Vernazza Updates:

Vernazza is well on its way to normalcy and while I no longer write updates on their status, you can learn about the devastating floods of 2011 by clicking the label "Vernazza Updates". For the latest information from the organizations in Vernazza and Monterosso, visit SaveVernazza and Rebuild Monterosso.

25 June 2010


Can somebody say romantic? Towering above Trapani is this remote, medieval, mountaintop village that over looks most of western Sicily. There is an actual castle in Erice, which was originally a temple dedicated to Venus in about the 6th century BC, but later turned into a Norman fortified castle. 

With a new Tram to take you from the base of the mountain to the top of this steep, touristic village, it is easier than ever to visit. The tram runs all day, with the last tram around 2am after the pizzerias close.

***Traveler Beware*** Being an in-tact medieval village, all the streets are steep and made with small, slippery stones. Don't make the mistake I did--wear flat shoes, preferably with rubber soles--or you'll spend the whole time barefoot.

I have been in the summer and the winter, and it is beautiful whenever. But I would recommend going in the summer because there is nothing better than escaping the stifling Sicilian heat with a trip to the always cool and breezy Erice. That high up, they always have a cool wind, which is delightful in the summer and a bit too much in the winter.  It is packed on summer nights and the narrow little streets are filled with cute little shops and tons of people--but they are mostly locals. In fact, it’s rare to see tourists that aren’t Italian...they like to keep this place to themselves.

A local celebrity? Maria, the woman who owns and runs one of the oldest bakeries in Erice (except for the one run by nuns) has been featured in American magazines, done cooking shows in New York and has a cookbook for her famous sweets. What do I think? If there is one thing you do in Sicily, make it a stop to this bakery for her always fresh, always hot "Genoveses"--you will never forget it. And when I say, always fresh, always hot, it’s true! Even when the lines are spilling out into the street at 11pm, her kitchen is still bringing out trays filled these freshly made, custard filled pillows. Mmm...can I have one now?

When Sicilians go out for dinner, they go out for pizza, and Erice has no shortage of pizzerias. But the place I like to go is like a secret hideaway, located down an alley, through a tunnel and down a set of stairs. You follow these tiny, obscure arrows on the wall, pointing you to Ulisse Ristorante, but along the way, you think, ‘Where are we going? There can’t be a restaurant down here.’ and then you turn the corner and BAM! There is a beautiful courtyard with trees, tables and lights and it’s packed with people.

There is just something special about Erice, maybe it’s the energy of enduring thousands of years, or maybe there is something mystical from the ancient temple of Venus, but whatever it is, you feel it. And you always have a wonderful time.

14 June 2010

Cheers to That!

Tonight I had the most amazing discovery! I discovered the way to enjoy Italian goes by many names, but the one I prefer the most is: cocktails! I don't know why I never thought of it before, but now that I spent the evening laughing (dare I say enjoying?) at the usual, banal, substance-less variety show with aged men vying for the attention of 7 foot tall buxom beauties...I feel like I have made the discovery of the decade!

Now, I didn't make this discovery sooner because I am not one that drinks much. I love wine, an occasional martini...but my body just can't handle more than that. I get sick faster than I can get tipsy. But since I have been diligent with taking my liver support herbs and eating a fairly healthy diet...I think I can get away with a drink or two now and then.

All our meals with my husband's family involve sitting around the television. I would even go so far as to describe the T.V. as the fifth person at the table. So even though I don't watch much television myself (especially here in Italy because I find it rather offensive), with them,  I am subject to some of the most "popular" shows on tv.

For lunch, there are the daytime shows, with a target audience of housewives, so there is a soap opera called "Cento Vetrine" which is really just a series of close ups of characters giving their best shot at looking perplexed and upset. Then there is the jewel of the Italian nation, "Uomini e Donne" which is like mixing "The Dating Game", "Blind date" and "Jerry Springer" into one show, with a blond diva in a gaudy throne and feather boa as the head mistress (she is a lot like a real version of Miss Piggy). Then there are the "People's Court" type shows, which I cannot bear and is the only one that I insist on changing. It is popular here because it gives people a reason to argue and make a lot of noise about someone else's problems--it's a national pastime. Well, that about covers our lunchtime programming, as we are usually done by the time "Walker Texas Ranger" reruns come on. Grazie a Dio.

Prima serata, which is Italian prime time, is all about the variety shows, reality shows and game shows. There are about four hosts across the networks, and they take their turns hosting all these shows. These are the ones with the scantly clad women dancing around purposefully jiggling in front of the camera (yes, prime time--meaning while we are eating dinner). Even the occasional serious show will still have these ballerinas to bring us to and from commercial break. Maybe they think they can't get anyone's attention without some T&A? And so passes our dinner with bright lights, shaking booties and overflowing cleavage.   


After almost a year of quietly enduring these spectacles, trying to ignore my inner voice protesting the objectification of women--tonight, with a delicious lychee martini that I made in hand, I didn't mind so much and I was even enjoying the program! Brilliant!

Do I regret that Sicily has driven me to drink?
The only thing I regret is that it took me this long to figure it out!

03 June 2010

Wild Capers!

My husband and I went out for a passeggiata after lunch today. In Italy, the passeggiata, or evening stroll, is an integral part of life. If you live in the city, you do it downtown and look at the shops; if you live by the sea, you do it along the lungomare, which is a promenade that stretches along the coast. After getting a gelato and enjoying the sun reflecting off the water, we went back to the car to take a drive. We live in a small city that is pretty much surrounded by agricultural countryside, so taking a drive is more of an adventure into nature than a ride through town.

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