Before I leave Sicily, I want to record the rest of my time here. Yesterday was a full day. In the morning I met with suzi again as well as ramzi, the student services person at mcas. They told me about the trip they take students on to tunisia halfway through the semester. I never knew or understood all of the connections between Sicily and the Arabic world. I'm learning that, while Sicily is very much part of italy, it is better understood as the center of the Mediterranean.
Suzi took me on a walking tour of ortigia, which is actually a small island next to Siracusa. It's the old part of the city, rundown and nearly vacant only 20 years ago but today a thriving area and desirable to live. Just like everywhere else, the slow economy has hurt real estate sales, but it's still by no means cheap to rent an apartment. Some of the streets are narrow and from medieval times, while others were widened to accommodate cars (barely - it's nerve wracking to feel the side mirror of a car brush your bag as you are walking down the street, hugging the wall).
Lunch was small and simple, thank goodness, followed by a long conversation with an archeology professor who is working on a project to create 3-d scans of artifacts in order to recreate the past. I sat in on a class and watched a woman make an old Sicilian christmas treat called torrino. Almonds, sugar, and honey - like most Italian food, simple and delicious. They do not believe in adding lots of ingredients to anything, but the ingredients they do use are local, fresh, and full of flavor. Even here, though, there is a growing interest in "slow food." the professor of the mediterranean diet class, who is also a photographer, just wrote a book on the topic and asked me to read it and give him an honest opinion of the English translation before it is published. Considering there is a local market every day with fresh produce and seafood, i was surprised to learn that there is a market in Sicily for slow food. What they are doing seems close enough, but apparently not for everyone.
I was left to my own devices for dinner. After wandering around for a while i found a little takeout pizza place and got a pizza norma. That's right, same as the pasta but in pizza form, with eggplant and salty ricotta. I also picked up a 2-euro bottle of wine and returned to the hotel feeling quite pleased with myself. But also wishing I could have shared it with one of you.
This morning, Lucia took me to an archeological site. Both a roman and Greek amphitheater sit close to one another, apparently the only case in the world where the Romans allowed the Greek version to exist rather than building directly on top of it. Those Romans were a domineering bunch. She explained how even the architecture of the amphitheaters is indicative of the different cultures. The roman style is fully enclosed, a world unto itself, whereas the Greek style is a half-circle, opening the view to the surrounding scenery and incorporating the natural setting into the stage.
I would love to return to Sicily and see the whole island. Ideally, I would first take a year of Italian. There's not nearly as much English spoken here as there is in the north of Italy.
Once again, this flight is leaving an hour later than scheduled, yet mysteriously arriving on time.