Our first morning in Siracusa we went to a briefing in the print-making studio, before going for a walk through the market. We had to buy some bits of fruit or vegetable for a project in the studio later in the day. We bought enormous strawberries for our breakfast, and some artichokes and eggplant for the printing project.
We sloped off from the group to sit down for a coffee and sketch at a place where some of the others had stopped for coffee the previous evening.
I am using Siracusa and Ortigia interchangeably, because Ortigia is our part of Siracusa. We live right down near the pointy bit at the bottom of the Island. This next image is one I took the first morning I came out our door and looked down the street.
These teensy artichokes are what we brought for the printing project plus a big eggplant called a Violetta.
In the event, I didn’t go printmaking. I was tired, we had laundry issues and technical issues and I decided I would MUCH rather stay back at the apartment and sort them out. But Annie went. Later we had a group ‘welcome dinner’, sitting outside. Too cold for me.
We had joined a print-making art group for our time in Sicily. After our four days in Taormina it was time to go back to Catania and meet them. From Catania, we were taken to Siracusa and to our apartment in Ortigia, which is an island connected by three bridges.
Immediately we all went out for lunch to a restaurant called “The Happy Celery”. After eating we pulled out our sketchbooks, and I sketched the pots of geraniums on the wall, suspecting it might be the only opportunity to sketch that day. There are flowers blooming everywhere in Sicily now. Geraniums and cyclamens mostly in the town, also wisteria, but in the country there is a blaze of yellow from the broom and other plants of a similar colour, interspersed with red poppies.
In the evening we went for a walk with the group for ‘orientation’ which was nothing if not confusing. Ortigia is amazingly beautiful, but the layout takes a little time. We went to the print studio where the group was to do their printing, and around the town. We also went to a small supermarket to get supplies. Very impressed by the man in the delicatessen there, who allowed us to try many things that were so delicious we had to buy them.
Too cold after a time sketching in the shade, we moved to a spot in the sun. Taormina is well equipped with well-placed bars for sketching. We found a wonderfully sunny spot in the Piazza of the Duomo of Taormina, and gave some people the death stare till they vacated their table (quite quickly). The bar was called Billy and Billy, but the man there semed to be called Salvo which was much more appropriate for Sicilia, as it is Commissario Montalbano’s name.
We sketched the Duomo and I was wishing I had brought Matthew Brehm’s book, because the whole face of the duomo was textured, I know he deals with that in his book.
Dinner at the same restaurant (again?), yes it was that good
And a free liqueur even though they had no idea it was our last night.
Finally the sun! Mount Etna revealed right outside our terrace. Snow in plenty, still cold, but the sun. Walking down into Taormina we noticed the orange blossom scent in the street from the fully laden trees. It doesn’t seem quite real.
The thing that had first interested me in coming to Sicily was the buildings I saw in the backgrounds in the Commissario Montalbano tv series. At the bottom of the hill this morning there seemed to be standing with his back to us…Catarella, a character from the series. Same uniform, same stance, same hair. It was a bit like seeing an old friend.
We went back to Licchio’s Bar, where the friendly waiter with the fuschia pink jumper and scarf ensemble brought me hot water for my Tachifludec.
We sketched from the same spot as the previous day, drinking lemon tea, until the cold drove us to look for another spot in the sun.
Another rainy morning, and cold, but we tumbled down the hill into Taormina. A wander around the Corso in the cold, dodging the raindrops, and we found a Licchio’s Bar with an umbrella to sit under while we sketched.
My sketch is the doorway of Palazzo Corvaja. It was one of a number of things we could have sketched from the same bar.
I can’t emphasise how beautiful Sicily is. There is so much to look at, wherever you are. We got some delicious takeaway pizza and sat in a weak gleam of sunshine, then back to Casa Cuseni for a while to get warm. I really hadn’t expected it to be this cold.
In the early evening we were off down the hill again, tempted by the food at the Trattoria da Ugo, and the friendly people there. We ate zuppa di pesce (fish soup) and that warmed us right down to our socks. Same little taxi driver appeared just at the right time to take us back up the hill
Morning, and here we were in Rome’s Fiumincino airport. We had several hours to fill in before our flight to Catania, but had needed to leave a slice of time in case of delays. We wasted a bit of it trying to find the stop for the ‘free shuttle bus’ between the terminals. Got some confusing directions. Because we had been up all night? No. Because you could walk it in 5 minutes with your luggage.
We had a plan.
A. Buy Desigual scarf at the Desigual shop in the terminal. Easy. We even got sconto (discount). This was to prove a very sensible purchase rather than an extravagance.
This is it
B. Buy TIM card. That’s a Telecom Italia SIM card. Done. I now have an Italian phone number.
In the early afternoon we flew off to Catania on Alitalia. We had somehow stumbled across a ridiculously cheap fare. When we boarded the aircraft, we seemed to have been given a semi-upgrade. The cabin had a 3-3 formation, and we were given a row of three seats each. How did that happen? I am guessing that because Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Alitalia are all part of the ‘One World’ Alliance. We are Qantas ‘frequent flyers’ and we had been Cathay Pacific business class passengers from Australia. We were probably ‘on their system’.
It was cloudy and we didn’t see Mt Etna. I couldn’t help wondering where it was. A very slightly bumpy flight. I never worry if it is no bumpier than the back of a bus, but someone screamed. Haven’t had that before. As the aircraft landed, there were red and yellow wildflowers in the grass between the runways. I had hoped the wildflowers would be blooming, and it was such a delight to see them so soon.
On arrival we were met by our driver and taken to the wonderful Casa Cuseni in Taormina. A national monument, museum and B&B. We were greeted by an elegant man, jeans, nice blazer and a perfectly tied light cornflower blue scarf. Or was it azzuro. Taormina is full of elegant men my age. All wearing scarves perfectly tied…..even in the house.