Sunday, September 29
Sicily: clogged with churches, so Sunday is full of bells. We did not go, so we don’t know how many Sicilians do. On our way to check out the flea market, though, we saw lots of families in “Sunday best”. Stopped by the 12th century church of San Nicolò Inferiore (a grotto discovered in 1987). The almond is a sign of the regeneration of life! See how the Christ figure is surrounded by what appears to be an almond shell? At the market, lots of tools, treasures, toys, textiles:
Retreat to a rest until mid-afternoon, and then out to explore the Cava D’Ispica, a necropolis in a nearby limestone gorge. When the soil is thin, this is how you bury the dead. Nowadays, the dead occupy crypts above ground, a city of their own.
On to Pozzallo, a new town, with a gorgeous, nearly abandoned blue-ribbon beach. The tide was going out, over a shallow plate of sand (Provincetown!), so the water was perfect for a rejuvenating dip. Normally, the beach would be full, but weekenders were gone, and the town was preparing for a celebration. As the sun was going down, we made our way back to Modica in time for the evening stroll, and dinner at Quello Buono, on a tiny side street. The braised pig knuckle was delicious! Disappeared before I could whip out my phone.
Fell into bed tired and pleased.
Our charming hostess at Palazzo Beau, Francesca, provided just the right breakfast of yogurt, fruit, eggs, and cornetti (little croissants). We drove the 15km to Scicli on back roads,
through many microclimates: pomegranate and olive groves, rocky unplanted fields, up and over and down to Scicli, now best known for its role in the Inspector Montalbano series. The light is brighter here, the valley not so narrow as Modica. The older men still on park benches, the few tourists, the voices of children in school. Prominent on the windows of one school:
Signs from the recent climate change march:
We climbed as high as we felt like,
and came upon this little museum of country life, where the resident artist, creator and curator, showed us what life was like in the early 1900’s, with eight people living in a 200 square foot cave, with a loom, oven, bed, loft, tiny kitchen. The barn cave was next door, the donkey and the chickens having an almost equal amount of space, but then again, life was probably spent outside, working, working, working. He showed us photos of the first car owned by a resident (1963!), and other historical events, including one he claimed was Mussolini (more later). We bought a small piece of donkey-milk soap, a flute, and a postcard:
Coffee granita, good for slow eating, to prevent severe brain freeze:
Continuing on the food pilgrimage, to Ragusa for lunch at I Banchi: roast chicken with a red pepper sauce, perfectly roasted potatoes, ricotta ravioli in a pork sauce, in a really neatly modern and old, relaxed space. A side trip to Castillo di Donnafugata, where we hoped to see all kinds of splendor and sumptuous costumes, was a bust; it being Monday, the museum was closed. But we took a walk around the periphery, and some arty shots of the castle. Personally, I would not have found it so great to be around the smell of so much cowshit.
Back to Modica, for a rest.
Our dinner at Locanda del Colonnello took us on a long trek up to the top (well, mostly, and far enough, thank you) of the ridge between two main streets in Modica. Stairs, and stairs, and more stairs until we came to the precious locale, a lovely garden with sedate and serious service, and more experimental cuisine. White fish with ricotta foam in a small puddle of mint water, pasta with cuttlefish and almonds, grilled mackerel with escarole and leek, almond foam. The best bread so far. All good, but a little overplayed, not relaxed.
Another way back, past the Duomo di San Giorgio, glorious at night.