curtains of blue and colored sand. Promoting a ship afloat further, were portholes. Ours was positioned in the bath, just high enough that we could shower to a view of the sea, and hopefully not be seen from someone enjoying the view from Bridge B!
Geppetto. A graduate of the Palermo Academy of Fine Arts, in addition to being an artist, he is also an art teacher, set designer and screen painter all in one. While he specializes in oil landscapes, his wife's focus is on portraits. We had seen his work throughout town, some commissioned by the commune itself. While his daughter ran the shop and at the time was giving a child a watercolor lesson, he happened to come by. I’ve always been impressed with water colors, the way the colors seem to bleed into the paper, along with the veiled transparency of the colors that allow the underlying etching to come through. There were many scenic vistas to choose from, with several surprisingly at prices we could afford. With Giuseppe's help, we settled upon a scene viewed from the old port pier, a spot where we’d hesitated one evening to take in that exact view. It presented that waterfront silhouette of the town we’d seen and for which Cefalu is so well known. Once framed and hung on our wall in Calitri, it will remind us of our Sicilian sojourn in Cefalu for years to come. Giuseppe must have enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed his, for on our departure he presented us with the gift of a signed numbered copy of his latest creation. My paint by numbers days long past, I greatly appreciated this gentle soul's talent as well as his sincere kindness.
toilet. It certainly sounded that way. Unfortunately, it was an easy mistake to make, for instead, we discovered a charming courtyard at the end of the passageway, not a toilet in sight. What we did find were a series of stone pads, their sides washed by a steady stream of rushing water. Centuries ago, this was the spot where housewives would kneel to do the family laundry, and girls being girls, certainly to chat, if not gossip, as they busied themselves scrubbing and rinsing. The facility appeared intact, as if at any moment from around the corner, the ageless routine might continue with the arrival of a troop of women I envisioned in long colorful skirts balancing baskets of laundry atop their heads. It was not to be, at least not that day, for the sound of approaching footsteps simply heralded the arrival of more tourists, some I’m certain looking for that phantom lavatory.
Ristorante Vecchia Marina where we enjoyed a Sicilian Pasta alla Vongole. This was followed by a slab of Spada alla Griglia, an Insalata Mista salad, and an entire bottle of Vino Grillo wine in a semi-formal atmosphere that included tablecloth linens and a patio window view over the old port and beyond. This spectacular setting was missing, however, when we discovered Fritto & Divino, a hole-in-the-wall eatery just off the Piazza del Duomo on Via Mandralisca. The place was a long narrow affair … think of a house trailer slid between adjacent walls and
you just about have it. A counter ran its length, while a few small tables and chairs clung to the long span of the opposite wall. Between the two only a narrow lane remained, front to back, terminating at a wall of assorted wine bottles all yearning to be sampled. There were no printed menus. Instead, a chalkboard, outside by the entrance, was scrawled with the day’s fare.
small dish of deep fried pieces of fish, similar to calamari, then another of batter fried vegetables, both to the short lived accompaniment of a bottle of Firriato Altavilla Grillo wine. What the heck, fried can’t be too bad once in a while. We enjoyed the experience so much we returned the next day for another round of cibo fritti (fried food). To be honest, we’d experienced something similar in Monreale, a city just outside of Palermo only days earlier.
Lilla. Street-side observers must have wondered what was going on as our gaggle first went by in one direction, only minutes later to the clickity-clack announcement of our suitcase wheels on the cobbles, to see us return headed in the opposite direction. I honestly wondered if his plan was to tire us out and be off with our suitcase. Thinking about it, we were actually easy pickings. He was well out in front of us, disappearing for a time with each corner he'd round. Our bag-drag parade only concluded when he toted all our luggage to the second floor landing of Casa Lilla. Although he’d have won a gold medal in this race, I was glad to pay him for his help. It was the only part of the experience I can admit enjoying. There was one positive spinoff from this slog, however. Next door to one of our false B&B stops, we discovered Le Barrique, a wine and snack-food bar.
