Sean\’s Sicily

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Modica

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Palio di Modica

Just back from Modica, where they were having the Palio della Contea, a festival. It’s a good distance from Marzememi to Modica, and the roads aren’t great, so it was a long trip, especially for Sonia who was driving.

Modica itself is another city which was largely rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake, and thus is hugely important for it’s Baroque architecture, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. But we weren’t there for the architecture (I’ve had enough Baroque in Noto, thanks!), but rather the Palio, which has it’s origins in the battles between Roger II and the Arabs in the 13th century, and basically is a bunch of horsemen with lances racing up and down a course, collecting rings which are attached to points along the way. The horseman with the most rings and the fastest time wins.

Modica has the honour of having served me the worst food I’ve ever eaten in Sicily – some sort of foglia with mushrooms which looked and tasted like a sheaf of Kleenex that’s been dipped in mushroom soup. I threw mine away but Sonia was hungry and ate all of her’s, which she regretted later when she started feeling ill! However on the good side, Modica boasts a unique type of chocolate, all crumbly and full of cocoa crystals. Not the sort of chocolate you’d eat like a Mars Bar, but the sort that you’d nibble on one piece after dinner as a desert. Fanstastic.

The failing light caused problems for me (dusk is fast in Sicily) and I’m still struggling with the new camera, so I don’t have a lot of good shots of the initial parade (a bunch of young people dressed up as medieval nobility and others carrying flags or playing music), and then a parade of the horsemen (about 20 in all) with attendent groomsmen, also all dressed up medieval style. I do have a few good shots of that, we’ll see what I load up to Flickr.

And after that, the tournament began – one by one, the horsemen entered the course, picked up their lance, and were off, racing full tilt down the course. Luckily I was quite near one of the rings, and near enough to a second, so I was able to snap some images with lots of movement. I didn’t notice at first that the rings got smaller as the competitor went along, with the first ring being the biggest and the last (15 in all) being the smallest. All good fun but after 15 riders, I got a bit bored and Sonia and I took off for the end of the course where there was a turning circle, in the hope of snapping some action shots there, but the crowd was 10 deep so we gave up and went off to get some chocolate and get back to Marzamemi before it got too late.

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Written by seancasaidhe

August 14, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Into the Heartland

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Making Pasta


Strong Hands Required


Katia invited us to her grandmothers place for dinner, in a tiny sunbaked hamlet next to the railway line a good 20 minutes from the Syracuse-Pachino road, in a big old farmhouse with a surprising modern electric gate. We found everyone in the middle of making pasta – Katia’s aunt had bought a little table-top machine for pressing the dough, and she wanted to try it. While I tried to keep out of the way, and Sonia talked with the nonna, Andrea, Katia and Katia’s aunt got down to the business of mixing the flour and eggs, kneading the dough and making the pasta.

After the first few goes at the machine, the Nonna laughed “Let me know when you kids are done playing so I can make some pasta!” (said in Sicilian of course, so Sonia had to translate for me). But at the end it was a success – the dough had to be just right for the machine to press it correctly, not too thick nor too thin. After this we said our goodbyes and went on to Marzamemi, stopping off in Pachino for a huge 5-litre bottle of wine, poured straight from the vat.

After returning, I got sucked into a game of draughts with Katia’s uncle (but only after he’d bested Andrea twice in a row), and managed to hold my own against him for a good 20 minutes – probably largely because he couldn’t figure out my strategy (me not knowing what I was going myself, I didn’t have one!). I only lost after Sonia interrupted me with a question about the dSLR and I made a stupid mistake. Thanks Sonia! 🙂 And then the call to dinner came…

…and what followed was simply heaven – quite easily the best bloody lasagna I’ve ever tasted. I normally don’t like lasagna too much – too much cheesiness for me – but this was divine. I was too busy stuffing 3 portions into me to take any photos, more’s the pity. Thoroughly stuffed to the gills, we returned to Marzememi with the car creaking under our own weight!

Written by seancasaidhe

August 13, 2007 at 8:23 am

Nothing to eat!

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You know what kills me about living in Palermo? The simple fact that I can’t eat when I’m hungry. Take for example today, Sunday. There’s nothing open! It’s like Ireland, in the ’80s. Lunch time rolls around, and even after 6 months, I still think “Oh, let’s go down to the cafe and grab a bite to eat”. A’Mio laughs. “But where? Everything’s closed!”

What sort of a city is this where the cafes don’t open on Sundays?? Yes, I know everyone goes visiting their nonna or parents, but I want to eat! And I can’t, because not only is everything closed, I forgot AGAIN to stock up on the Saturday. So it’s cereal time again – oh, no, there’s no milk. Goddammit, what a pain in the ASS!

Written by seancasaidhe

July 29, 2007 at 9:27 am