Italian memories

July:  Matt's birthday month.

Matt proposed in Siracuse, Sicily so Italy holds a special place in my heart.  We were teaching at The Academy, living in a gorgeous flat in the new part of town with views looking out to Ortigia, the old town.  
Our first apartment was in Ortigia but with the narrow, windy lanes it was so cold and dark we decided to move to the newer part of town where the apartments were brighter but it was close enough to enjoy the atmosphere of Ortigia any time we wanted.

In the mornings we'd walk across the bridge to the market in Ortigia.  We'd wander the alleys, past the enormous tuna and sword fish, the stalls of freshly picked fruit & veg and linger over the cheeses.  With my limited Italian and lots of gestures, we'd pick up our supplies of cheese, olives and bread and if time allowed, linger over a coffee in a bar or gelato down by the water.

We had a favourite restaurant in Ortigia, it was "our" pizzeria, Cenacolo.  Every Friday night we'd head to the Libreria for a bottle of Nero d'Avola and antipasti before going next door to Cenacolo for more wine and the best calzone ever.  Roberto, the waiter, quickly became our friend and would keep a table for us. He was the first person (outside of family) we told about getting engaged!

Noto, Sicily
Due to the irregular and unreliable public transport, we only ventured on one weekend break, heading to the hilltop city of Ragusa.  We had plenty of visitors and ventured further afield with them, with day trips to Noto, Taormina and Mt Etna.  Mt Etna was the most memorable.  We arrived mid afternoon.  We were appropriately dressed for the gorgeous and sunny day it was.  Without any warm clothing, I rented a jacket and we bought a return gondola tickets up and down the mountain.  We reached the top and had a play in the snow, taking photos and enjoying the view.  We then realised time was getting on and there weren't many people around.  In fact, we couldn't see anyone else.  We went to the gondola to find it was closed.  We hadn't been told what time it stopped, there was no alarm to signal the last gondola back.  How were we going to get down the mountain?  It was covered in snow.  We met a hiker and he was advising us on the best path down the mountain.  We were still discussing the best way down when the gondola operator in a 4x4 drove by and demanded I give him my jacket - it was rented and the rental office would be shut by the time we got down the mountain.  While our mouths were still hanging open at the audacity and lack of care, our friendly hiker convinced the driver of the 4x4 to give us a lift down the mountain.  I dread to think how long it would have taken us to walk down in our inappropriate footwear and light clothing.

We learnt our lesson, and for what would have been our 10th wedding anniversary I went back to Sicily with James, Matt's youngest brother, and Anne.  We ventured up Mt Etna again but this time we were prepared.  We took our own warm clothing and made a note of the last gondola back down the mountain! 

Mt Etna
Mt Etna


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