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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The Mystery of Me

I have been coming to grips with the Divine at my core for some time now. For twenty years at least I’ve been aware of an inner river that surfaced periodically to guide me. Only recently have I come to define that as the Devine in me.

This awakening has been spawned by my entry into yoga, begun simply as a way to gain flexibility and balance. It is through the most remarkable of teachers an astounding 40 years my junior, that I came to understand and embrace yoga as something much more. Under her guidance I have been meditating for over a year. It is here that I have, on occasion, felt that I am something more than my human self.


Cathedral in Assisi

I believe this to be true, yet feeling it is quite elusive. More often I remain as I have been most of my life: absorbed by me. When I consider my deeper self, I am still confused at the competing selves I seem to be. I am reading a sad, uplifting, funny, depressing book written by Florida Scott-Maxwell called “The Measure of My Days: one woman’s vivid, enduring celebration of life and aging”. Born in the 1880s and written in her eighties it is an interesting read. Here is a deep reflection on me.

But who is it that knows me so well and has to endure me? There is the I that has to bear all the other I’s and can assess them correctly; and there is the I who feels such sick distaste and drunken elation at being itself, all its selves, who is even thankful for the opportunity of having been itself, uncomfortable as it has been. Is the judging I a separate entity, and who can this wise I be? It feels higher, greater than I. I fail it, it scorns and rebukes me. . . .  I am my chief interest because to me I am life. My curiosity, delight, pain tell me about life itself.  This makes me a monster of egotism, but that is what I am and have to be, for how else do I know, really know anything?


Still life

These are all questions I still grapple with. It’s not as if I’ve made that leap from the intellectual understanding of my divinity to its reality. Her logic appeals to me, and, I think she offers good reasons to continue contemplating me as I mostly have all my life.

I observe others, but I experience myself. As I long to understand, even a little, who could be as helpful to me as myself, muddled creature that I am, since it is my mortification, my respect that tells me what is real.

It is all such a mystery and will remain so. As Parker Palmer says in another book I’m enjoying – On the Edge of Everything – we arrive on this planer in mystery and leave it in mystery. I do love a good mystery!


Grape blossom at Palazzone Vineyard, Oriveto, Italy

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The Magic of the Different

One of the reasons I love travel is because you see things you don’t with places that are familiar. All the senses are engaged bringing you alive. You are fully present, in the moment, totally here. It’s wonderful.

We’ve been coming to Orvieto for over 15 years so it is more of a challenge here. I’ve spent probably over 2 years here. Still, it is a beautifully textured and nuanced place. I more easily see and am fully here.

I’ve always had problems capturing this bell tower. Today it seems right

This morning we had sun for just the second time in the week we’ve been here, which is very unusual. Usually it is the occasional rain interrupting the spectacular sun and blue sky. So it was a delight to be out in the bright light. Everything was popping. Here’s what I saw.

Stunning cathedral but I also love the light reflecting off the building on the left to the building on the right

The cathedral stripes, a typically Tuscan detail tho we are in Umbria. Moorish influence

Warm, inviting, sometimes mysterious streets

Framed by the arch with blue sky and white clouds. Delightful


Details and that little splash of red

Shadows, iron work

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