Siracusa Cathedral

The cathedral of Siracusa is beautiful. It is ornate and simple all at once: a combination of Baroque on the outside with simple Greek doric columns embeded in the walls and visible from both inside and out. The Greek temple around which it was built dates to the 5th century B.C., while the Baroque is middle 1700s. Such extended history in one building!

Doric column next to Baroque detailing

Baroque entry with Moorish influence

The Greek columns are much more visible inside than out

Beautiful simplicity

The lights provide a warm glow to the stone

The Greek columns are massive

The central nave carries the simplicity

The side chapels have the more ornate Baroque

Definitely Baroque!

For me, the simplicity, the absence of painting in the central nave, all the light colored stone imparting a lightness to the interior, complemented by the statuesque Doric columns make this an exceptionally lovely church.

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Being Disconnected

I’ve been completely without phone or Internet for 24 hours. That’s not entirely true as I’ve used Kristi’s tablet to do what had to be done via email. But my phone just stopped working and my tablet, for the second time on this trip also stopped connecting. So no news, Instagram, Facebook, email, texts.

And it has been eye opening and a blessing. This morning and last night (not to mention just being on the street yesterday), blessed with a rooftop terrace in our apartment, I’ve rediscovered just how interesting the world is outside of these screens of ours.

I’m watching a guy and his helper installing new water tanks on an adjacent roof. One guy on top putting cement down out of a bucket. Handing the empty bucket to his helper on a ladder who goes down for another bucket. Takes time. So the guy on the roof smokes a cigarette and admires the view. Then the plastic 4 foot square cubes for the water hauled up with a rope and stick that fit inside the round opening of the container. We won’t be here to see the entire setup and hookup. But this is every bit as interesting as my screen.

And I discovered that all these tiles on the rooftops aren’t cemented down. First course is, but the rest are just laid on top. Guess they are heavy enough to withstand strong winds. And perhaps it’s why some have stones on top, presumably to help hold them down.

Then there’s the lady hanging her laundry on her rooftop. The woman opening her door onto her patio to get some morning air. Scoping out the roads in the distance that we’ll be driving on in a couple of hours. Looking at the sea and coast to which we’re heading. Watching the light play across the buildings as the sun moves higher in the sky.

There’s a lot going on. It’s entertaining. And it’s quite peaceful. Can I take the lesson and be less connected once I’m connected again?

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Marsala Archeological Museum

This museum is a gem and probably the best thing we saw in Marsala. It has two parts: an outdoor archeology site with ruins and some wonderful mosaics from a Roman villa circa 300 A.D., and an inside museum housed in an old wine factory with remains from the Carthaginian era – here were talking 300 B.C. The museum, a city owned and run property, is beautifully interpreted.

Here, images from the outdoor piece.

The entry to the outdoor sure is lovely.

Above a rendering of the Carthaginian city.

And the city in 500 A.D.

How the streets were built by the Romans.

And the street today, so perfect. It has been paved over, serving as a perfect base for a modern road. It tapers to the sides with drains to take water away.

Later a church was built over the road and people buried – crypt seen here.

How mosaic was laid.

Some of what remains.

Four different cats attacking four different types of deer. Detail below.

This is the remains of a hot bath. A floor covered the little columns and hot water ran under the floor. The walls were also heated with hot air that flowed behind them! Image below with bath to upper right and picture of the cats/deer in the center.

A lovely asymmetrical piece with detail below.

Water from roofs was collected into cisterns

And how it looks today

Just wonderful!

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Segesta, Sicily

The ancient site of Segesta struck me as much, if not more, than Cappella Palantina. It is completely different. An open air temple of a vastly older time without its roof, open to the elements. It is stunning and accompanied by an amphitheater overlooking the Gulf of Castellammare. The area has Greek, Arab, Cathaginian, Elmyians, and Christian remains.

Ruins on the site date to 500 BC. The Greek Temple was begun about 430 and abandoned after the Carthaginians drove them out in 418. On the site is a Greek amphitheater from the 200s, and the remains of their settlement as well as Norman time (1200 AD) mosque and church.

Can you imagine so much history in one place?

The most evocative for me was the never finished Greek Temple. It stands roofless with all it’s doric columns and entablature in place presenting endless framed photo opportunities. Set below a hill on its own promontory of open space it is so compelling.

Some pictures of the Temple, amphitheater and site.

The amphitheater and more of the setting.

