Mike and I stopped giving each other “stuff” years ago. We already have more than enough future yard sale items. No more birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s, Christmas or Groundhog’s Day presents for us. Instead, we mark life’s milestones by making memories, mostly through traveling. Refusing to succumb to the tyranny of the calendar, we are free to celebrate whatever we want, whenever we want. If we happen to be traveling during an anniversary or birthday month, well then, that’s just a bonus. THIS year is one of those bonus years.
We will be in Sicily during May, our anniversary month, hoisting our glasses to toast 41 years of wedded bliss. Okay, full disclosure. Those years haven’t ALL been blissful (my sisters would add ” especially for poor Mike” ) but on the whole, it’s been pretty darn great!
We will be embarking on an OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) trip with our good friends, Shirley and Owen. Two years ago we spent two weeks wandering through Tuscany and the Amalfi coast with OAT’s sister company, Grand Circle. They had never been on an organized tour before, but had such a wonderful time, it was not difficult to persuade them to come along again. What’s especially exciting is that Shirley’s grandfather hails from a small village two hours from Palermo. She and Owen plan to make their way to the village on one of our “free” days.
This is what our OAT itinerary looks like. As you can see, we are covering quite a lot of ground.
We will be staying for three nights in four of the cities: Palermo, Mazara, Ragusa and Catania, with a single night in Piazza Armerina. At the end of the OAT tour, the four of us will head to Malta. From Catania, we will fly to Valetta and will use that as our base during our five days in Malta.
As usual, I’ve been learning the history of the places we’ll be visiting, and I have to tell you, theose poor inhabitants of Sicily did not have an easy time of it. Here’s the Cliff’s Note version: There was a lot of fighting and conquering going on–with Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Arabs, Normans, and Spaniards taking turns raping, pillaging, plundering and selling inhabitants into slavery. Sicily isn’t at the bottom of “the boot” for nothing. It sure got kicked around a lot!
Augustus, Hannibal, Constantine, Archimedes, and several Williams, Charles and Fredericks all had starring roles in Sicily’s narrative. (Don’t you just hate it when the rulers all have the same name and you need to remember their numbers? At least for the Williams there was William the Bad and William the Good.) Throw in a couple of popes, an emperor or two, some knights plus a couple of earthquakes and an active volcano and you are guaranteed some interesting stories with even better ruins.
What fascinates me more than the political history is the mythology. Unlike the kings, whose moms sorely lacked imagination when it came time to name their offspring, the mythological figures have double names: Zeus and Jupiter, Ulysses and Odysseus, Venus and Aphrodite. So confusing to an already confused American, but that’s what happens when Greek and Roman cultures share the same territory.
For now, that’s all you need to know about Sicily’s history. More will be forthcoming, and there’s always the possibility of a pop quiz or two.
Preview of coming attractions:
- Lots of cathedrals, temples, palaces, amphitheaters plus a dancing satyr
- Eye popping mosaics, fit for an emperor, like maybe Marcus Aurelius?
- an educational encounter with a member of the Mafia
- a cooking class (hope we do better than the last time we tried this!)
- “Come with me to the kasbah, where we will make ” whatever they make there. (If you got that reference, you are probably as old as I am!)
- wine tasting at a Marsala vineyard
- a day in the life of a Sicilian dairy farm family
- a visit to Mt Etna to watch the volcano do its thing
Please join us for some armchair traveling. I’ll be posting whenever wi-fi and my energy levels allow. But I have to warn you, I plan to be toasting those 41 years a whole LOT! Expect typos.
Oh yeah, about that photo at the top of this post. It’s actually Sorrento, from our 2015 trip. I just wanted a little visual to start us all off.