Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mazara del Vallo

Mazara del Vallo is one of the most important fishing centers of Italy, located on the southwestern coast of Sicily.
During our recent trip we enjoyed some time at a beach popular with kite surfers and wind surfers.
During the evenings we enjoyed delicious seafood dinners. One night we experienced an unbelievable seafood soup with couscous.
On another evening we went to the Trattoria delle Cozze Basirico. Frommer's 2010 guide gives this description:
Set on the southern outskirts of the town of Mazara del Vallo, about 5km (3 miles) from the center, this restaurant might remind you of an oversize railway car that just happens to serve vast amounts of seafood to hundreds of diners every night throughout the summer. Don't expect grandeur; this is a gutsy, two-fisted place whose walls are open to the sea breezes. The overworked staff is coyly clad in exaggerated sailor costumes. There are no printed menus here: A fast-talking waiter will tell you that the only options are selections from the buffet-style antipasti table, several different preparations of mussels, and steamed octopus in either lemon or tomato sauce. Drinks of choice include wine or beer, a suitable accompaniment for the restaurant's widely acknowledged specialty, mussels.
For the antipasto we each had a steamed octopus in tomato sauce,
served on the plate looking up at us.
For the "primo" we had gamberini pasta (shrimp).
We shared a spada steak (swordfish) for the "secondo."
Two bowls of muscles, one in lemon sauce and the other in tomato sauce, brought our meal to a conclusion. We had no room for dessert! (Well, we might of had a gelato on the way back to the hotel!)

Satiro Danzante - Dancing Satyr

The Dancing Satyr - Satiro Danzante is a 4th Century BC bronze statue that was found in 1998 off the port of Mazara del Valo, at a depth of 500 meters in the Strait of Sicily, by a local fishing boat. The statue is believed to have been sculpted by the Greek artist Praxiteles and is now on display in a special museum in the ex-church of Sant’Egidio.

Brief History of Mazara del Valo:
Mazara del Vallo is in southwestern Sicily, in the province of Trapani. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 9th century BC, with the name of Mazar (the Rock). Over the centuries it came under the control of Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Byzantines, before being occupied by the Arabs in the year 827. During the Arab period the city was an important commercial harbor and center of learning. In the middle ages the city was conquered by the Normans and then passed to the Spanish. During this time the city declined. In 1713 it was ruled by the House of Savoy, then the Austrians and finally the Bourbons. In 1860 the city was conquered by Garibaldi and his 1,000 men and joined the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
The sculpture is celebrated in the town with tile murals and wall tiles.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Giovane di Mozia

Just off the coast of Marsala in Sicily is the island of Mozia. This island was first settled in the 8th century BC and became a shipping center and trading post for the Phonecians and Carthaginians. Called Motoya, it was one of the most important settlements in the Mediterranean area. Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse destroyed the settlement in 379 BC. During the Middle Ages, Basilican monks settled on the island and renamed it San Pantaleo. In 1888 the ancient city was rediscovered by Joseph Whitaker, a wine merchant and amateur archeologist from England.
While excavating on the island, Whitaker uncovered the ruins of the Phoenician city of Motya. He died in 1936 and most of his finds are housed in a museum on the island that used to be his home.
The jewel of the island is a Greek statue discovered in 1979 called the Giovane di Mozia - the Young Man of Mozia.

The Young Man of Mozia is a breathtaking marble statue of a young man, perhaps an athlete, dressed in a finely-pleated, clinging tunic, with his hand on his hip. It is thought to be a work of the Greek sculptor Pheidias and dated about 440 BC.

Sicilian Sea Salt

In Trapani (Sicily) you can find salt marshes with some of the windmills that used to drain water from the water ponds in the flat marshlands of the region's coast.
Getting salt from the sea water is a slow process requiring hard labor and the hot sun of the long, dry Sicilian summers.
The ancient Egyptians knew how to get salt from the sea, and with the Greeks and Romans the "industry" flourished in Sicily. The windmills were added in medieval times. By the nineteenth century, Sicilian sea salt was exported to European countries as far away as Norway and Russia. Today many recipes specifically call for sea salt. In Sicily, the sea salt is often sold wet or damp. For this reason a few grains of rice are sometimes placed with in the salt shaker to absorb moisture and prevent hardening.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thousand Egg Omelette

The hillside town of Padula.

When the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V visited the Carthusian Monastery at Padula the monks prepared in the monastery kitchen a "FRITTATA DELLE MILLE UOVA," an omelette of 1,000 eggs. There is a reenactment of this culinary accomplishment on August 10th each year, using a giant iron cooking "pan" that was erected in the front courtyard in 1996.

The courtyard of the Carthusian Monastery
The old monastery kitchen
The cooking "pan" specially designed to flip the omelette.
We visited the monastery on August 11th! The omlette was all gone!

Bar-B. Que for St. Lawrence

The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence
in the Carthusian Monastery Chapel at Padula, Italy

I was in Sicily on the Feast of St. Lawrence, August 10th, and to celebrate this martyr we searched for a restaurant serving "grilled" food. We found yoghi and booboo on Via S. Filomena in Catania. They had "worldwide cuisine."

Via S. Filomena
I had a mixed grill plate that included bar-b-que ribs, buffalo wings, home-made sausage abd thick bacon.
These symbols for St. Lawrence are above a staircase
in the Carthusian Monastery of Padula.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shopping for Light Bulbs

In Rome when you go to the store for light bulbs you will only find energy-saving fluorescent bulbs available. Over a year ago, on July 1, 2009, Italian law prohibited the sale of incandescent bulbs.

Vatican Gardens

This week I took a 2-hour walking tour of the Vatican Gardens. It was interesting to go behind St. Peter's Basilica, climb the Vatican Hill, and enjoy the beautifully maintained gardens of Vatican City.

This is the crest of the Pope
in front of the Vatican administration building.
The garden outside the Vatican Pinacoteca.
One section of the garden, next to the Walls of Leo IV, has a full-size reproduction of the Lourdes Grotto in France. Near it are other statues of Mary.

Our Lady of Fatima
appearing to three children in Portugal.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
as seen on the tilma of Juan Diego.

St. John's Tower in the Vatican Wall was built as a "get away lodge" by Pope John XXIII. This was where Pope Benedict XVI entertained US President George Bush and Mr. Bush was heard commenting about the gardens to the Pope: "This is a mighty nice place that you have here."

Behind the Basilica

These are views of things behind Saint Peter's Basilica. The pictures were taken during my tour of the Vatican Gardens.

Back Side of the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Train Station
Pope John XXIII was the last Pope to use the station for travel. Now the train is used for bringing in supplies and taking out the trash.
The Vatican Heliport
The heliport was built by Pope Paul VI and is used by the Pope for his numerous journeys. I noticed that Pope Benedict XVI traveled by helicopter when he visited the Basicilica of St. Paul near our home. During the summer he uses the helicopter to go back and forth from Castel Gondolfo in the Alban Hills. (The heliport has a bronze statue of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.)

The Vatican Gas Station

The Vatican Radio Station