...I know, I'm boring...but I also know what I like) and the chef was happy to comply with my requests. The food was outstanding and this was certainly among the top five dining experiences in my lifetime.

Tomorrow is traveling day, so buona notte for now.

Posted by stevencavalli07 09:59 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 18, Tuesday, June 9, 2015 To Ragusa

WITH A STOP AT PIAZZA ARMERINA

rain 78 °F

Our final breakfast at Villa Athena was wonderful and it was sad to leave this magical place. It has been truly a five star experience...even more stars warranted. Our plan was to divert our next stop inland to an amazing, recovered 4th century AD villa, the Villa Romana del Casale which is just outside of Piazza Armerina.

The Villa Romana del Casale is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, and has been designated as one of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

The villa was constructed on the remains of an older villa probably as the center of a huge agricultural estate. How long the villa had this role is not known, maybe for fewer than 150 years. The complex remained inhabited and a village grew around it, named Platia (derived from the word palatium (palace). The villa was damaged and perhaps destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths. The outbuildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab periods. The site was abandoned in the 12th century AD after a landslide covered the villa. Survivors moved to the current location of Piazza Armerina.

The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground. The area was cultivated for crops. Early in the 19th century, pieces of mosaics and some columns were found. The first official archaeological excavations were carried out later in that century. The first professional excavations were made by Paolo Orsi in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39. The last major excavations took place in the period 1950-60. They were led by Gino Vinicio Gentili, after which a cover was built over the mosaics.
I am sure the pictures that I took, which should be here shortly, if not now, do not do justice to the amazing mosaics that covered the floors of this villa which must be at least 50,000 square feet. Seventeen hundred years later they are remarkably well preserved and tell incredible stories about the times and their myths. One of the more interesting rooms was the one with mosaics of six women in bikinis, demonstrating their athletic adventures of the times.

Just as we started to leave this site, thunder, lightning and rain rolled in to change what had started off as a beautiful, war, sunshiny day. Margaret went to retrieve the car and, after some difficulty getting it started, came to rescue me from the rain. Our next hurdle was to get out of the parking lot…ask me about it some time. We were on the road and once again relied on Kate the Navigator to get us to our next stop, Ragusa. Kate is only as good as the lack of detours allows…and we ended up on some road going somewhere that was getting us nowhere. But eventually we got back on track and came upon a herd of sheep, its shepherd and the dog that was making sure there was no sheep left behind!
We rolled into Ragusa around 5pm and made our way to our hotel, the Antica Badia Relais Hotel which is near the center of the new part of Ragusa. We had a little trouble actually finding the entrance which we drove past the first time. The second time, I let Margaret out to find out where we were supposed to park…since it did not appear that our car could fit through the entrance with which we were presented. I drove around the block and got a call from Margaret and that entrance was, indeed, the only way in. With cars coming at me and honking from behind, I made a bold and aggressive swing out into oncoming traffic…more honks…and managed to squeeze through the iron gates to the hotel which is a villa that was originally built in the 18th century.

Ragusa is big on Baroque style and this hotel and its modern renovations spared no Baroque detail. We were led to our room which Margaret described as “trippy”. It was a suite with curved walls and very eclectic décor and an amazingly modern bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.
Our package at the hotel included one dinner in its restaurant, but it turns out the restaurant was closed for “maintenance”. The restaurant up the street that they have arrangements with was closed. So we consulted our dining bible, TA, and decided on a trattoria that was within walking distance, Trattoria da Luigi. Following is the review I gave on TA:

"Our first night in Ragusa and we decided on this restaurant because it was close to our hotel (Antica Badia Relais Hotel) and because of the TA reviews. It is a very small restaurant run by husband and wife. We were seated promptly and the wife went over the menu with us. She was very proud of the pasta she had made fresh that day and described how it would be served as a primi piatti with a tomato sauce. We shared an appetizer which was a fresh mozzarella di bufala with wonderfully fresh and tasty cherry tomatoes. My wife had the fresh pasta which I tasted and it was excellent. There were a number of little free tastes of various spreads on breads which were brought to the table and house made...all excellent. We both had a veal dish which was very tasty and a local bottle of Syrah which was excellent for only 13 euro. The finishing touch to an excellent meal was the cannoli dessert. The lady owner asked us if we would like to prepare our own to which we readily agreed. She brought out two cannoli shells, a bowl of the filling, chocolate powder and crushed pistachios. It was delicious. We were then provided with complimentary glasses of a muscat wine. Do not miss this gem if you are in Ragusa."

