Summer is in full swing out here. The days are getting hot (although not as hot as I hear Sacramento has been!), the beach crowds are appearing, and the warm nights make for great evenings spent on our deck eating, drinking wine, and chatting the evening away.
It also means friends visiting! We just ended a visit with our friends Asa and Jenna, who stopped here for about 2.5 weeks as part of their two month trip through Europe. Asa and Jenna were wonderful guests, and we had a really lovely time hanging out at the beach, hanging around our house, and spending time enjoying the nice weather outdoors. I’ve been learning to slow my pace of life down (mostly by necessity because, let’s be honest, I don’t have a lot I have to be doing out here), so I really enjoy those nice, slow days.
There is a really beautiful hike that we’ve been wanting to do since we moved here down near Siracusa. The hike is in the Cavagrande nature reserve – a huge valley that was inhabited in paleolithic times. The walls of the valley are filled with tombs from the 10th and 9th century BC. It’s a really stunning area.
At the bottom of the canyon is a river that pools into icy, beautiful swimming holes.
June 24th was the San Giovanni Batista festival in our town of Aci Trezza. San Giovanni is the patron saint of Aci Trezza and every year they honor him with a 3 day celebration in June. The festivities on the 24th start with a pantomime played out in the harbor. Three fishermen and a swimmer act out an exaggerated scene of fishing for swordfish, which is so important to this fishing village. They search and call for him, capture him, parade him around on their boat, and then he escapes. This happens three times until he escapes a final time and their boat sinks.
The scene was so interesting to watch – this festival has happened every year since 1750, but the whole town still turns out to see it.
The the celebration then moves up to the church where the statue of San Giovanni is kept. The statute was carved in the 1700s by an unknown artist who locked himself inside to avoid distractions. He had food lowered to him through a hole in the roof so he didn’t have to leave and no one would see the statute until it was done.
The whole town gathers around the church, bands play, and fireworks are lit. The statute is brought outside, amid much anticipation. A big screen outside the church projects the scene inside as the statute is slowly carried out.
All around, people pass their children through the crowd for the opportunity to kiss the statute.
The statute is carried around town through the night. This is on our way back from dinner a few hours later. At midnight, the statute is returned to the church.
One of the big mysteries of Sicily to me is fireworks. They are used quite abundantly here, and from our deck that overlooks a lot of the coastline, we see them really frequently. They’re used for the big obvious celebrations – New Year’s, Saint Agatha’s festival, Easter, etc., but mostly they’re used at what seem to be random times, all throughout the year. During the summer they are most concentrated, it’s not unusual for us to see fireworks 3 times a day starting at 8 am. Apparently darkness is not a requirement for fireworks here.
The San Giovanni festival, of course, had fireworks. This time we got to see them up close. In the daylight.
My birthday was the next day. We spent it in Taormina walking around and enjoying a nice dinner. We made it back home that evening in time for more fireworks from our deck. These ones were actually in the dark, and were quite a way to end my birthday.
We had a few more days with Asa and Jenna, during which we headed up to Lipari for a couple nights. We had such a wonderful trip that it deserves its own postt. After our return from Lipari, our friend James flew in for a visit. James is spending a week or so in Sicily with us, after which we fly together to Greece for a week. My sister is also meeting us there, I can’t wait!
For the 4th of July we visited the temples of Agrigento, and then took a trip down to the Turkish Steps for a heavenly dip in the water. This is the first time I’ve successfully swam there, and I have to say it’s pretty unreal. The Turkish Steps are a beautiful rock formation of marl (a soft, sedimentary rock) along the sea and are perfect for summer swimming.
We did squeeze a little USA into our 4th. We had a burger BBQ, drank beers, and watched the Italian fireworks from our deck. We actually discovered that we could see the fireworks at the military base from there as well, which was pretty cool.
Asa and Jenna’s trip was finished with a day at Gambino Winery, one of our favorite places up on the slopes of Etna. They’re wonderfully welcoming there, and we always enjoy our visit (although a lot of that could be due to the copious amounts of wine).