Sweet Southern Sicily

Trip Start Oct 24, 2010
Trip End Jan 16, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Bellini

Flag of Italy  , Sicily,
Monday, November 29, 2010


What a difference a sunny day makes! We awoke in sunny Catania, Sicily which is located on the Sicily's south eastern shoreline. It was once a Greek settlement, part of Magna Graecia 500 hundred years before Christ. It was eventually over run by the Romans, but hey, they over ran everyone! The Romans swapped out the God figures in the Greek Temples, or adopted them as their own, as was their habit. Later, during the Christian period, the Church built basilicas right on top of the Greek (then Roman) temples. There is a basilica here in Catania that has a large square hole in the floor of the main cathedral. They have placed a fence around the pit to insure none of the faithful fall into it. At the base of the deep pit is the large base of a Greek column, providing proof to the locals that their church sits over the other temple. The Church has a habit of building right on top of other's religious places as though to sanctify them. For example, Montezuma's main temple complex in Mexico City was first torn down, piece by piece, and then the construction began of what is now the National Cathedral in Mexico City.

Back in Catania, we walked around. It is much warmer, probably high 60s or low 70s. This is a beautiful city. The architecture is wonderful, with lots of stone, wrought Iron, and balconies. The city sits on the western flank of Mount Etna, an active volcano. Etna has erupted over the years and the city faithful believe that their patron Saint, Santa Agata has protected the city from destruction. There are paintings around the city depicting the Volcano doing it's thing, and the Saint Agata doing hers. The story behind Saint Agata is interesting. She was a virtuous virgin, and was doing fine, until she was was approached by a nefarious man named Quintian. She resisted his lecherous advances and was horribly mutilated for her resistance. Her remains now reside in a jewel encrusted box that is revered by the locals here. The container is brought into the streets every Feb 5th for a procession through the city under fireworks. Many hundreds of thousands of people attend. I managed to take a photo or two of her shrine, which was basically a photograph of the authentic box. While there, numerous worshipers appeared to pay their respects, make a donation, and say a quiet prayer there.

Probably the most fun yesterday was visiting the fish, meat and vegetable market. It was a going concern and has been in business here for centuries. The vendors were calling out the praises of their bright eyed fresh fish. I saw a lot of fish I did not recognize. The locals were tolerant of my prying camera lens. All the locals that is with the exception of one, who grumbled to me in Italian. I do not speak a lick of Italian, but I could easily understand that he didn't want me photographing his fish. I thought to myself, (without verbalizing of course) " Forgetaboutit! Your fish is uglies anyway!"

It was a colorful and fun experience. They sell the fruit of the prickly pear cactus here. There are lots of palm trees, bananas, orange, lemon, grapefruit, and of course olives here. There were some veggies I did not recognize.

By and large the Italian's like to have a good time. They love to dicker and bargain, love to laugh, some of them love to sing. Yesterday we walked through a grand park here in town, and there was a teenaged kid who was a Pavarotti wanna be. I saw him initially sitting with two friends and as they were talking, he would break into song. Later, as Barb and I walked around the park, I could hear him singing on and on, even though I couldn't see him any more. I could hear him clear across the park! I thought, " Hard to carry on a conversation with someone who is belting it out for the world to hear". He was kind of human boombox. I don't think I would go for a walk in the park with that guy. But who knows? We could have another Sinatra on our hands here.

We have noticed a difference in the populations and food stalls here. There are many more Kabab shops selling what I would call a beef of chicken Gyros. They call them Kababs, the Greeks call the Gyros. The vendors are from all over. While here in Sicily, we have met people from Bangladesh, Morocco, Somalia and other places in North Africa. There are also many women here wearing scarfs as head covering and men in robes of African decent. I was told by a mainland Italian that the Italian language, as spoken by Sicilians here, sounds a bit Arabic, due to the fact that the Ottoman Turks held power here for a few centuries. We did hear Arabic in the streets yesterday. Also, Italy's colonial history in Ethiopia, Lybia and north Africa has brought those population's to the former colonizer's country. We enjoyed the new food tastes. It is nice to have some rice for a change. We had a curry chicken rice dish yesterday.

We are jumping the train today to move further west along the southern coast of Sicily, nearly to the southern most tip, to the town of Syracuse, or Syracuse as they call it. Stay tuned

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Bro Don on

Nice shots, some of those guys look like Uncle Larry Maggio!

joni on

i love all the pics of the market foods. awesome!

tom smurro on

Glad you finally got some sun in Sicilly. My friend, Vincenzo, in Palermo promised me he would do that for you. The rest of Europe is shivering and snowy right now. The gods are with you. Enjoy.

Don McKee on

Sicily! I thought some of the characters in your pictures had that "Mafioso" look! The great shots of The peppers, tomatoes, fish and lamb represent the same diet they have been eating for centuries.

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