And that is how our first night in Ragusa ended. Oh, I must add, that I was fairly optimistic that I would be able to watch Game 3 of the NBA championships live in my room…good news and bad news. But that is for tomorrow’s blog. Stay tuned and buona notte da Ragusa!

Posted by stevencavalli07 10:47 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 19, Wednesday, June 10, 2015 MARINA DE RAGUSA

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US

sunny 80 °F

Today is the 48th anniversary of the day I met my beautiful wife at Kip's in Berkeley!

Turns out that Margaret did not like sleeping in our trippy room and we asked the concierge if we could make a change. He was more than gracious and accommodating, and moved us to a 3rd floor suite with a large terrace overlooking the rooftops of Ragusa and the Church across the street...we are now in the Magnolia room.

My day again began very early (3am) with the Warriors live telecast of Game 3 of the NBA champi0nships. I reported after the last game that I thought the Dubs were in trouble and this was confirmed in the third quarter when Cleveland went up by 20 (after a 3 point first half by MVP Steph Curry). Sleep deprivation was no longer justified and I turned the game off. Somehow I fell asleep but managed to reawaken and checked the score on my phone and saw that the Dubs had cut the lead to 6 or 7 with a couple minutes left...so I turned it back on only to see Steph, who brought his team back, turn the ball over three times in the last minute...and LeBron sealed the deal at the free throw line. But...I digress!

I inquired of the concierge about a possible guided tour around Ragusa which is a city that does not have any spectacular attractions, but it is divided into two distinct sections, Ible (old) Ragusa and the newer Ragusa that looks down literally upon the old city. The concierge got back to me with a proposal. He had a guide that would provide a four hour tour for 100 euro...provided I drove my car during the tour...Margaret found that to be quite humorous, indeed, hilarious, and I respectfully declined. Driving here is hard enough without having the distraction of someone pointing out all the important sites as we go.

So, we set off on a little walking tour of our neck of the woods which has a large cathedral immediately across the street. Our Michelin guide told us that there was a place nearby where we could get some spectacular views of the city and Old Ragusa. As we moved in that direction, we came upon a Salumeria and wandered inside for a look. We decided to buy a loaf of good looking fresh bread and, in the process, started speaking our broken Italian to the proprietor and who I assumed to be his daughter, about prosciutto. Next thing we knew, the loaf of bread we selected had been sliced in two and the prosciutto was being sliced on the meat slicer. A sandwich was being born without ever asking for it. Next he asked if we would like some "formaggio" (cheese) and of course I pointed to the nice looking block of Provolone in the meat case and nodded, "Si, si, si."
I said to Margaret that the mortadella with pistachios looked nice and the man behind the counter nodded approvingly and asked, "Vuole mortadella?"...to which I responded, "Why not!"...and the sandwich was wrapped for 2.5 euro...a bargain at twice the price!

We walked a few more blocks to an area that was perfect for our unplanned picnic...benches perched behind a cast iron wall with spectacular views of the valley and the town below. We pulled out the sandwich and our two orange Fantas and had our own private little feast.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, about 80 degrees. We walked around for a little bit after our picnic and then decided to take a ride to the coast. We had read about Marina de Ragusa and knew that there were some wonderful restaurants there, but did not know much else about it. Our concierge told us it was and "easy" 20 minute drive...turn left out of the hotel, go down to the end of the road, turn right and go across the bridge and follow the signs. We never saw the bridge and got lost for a good half hour when we resorted back to Kate the Navigator who finally got us to our destination. There was not much to see other than a number of beautiful villas looking over the water and a fairly nice stretch of beach where we found a little beachfront trattoria to have a lemonade.

We made our way back to Ragusa and the hotel in much easier fashion, but the promised 20 minute easy drive still took 45 minutes without getting lost. The next challenge we had to face was where to have dinner and I found a restaurant on TA that looked good and was in the Ible (old) part of town....La Taverna del Lupo.