without difficulty. Saddled-up to the counter on tall bar stools, we learned that Le Barrique was relatively new, having opened only weeks earlier. It was a treat to get to know these young entrepreneurs (lead photo), something we'd missed when we sat in the street outside of Fritto & Divino. Absent anything fritti here, we instead snacked on little tapas-like servings of prosciutto wrapped eggplant, along with assorted cheeses, olives, and salamis arranged atop bites of garlicky bread, all while enjoying what else but Aperol Spritzers. We so enjoyed the intimate atmosphere, the staff's enthusiasm, and their friendliness, that we returned for a second time. It proved to be our last hop off the tour bus. On that visit, we got to enjoy generous samples of their excellent selection of Sicilian wines, ranging from strong hearty reds like fruity Nero d'Avola and volcanic soil-grown Nerello, to a bold refreshing white Grillo. Along with tasty, eye-catching snacks prepared right before us, we so savored everything about our visit that we hated to leave. Why couldn't there be a place like Le Barrique just around the corner wherever we were? Beyond the tastes and beckoning smells of the food and spirits, the assault on our senses continued. Adding to taste and smell were the simplest of sensory pleasures, like watching the care in the preparation of the tapas, taking in the sounds of their friendly conversation over the tinkle of ice, extending even to the cold touch of our icy spritzers. All this sensed perfection makes Italy something special, special enough that people like ourselves are drawn to return again and again, if not to the same stools at Le Barrique and street-side outside Fritto & Divino, than to the country as a whole.
and crossed the straights to Villa San Giovanni on the mainland. Arriving in Calitri hours later, we were struck by how green everything appeared. The parched fields of early fall had turned to emerald carpets. The lake at Conza was full to brimming. Later, as I’d gaze over the countryside from our terrace, breaks in the cloud-pocked sky let pass just enough light to spotlight patches of forest and green fields stretching to the horizon. We were home but not for long. A spur of the moment trip to the coast, weeks later, to the seaside town of Palinuro was followed by another excursion deep into the mountainous countryside of neighboring Basilicata. The little hamlet of Pietrapertosa is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. There's no question about it, for
sitting as it does in a outcropping of spike-tipped peaks, similar to the Dolomite region of northern Italy, this village has managed to preserve its medieval appearance. In addition to its natural beauty, clinging as it does to the side of a Lucane mountain range, its major draw is the Volo dell'Angelo (Flight of the Angel). From a launch pad above the village, near the lofty Saracen-Norman Castle, you can enjoy a cable ride along the highest and fastest zip-line in the world while lying horizontal, face down. The pull of gravity gets you across the steep sided valley along a steel cable stretched from Pietrapetosa to the adjacent town of Castelmezzano. This just might be your idea of fun. With credentials like these, I wondered what good the crash helmet that these thrill-seekers were required to wear might serve. I've done a lot of crazy things in the air over my life, but as I had with bungy-jumping, I took a pass on this one.
It was on our way back to Calitri that we decided to stop-off in Lagopesole for another go at some Italian style tapas. On an afternoon, weeks earlier, we'd visited Lagopesole for the first time. What brought On previous trips south, in the direction of Potenza, we couldn't help but notice a massive blockhouse structure situated in a commanding position overlooking the entire Vitalba valley. Come to find out, it was a castle, one of many to include another at Melfi farther north and the octagonally shaped Castel de Monte, off in Puglia, that Swabian Holy Roman Emperor Federico II (1194-1250) constructed. Starting in 1242, on the foundations of a former Norman stronghold, it was to be the last and greatest of his castles.
way to their tap from Barcelona. It was new to us, very drinkable, with just the right amount of taste. The day's fare, posted in chalk on a placard took up a large part of a wall. No paella topped with prawns but then I didn't see any risotto either. Instead, it listed a slew of Italian inspired tapas from 2 to 4 Euros each. Included were things still unknown like baccalà e czuschi (battered cod), strapazzate di salsiccie (scrambled sausage) and undefined ciambotte (stew?). They remain for another visit. Instead we enjoyed verdure grigliato (grilled veggies), a parmigiana (a layered eggplant and cheese dish), and some crisp potatoes blanketed in mayonnaise and a thick spicy tomato sauce christened patatas bravas. If that wasn't enough, I also couldn’t resist trying one of my standards, an arancini(stuffed rice ball). Peppe served us and along with Lena would occasionally stop by our table to explain things and check on our progress.
The place, the staff, and the food made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening at La Taverna. This little tavern, bumping against perfection, a mix of Spanish and Italian cuisines if not words on the menus, will see us return. The next time we'll definitely bring friends.