At last, siamo posto (we are settled). It’s been two weeks since I last hit an internet, but my Sicilian adventure has continued all the same. Me & Glenda left the Mafia-haunted streets of Castellamare for the hilltop town of Calatafimi – very archetypical of Sicily – populated by grumbling, shuffling short guys with even shorter tempers. We stayed in the only hotel in town (as the only guests) for a couple of nights in order to take an expedition to the temple of Segesta, a few kilometers away. The rolling countryside was laden with succulent citrussy clementines, which a friendly farmer filled our bag with. The temple itself, about 2,500 years old, is a massive white Hellenic affair, with commanding panoramas all around, & was well worth the trip. From Calatafimi we hit the port of Trapani & then caught a ferry to Marettimo, the furthest flung of the Egadi Islands, which Samuel Butler once mused was the legendary Ithaca of Homer’s Odysseus. En route the ferry stopped off at Levanto & the butterfly-shaped Favignana. These two form a natural gateway which leads to Marettimo, which hovers off Sicily as Sicily hovers off Italy.
The population is huddled together in a wee white village, with two harbors full of fishing boats. There is surprisingly a lot going on here, with a bar, a couple of shops, a five-a-side footie pitch, a post office & a bank – whose bancomat doesn’t actually work so we have to sail to Favignana to get cash (17 euro round trip). The people here are very friendly & the scenery is absolutely gorgeous; volcanic bathing beaches, an abandoned Spanish castle on a jagged outcrop of rock, softly-scented pine forests, foggy Monte Falcono with its shrieking, dueling falcons, & the rest of the range which towers over the island from tip-to-tip, affording fabulous views of the stretching Mediterranean & the distant Sicilian hills which sometimes rise out of the sea-mist. The two other islands, Levanzo & Favigngna, look like two eyes, the eyes of Italy, watching the western Mediterranean for peril & pirates.
Away from the small town we have the rest of the island very much to ourselves, a wonderful feeling when you are walking for hours, & not see a soul. We are very close to Tunisia here & on very clear days you can just make out the distant outline of a hill, my first ever glimpse of North Africa. Being so close to the Sahara, the weather is lovely, averaging about 20 degrees in the day. After a couple of false starts – including one landlord – Paulo – who is still sulking – we have finally taken the house of our dreams for a month or maybe more (only 400 euros). Our garden is literally a wee harbour full of fisherman’s boats, & we are the first to see whether the fishermen have brought anything back from the exquisite waters which surround us & Glenda is immediately on the quayside, noseying about for her favourite, calamari. The sea is in our ears & nostrils, the waves both lapping against & soothing the mind – it is like we are sailing ourselves, only on a very stable, unsinkable boat.
What a lovely place Marettimo is – so inspiring. I once set out to write a sonnet, a local stray by my side who has recently adopted us. Five minutes out a huge thunderclap announced the storms were back & I ran back thro’ driving rain, dodging lightning bolts (well, by a couple of miles) & reach’d the shelter of our casa. There Glenda was settling down to work another of her short stories & I helped her with a few ideas, before looking out of the window to see the sun shining. So I set off again, walking slowly up the sea-fringed path that led me to the highest peak on the island – Monte Falcano. I had tried to climb it before, but the fog was too thick & made my ears cold, so I turned back that time. On this occasion, however, the weather was clear & the views were unsurpassed by my memories. I had climbed mountains before, but never one in the middle of a sea, & the view was spectacular, like going for a swim in mid-air, the sea circumambient. Down below, the slopes of the mountain gouged out green, rocky paths to the shore & above me a couple of falcons hovered, looking for prey. At the eerily silent summit a mist drifted in & I huddled behind a rock, sheltering from the wind, the dog sat patiently at my feet. It was there that I wrote my sonnet, & as I did so the sun penetrated the mists, a column of pure gold settling on the sea.
All in all, all is well, my poetry is chugging along nicely & we are gorging on the books in our combined library; from ‘The Last Days of Shelley & Byron’ by Edward Trelawney, thro’ ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson,’ to the complete Divine Comedy (from Favignana Library – & in Italian) – & of course our books on the Italian language. Italian TV is also a learning tool – dubbed movies, football highlights, dodgy soap-operas & even dodgier gameshows – plus MTV for our only exposure to the English language (I am now surprisingly well informed on the showbiz ‘battle’ between Christina Aliguera & Brittany Spears). Also, to alleviate our isolation, while I am writing this in a restaurant on Favignana (with free internet) I am also compiling ‘The Weekly Damo.’ This is basically a magazine which I compile via cut & paste over the web, saving it onto a memory stick to plug into our laptop back at base. There’s news, footy tables, Glenda’s stars, essays on stuff & just about anything else that will help to bring a little Britishness to our immersion in the Sicilian culture.
11 / 12 / 06