However, before we left for dinner, the most amusing story to me since the ice at Villa Athena, occurred. Margaret, I guarantee, will not be and was not amused. When we changed rooms, there was no shower in our bathroom as there had not been in our previous "trippy" room. The concierge was again very accommodating, indicating that we could use the shower in the hotel spa. So, while I was sitting outside on the terrace, enjoying a cocktail and working on this blog, as I am now a day later, she went down to the spa to use the shower. The way all the hotels we have stayed in on this trip work (except for Casa Gregorio), is that you get a single plastic card key which you hold over a magical device at the front door and the door unlocks. When you gain entry to the room, you put the key into a slot which then activates all the electricity in the room and the A/C. Margaret left the door ajar (that oxymoron again) when she went down to the spa. I had gotten up to refresh my cocktail and checked that the front door was still ajar (well...it was still a front door as well)...and it was.

As I was furiously (at my pace) typing away, I was getting a little concerned that Margaret was taking so much time. Suddenly, she appeared on the terrace where I was working so hard to keep my vast reading public informed of our most interesting travels, and, in a word, she was "PISSED"! "I have been standing at the front door for 30 minutes, ringing and pounding and yelling...I even went up to the 4th floor terrace and tried to yell for you..." She was in her bathrobe and was not inclined to go to the front desk and ask for help...but here is the beauty of it all...SHE USED THE BOTTOM OF HER PLASTIC SHAMPOO TUBE AND INSERTED IT INTO THE DOOR JAMB AND THE DOOR MIRACULOUSLY OPENED. I forget where she said she learned that trick, you will have to ask her. And when she tried to demonstrate it for me the next day, it did not work.

So, we barely made it to our 8pm dinner reservation and the dinner was wonderful. The owner greets and seats you and he is the menu. We were provided with complimentary glasses of Prosecco and some little toasty appetizers and he then told us what we could have the kitchen make, both for a pasta prima piatti and secondi piatti. I had my first Bolognese sauce of the trip which was fabulous, followed by veal that was rolled into strips, breaded and deep fried. It came on two skewers, three little veal numbers per skewer. Margaret had a pasta with the tiniest clam shells I had ever seen, and loved it. She had another fish for her entrée which was also very good. It was enhanced by a nice bottle of local Syrah and a very nice crème brulee for dessert.

We returned home for a game of doms on the terrace under a cute little solar powered light on the outside table. Marg eked out a victory and we are now pretty even on this trip.

Posted by stevencavalli07 10:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 20, Thursday, June 11, 2015 Siracusa and Ortigia

sunny 80 °F

Our last day in Ragusa and we were both interested in visiting the ancient city of Siracusa and the equally ancient island next to it, Ortigia. Kate the Navigator told us it was an hour and a half drive south of Ragusa...which does not take into account getting lost time. The tricky part of navigating Sicilian roads has to do with conquering the roundabout, and being able to accurately count, in sync with Kate, the proper roundabout exit to take. I obviously missed a couple and it sent us through little unheard of villages that were not part of our itinerary plans...and the narrow streets...oh those narrow streets that strike fear into the heart of my human navigator, Margaret.
We eventually made it to our destination, Siracusa. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheaters, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times, when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world. Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Syracuse next to the Ionian Sea.
The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia, of which it was the most important city. Described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", it equaled Athens in size during the fifth century BC. It later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire. Eventually, Palermo overtook it in importance, as the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily which would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.
In the modern day, the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica. In the central area, the city itself has a population of around 125,000 people.
Although rated 3 stars by Michelin, the Greek Theater we drove an hour and a half to see was a little disappointing. The Greek Theatre, whose cavea is one of the largest ever built by the ancient Greeks… it has 67 rows, divided into nine sections with eight aisles. Only traces of the scene and the orchestra remain. The edifice (still used today) was modified by the Romans, who adapted it to their different style of spectacles, including also circus games. Near the theater are the latomìe, stone quarries, also used as prisons in ancient times. The most famous latomìa is the Orecchio di Dionisio ("Ear of Dionysius").

After about an hour wandering around the theater, we drove to the island of Ortigia., a small island which is the historical center of Syracuse. The island, also known as Città Vecchia (Old City), contains many historical landmarks. The Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo has it that the goddess Leto stopped at Ortygia to give birth to Artemis, the first born of her twins. Artemis then helped Leto across the sea to the island of Delos, where Leto gave birth to Apollo. Other ancient sources state that the twins were born in the same place—which was either Delos or Ortygia— but Ortygia was an old name of Delos. It was also said that Asteria, the sister of Leto, metamorphosed into a quail, threw herself into the sea and was metamorphosed into the island Ortygia. Another myth suggested that it was Delos instead of Ortygia.

