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A Good, Good Friday in Sicily

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Easter’s Good Friday started with the Gow/Murdoch family tradition of a cuppa tea in bed with a Lindt Chocolate Bunny to scoff.  We decided it’s too long to wait until Easter Sunday to start eating chocolate, so we start on Friday and make it a four day event.

We discussed the first quarter financials and discovered that despite being significantly over budget in March due to ferry crossings back from Crete and then over to Brindisi, Italy, not to mention toll costs, we were actually under budget YTD.  That put us on a high for the morning, until we then realised we have significant fixed costs, namely insurances back at home, that put up the cost of just simply being alive. Oh well, at least our day to day living expenses are tracking the right way.

Jumping out of bed, I decided, involuntary, to kick the toilet door and proceeded to take off half my big toe nail.  Alan said ‘ouch’ more than I did while I just held my toe and watched the blood pooling around and under my nail that was only just attached.  Bugger.

It didn’t stop us though, and being a tough Kiwi I put a plaster on it and carried on, as we had a big day ahead.

First stop was to ride our bikes to the most northern point of Sicily and admire the stunning view on such a perfect day of 26 degrees and a gentle warm breeze.  From up high with the beating sun warming our faces, it was most tempting to want to dive into the crystal clear waters below and just have the cool water envelop us.

Our next visit was the ‘Church in the Cave’ at Capo Milazzo called Santuario di Sant’Antonio da Padova.  Why a church would be built here is anyone’s guess, however, they did a great job constructing this into a cliff face.  Check out the ceiling, which is still original.  I’d hate to think how cold this place would be in the dead of winter!

Thirdly we drove to Castello di Milazzo (Milazzo Castle), and ignoring Google that suggested the castle was closed until 4.30pm (it was now 1.30pm), we parked close enough to walk into the town that is built around the base of the castle and headed up to see how far we could venture. To our delight the castle was in fact open, so we paid our ten euros and walked in.

The castle is one of the few we have come across that is a mixture of old and newly reconstructed.  In fact, this place has the most chequered history of any Castle during our travels.

The first fortifications were built around 4000 BC and the present castle built between the 9th and 17th centuries.  It appears that anyone who was nearby had a part to play in the history of Milazzo Castle.  The Greeks modified it into an acropolis, then it was later enlarged by the Romans and Byzantines, the Normans had a crack around 1200 AD, and built a ‘keep’.  Next the Arabs built and enlarged the castle, and the outer walls are of Spanish construction.

The castle was subsequently converted into a prison in 1880 and underwent a number of alterations.  The prison closed in 1959 and the castle remained abandoned for a couple of decades.  There was a Benedictine Convent built during the 16th century and has been since restored, as is obvious from the lift inside.  The basement still looked fairly original and upstairs, newly laid marble adorned the floor in what appeared to be conference rooms.

After many years of neglect and deterioration, the castle was restored between 1991 and 2002, and again between 2008 and 2010.

The entrance of Castello di Milazzo

Newly renovated Cathedral showing the new and the old side by side

Looking down onto the prison courtyard from above. 

Stunning view of the surrounding Milazzo township

Evidence of prisoners counting the days on the cell’s ceiling

We continued to drive further around the coast and arrived in Oliveri where after the unusually difficult task of finding a suitable place to park Betsy, a water hunt began.  The camper occupants in front of us suggested there was no water, except for in the camping ground.  Being mindful of budget restrictions, we decided to ignore their suggestion of having to book in and went searching for water.

Luckily, most of the townships have a water fountain, and Oliveri was no exception.  We found it but it has a slow flow, which meant sitting in the seats provided and waiting to fill our two bottles, about 20 litres in total and about 15 minutes waiting.  Meanwhile, I went off to find a few groceries and came back having hunted down dinner from a local butcher – chicken schnitzel (supposedly).  After cooking up however, it resembled white boot leather in texture and tasty slightly ‘porkish’. Not out best experience of buying local produce. I also wanted to buy eggs, and instead of asking for uova (eggs) I asked for olio – an honest mistake.  Being directed to olive oil, I proceeded to tuck my arms into my side and make out like a chicken with the customary clucking noises and then showing the size of an egg with my hands.  The shop assistant picked up on my charades and we both laughed at our language translations and communication methods.

Meanwhile, while waiting for the water fill, the neighbouring household was outside, decorating what looked like biscuits.  We asked what they were and on the next water fill visit, Alan was given two of these delightful treats by this lovely family who spoke not a word of English.  Although we know a few Italian words, Google Translate helps to fill in the gaps.  The son was offering Alan a ‘regalo’ (gift).  They are called Biscotti or Pastaria Easter Cookies.  The Nonna (Grandmother) was baking with her son and grandson (figlio and nipote) who were decorating these biscotti with lemon icing and colourful sprinkles. They were still warm when Alan came back home.  It made my day to be partaking in something unexpected and so very traditional.  A bonus of being here at Easter time.

Next thing Alan knows is there is an Easter (Pasquale) parade happening right in front of his eyes. Lucky thing. The parade was depicting Jesus, the black Madonna and Roman Guards.

Meanwhile, I was back at Betsy making a lemon cake, part of which we will be taking to the family who unselfishly gave up two of their Pastarias for foreigners who are total strangers. The kindness of people is such a beautiful thing to encounter when travelling.

If you would like this lemon cake recipe, I will endeavour to put it up on our recipes tab.  Happy Easter to you all.