The gulf in the background

Countryside around the site

Autostrada and gulf below the amphitheater

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Cappella Palatina

Pictures can’t capture the incredible beauty and intricateness of this chapel. There is also no way to use words that are adequate.

The chapel is Norman, ordered by Norman king Roger II, a mix of cultures and religions: Byzantine, Islamic and Latin. It dates to the 1100s.

My pictures are organized by the primarily gold mosaics, the marble mosaics mostly in the floors but also on some walls, and a few shots of the intricately carved wood ceiling that is Islamic.

Next the marble mosaics.

Some perspective on how small the pieces are using my foot

Finally the wood ceiling.

This part of the ceiling is painted not carved

The best I can do, and it doesn’t come close to doing it justice!

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Palermo Street Food

We had a delightful 3+ hour tour of street food today, taking us through the Capo market. We were a group of 14: a newly married Swiss couple, a couple from Italy, a German woman, and Americans from PA, NJ, New Orleans, and one living in Brazil. In addition to food the tour included local history. Forbes rated Palermo’s street food 5th in the world.

The Capo market was created during the time when Sicily was controlled by the Arabs: 875 – 1075. Before then the market area was open countryside.

Our first stop was for Frito which is made up of left over parts from animals, what exactly our guide, Giorgio, couldn’t say. It’s a food tradition dating back 500 years. The Frito is brought to the market warm and kept in the bottom of the basket behind Giorgio.

The vendor reaches down into the basket and either fills the paper cup he is holding or puts it on bread. We had it from the cup and it, whatever it was, was delicious. After, we had prickly pear from the many cactus plants covering Sicily, which did not have a lot of flavor.

Everything in the market is local and seasonal except for a few imports from the tropics. This includes the fish. Much of the fish is oily fish – mackerel, anchovies, sardines – so healthy.

Next was fried veggies and fish in a kind of tempura batter. Street food is mostly fried because it was a way to gain the caloric intake that the poor people shopping in the market needed.

We had octopus, sardines, anchovies and shrimp along with broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers. In addition there was eggplant rolled around raisins, cheese, and breadcrumbs with a tomato sauce on top. Yum.

Giorgio and some of our group

We also had white wine made with the Grillo grape indigenous to Sicily. Like all their wines, it is mineraly. Light, fresh, delightful.

Next up: panelle, arancini, and potato croquettes.

Panella in front, arancini back left, potato croquettes back right.


Panelle are chickpea fritters made from chickpea flour and parsley. The croquettes are mashed potatoes and mint. Arancini are rice balls stuffed with beef, carrot, peas and mozzarella. The root of the word arancino is orange and they are shaped kind of like an orange. Here, we had a nice table wine.

Next was a bit more challenging! Parts. The first is spleen called pani can meusa cooked in pig’s fat served on bread with salt and lime. I had the tiniest piece and it was actually pretty good.

Pani can meusa – bread with spleen

Then there are the parts I couldn’t do: lung, feet, penis!

To clean that away: autista. This is a drink made with fruit juice, a bit of simple syrup, and soda water. Just before you drink it they add bicarbonate soda which makes it boil over. It’s added and you are supposed to drink it before it spills.

Boiling over!

Tasted like lemonade and was quite good.

From here we walked to the center of town to outside La Martorana, pictures of which are in my previous post. Here we learned that the Norman’s conquered the Arabs in Sicily in 1075. They used Arabs as workers and designers. This is the reason for the Arab influence and the Norman-Arabic building style, influenced too by Byzantium, and thus the unique-to-Sicily building form. Lovely.

Finally we went for granita, the flavored ice treat eaten for breakfast as well as at other times of the day. And to a place that roasts their own coffee, and where I’ll be going tomorrow morning!

Truly a wonderful three hours. If you are ever here, it is worth the 30 Euro, plus the 10 or so you spend buying food.

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Palermo’s La Martorana

Also known as the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, this stunner is a 12th century beauty initially planned as a mosque – an example of the rich interplay of cultures that make Sicily so fascinating. Fatimid pillars super the dome, it has beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Sadly a Baroque makeover changed the facade and destroyed many of the mosaics executed by Greek craftsman to be replaced with baroque ornamentation. This took place when the church was given to Benedictine nuns under Eloise Martorana in 1433. We’ll see plenty of baroque in Sicily so it is the older parts that I photographed, including the beautiful Mosaic floors.

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