So while there may be a heavenly Greek mythology background to the island, this is where we first encountered driving hell on this trip. It is bad enough being on a two lane road, stuck behind a convoy of trucks, with crazy people on scooters passing into oncoming traffic...or the manic Italian who is three feet from your rear bumper, a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other...gesturing wildly to whoever is on the other end of the phone. Some of the streets on Ortigia are so skinny that two people walking would have a hard time passing each other. We somehow ended up driving through a series of these streets until we reached a point where there was no way this Volvo station wagon could turn onto the next street. We were stuck and left with the only alternative of backing out of this mess...slight problem...there is a car behind me honking furiously. I stood my ground and he backed up. I backed up to a certain point but didn't like the idea of having to back up the length of an entire street...so I decided to try and turn around...one of the slickest maneuvers ever. There was a point where you could not have fit a credit card between the side of the car and the wall it was about to scrape. But, alas, I made it and drove to the end of the street...only to be confronted by a crazy (redundant) Italian woman that wanted to turn in my direction!!!!! There was no way. I held up two fingers in the shape of an X...not necessarily the two fingers I wanted to hold up...so she stops in the middle of the street that can only fit one car...with seven cars behind her...each furiously pounding on their horns. Finally, she realized the futility of her plight and she made a left turn onto a street that you had to fold in the side mirrors...and then there was no guarantee. I followed her and the other seven maniacs and we eventually made it to the port where we parked and had a lemonade and a hot dog...it was more like a Panini dog...but it was good.

We saw a number of Greek and Roman ruins on Ortigia and Margaret visited an outdoor flea market. We then asked Kate the Nav to take us back to Ragusa and we did so without missing a beat this time. Back at the hotel we reminded the concierge that our package included a dinner one night at the hotel restaurant which was closed for maintenance. They had made arrangements with a nearby local restaurant, Taberna del Cinque Sensi, and we made a reservation for 8pm.

From the number of times I have been to Italy, I have come to realize that it is hard to find a bad meal. Even at the gas station stops on the Autostrada the food is good. We had another very nice meal at “Five Senses”. Margaret had veal carpaccio followed by tagliatelli with a pork ragu sauce. I had a steak with fries and we shared a huge salad. It tasted even better knowing that the hotel was paying. Back to the hotel for a game of doms under our solar table lamp and an early goodnight for me in anticipation of Game 4…hoping I was wrong about my prior Dub posts!!

Posted by stevencavalli07 10:07 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 21, Friday, June 12, 2015 On To Taormina

sunny 80 °F

Happy to say that I was wrong about the Dubs being done. Kerr does it again, starting Iguodala in place of Bogut who has done nothing in this series. Beating the Cavs by 20 on the road is a statement that needed to be made. And I love his comment when asked afterward about his statement to the media just before game time that there would be no changes to the lineup…”I lied…Last time I checked they don’t award the trophy for morality…it’s who wins.”

Taormina is to be our last stop on this trip. We have three nights there and then three flights on Monday to get home. We embarked on our two hour drive from Ragusa with Kate the Nav trying her very best. We were scheduled to turn the car in at Giardini Naxos, the next town before Taormina. However, the rental place was closed from 1 to 4pm and we were on schedule to arrive around 2pm. So, we decided to go to the hotel and unload our bags and check in. When we got off the Autostrada, we made a wrong turn, as our concierge informed us. This wrong turn took us on endlessly winding, narrow roads through the town of Taormina when we were informed that we were only 2 minutes away had we made the correct turn.

Our concierge also suggested that EuropAuto often picked up customer’s cars from the hotel because it was so close. So, I waited until 4pm when they opened and spoke with a very nice woman who agreed to pick up the car for an additional charge of 30 euro…money well spent…although it has yet to appear on my credit card.

We checked into the Panoramic Hotel. It had been so long since I booked these hotels, I had really forgotten why I had chosen them. The hotel is in the lower part of Taormina with breathtaking views overlooking the bay where the Belle Isole resides. Belle Isole is a small island no more than 500 meters from where our hotel sits in the Ionian Sea.

