Mafia and Mosque-churches
Trip Start May 23, 2006
10Trip End Aug 02, 2006
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Sorry it has been so long since my last update (though I'm sure some of you were relieved not to have your email boxes clogged with random crap from travelpod), I've been settling into life in Florence and it's just been far more busy and less interesting to write about than my previous adventures.
Last weekend, I went to Sicily with Matt, which was amazing. After a day spent lazing by the pool in Jesse's hostel in Rome (for the record, Camping Michelangelo is way in the suburbs, but got a great pool), Matt and I caught maybe the hottest overnight train in the world to Sicily, sharing our cabin with an old Sicilian man who had presumably gone to the Vatican to see the pope, and a Japanese exchange student. There was little conversation, since none of us understood each other.
Once we arrived, we checked in, took the best showers EVER (did I mention how disgustingly hot the train was?) and started to wander around Palermo. It is a really really interesting city. There are lots of beautiful old buildings, often built in an Arab-Norman style reflecting (as Matt calls it) the "mutty" heritage of the city- it seems to have had a whole series of rulers, including the Arabs and Normans. However, because Sicily doesn't have the money or the tourist dollars that the rest of Italy (especially northern parts) has, these incredible buildings would often be somewhat run-down and poorly maintained, which made them feel somehow more authentic, as though they had actually aged since they were built rather than being preserved perfectly for tourists. The Cathedral was a beautiful building, as was the Palace, which had a chapel that was done in a very Islamic style, with geometric mosaics, archways and the like and then redone on top with mosaics of saints. The first night, we went for dinner at a restaurant near our hotel (no hostels in Palermo!) and Matt ended up making friends with the Sicilian family eating dinner at the table next to us. The father then offered to give us a tour of the city after dinner, and off we went in the back seat of their Fiat as their kids were bundled in the other car with their aunt, uncle, and nona. He showed us all the sights of Palermo by night, including the Sicily jail, where many mafiosa have spent some time (after convincing Matt he was about to take us to a luxury hotel favoured by the mob). It was really nice, and just reflects the general friendliness that we found among all the people we met down there.
On day 2, we went to the beach in Montello, which is where Sicilians go for a day off, it was PACKED! It was really nice to get out of the tourist haven that is Florence though, and for the first time since my arrival in Italy I was surrounded by people who spoke Italian rather than English. I lazed by the water as Matt went exploring and meeting people (in his inimitable way). It was an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable day, and I'm looking forward to a day trip to a beach near Florence this weekend.
On Sunday, we tried to get to Corleone, as Matt was dead-set on going to the anti-mafia museum (this after humming the Godfather theme song as played by Slash as the background music for the past 3 days), but we discovered much to our chagrin that the buses there don't run on Sundays. Instead we ended up taking the train to Cefalu, a quaint mediaval town with stunning views of the coast. We spent the day there walking around, and hopped on the night train back to Florence that night, so that we would be in time for class on Monday.
Our course is quite interesting here- it's way more hands-on than anything else we've gotten to do through law school, and we're definitely learning a lot, though it is incredibly frustrating at times because it involves learning a whole new skill set.
I wish that concluded my Florence adventures, but alas, on my return to the city after class on Monday, I went to visit the Duke, and he and I went to Amadeus, the Senegalese bar where he and Kevin are (sadly) regulars. After one drink there we were planning on heading out, but instead a table fell on my foot (an engineer later informed me it was granite-topped), and I ended up getting rushed to the hospital in the back seat of the bar owner's car (the bar owner being, of course, a big black man named "The Big No"), as he and his brother (Babs) drove at a frantic pace, and then literally carried me into the ER, running down the hallway. The Italian doctors were kind enough to stitch me up almost immediately, and as soon as it gets a little better, I'm hoping it will have no further impact on my vacation other than being a good story to tell.
Besides that, we are settling into a quiet routine, class in the morning, siesta mid-afternoon, and hanging out in the evenings. Tonight is going to be dominated by World Cup games, which should be fun!
I hope everyone is doing well at home or wherever you are, keep in touch!