Taormina is a commune and small town on the east coast of the island located 206 meters above sea level on a hillside of Monte Tauro, one of the last peaks of the mounts Peloritani. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century. It has popular beaches accessible via a frightening (for me) aerial tramway) on the Ionian Sea.The area around Taormina was inhabited by the Siculi even before the Greeks arrived on the Sicilian coast in 734 BC to found a town called Naxos. The theory that Tauromenion was founded by colonists from Naxos is confirmed by Strabo and other ancient writers. The new settlement seems to have risen rapidly to prosperity, and was apparently already a considerable town at the time of Timoleon's expedition in 345 BC. It was the first place in Sicily where that leader landed, having eluded the vigilance of the Carthaginians, who were guarding the Straits of Messina, and crossed direct from Rhegium (modern Reggio di Calabria) to Tauromenium. The city was at that time still under the government of Andromachus, whose mild and equitable administration is said to have presented a strong contrast with that of the despots and tyrants of the other Sicilian cities. He welcomed Timoleon with open arms, and afforded him a secure resting place until he was enabled to carry out his plans in other parts of Sicily. Andromachus was not deprived of his position of power when all the other tyrants were expelled by Timoleon, but was permitted to retain it undisturbed till his death.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Taormina continued to rank as one of the more important towns of Sicily, and because of the strength of its position was one of the last places that was retained by the Eastern Roman emperors; but it was taken by the Arabs in 902 after a siege of two years. Taormina was renamed "Al-Muizzia" in honor of Imam al-Muizz, who was a Fatimid Caliph (reigned 953–75). Muslim rule of the town lasted until 1078 when it was captured by the Norman count Roger I of Sicily.
After the fall of the Normans and of their heirs, the Hohenstaufen, Taormina followed the history of Sicily under the Angevins and then the Crown of Aragon. In 1410 King Martin II of Sicily was elected here by the Sicilian Parliament. Later Taormina was under Spanish suzerainty, receiving the status of "city" in the 17th century.

In 1675 it was besieged by the French, who had occupied Messina. Under the Bourbons dynasty of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, Taormina did not have a relevant role; however, it obtained an easier access when part of the Catrabico promontory was partially cut and a seaside road connecting it to Messina and Catania was created. It received also a station on the second-oldest railroad in the region. Starting from the 19th century Taormina became a popular tourist resort in the whole of Europe: people who visited Taormina include Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche (who here wrote his Thus Spoke Zarathustra), Richard Wagner and many others. The Taormina film festival is taking place while I write this and the stars present include Patricia Arquette and Richard Gere. The films are shown in the ancient Greek theater.

During the early 20th century the town became a colony of expatriate artists, writers, and intellectuals. Albert Stopford grew roses in his Edwardian garden; D. H. Lawrence stayed at the Fontana Vecchia from 1920 to 1922. (He wrote a number of his poems, novels, short stories, and essays, and a travel book, Sea and Sardinia.) Thirty years later, from April 1950 through September 1951, the same villa was home to Truman Capote, who wrote of his stay in the essay "Fontana Vecchia." Also Tennessee Williams, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais visited the place.

All I can say is that we have travelled to many beautiful places and the view that we have from the terrace off of our room rivals all of those. Sleep deprived from the Warriors game and having arrived mid-afternoon we explored the property which is laid out very nicely. We have a room on the 3rd floor overlooking the beach and the Isole Belle, the top floor in the hotel with rooms. The fourth floor is where breakfast is served and is a very nice, open air space with tables and couches and a bar. On the 5th floor is the swimming pool and another bar. We decided to settle in by the pool until it was nap time and then played some doms out on the terrace. I looked around and suddenly noticed that there was a dove sitting very quietly under a palm tree that was on our terrace. I went to give her some peanuts and she moved away briefly, revealing two eggs and a nest. There was a small cup of water which we re-filled. The father would fly up from time to time to check on her.

We had dinner at Da Giovanni, a ristorante directly across the street from our hotel and it was quite good. The views are spectacular. I had my fallback prosciutto and melon and spaghetti carbonara. Margaret had a huge appetizer plate with various meats and cheeses and some great bread followed by frito misto. We then walked back across the street to a little gelato place for dessert.

Posted by stevencavalli07 08:18 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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