Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 11: Diario di un’ Amara Siciliana

There is a type of liqueor called Amaro Siciliano (Bitter Sicilian) that we would sometimes get a dollop of when we were growing up – just an uccia (a little bit). That pretty much describes the Sicilian character I think. We aren’t exactly a sunny bunch of folks.

The vendors tend to be a little taciturn here unless they smell money – not everyone is like that of course – but you get the vibe that they aren’t particularly pleased to see you unless they can get something out of you. In this category I would include the hotel shuttle drivers, certain small business proprietors in Taormina, the sidewalk vendors as well as some of the wait staff in the hotel and in town.

Is this coldness the legacy of colonization and the fear of i stranieri? Is it the palpable disdain of the north towards il Mezzogiorno which makes people distrustful and resentful? Or is it much simpler - merely the weariness of the native born towards the ever present turisti who come in inexhaustible wave after wave?

When we went to dinner the other night with a voucher for our “free” dinner the sad sack waiter with the haunted looking dark eyes and the drooping moustache, who could have been a character in an old Italian film, said to the maitre d’ when he handed him our biglietto or voucher which he described as “un altro biglietto di lotteria” (another lottery ticket) – likely a reference to our lack of stature or appearance of importance on first impression. His meaning, I think, was that we had somehow lucked into this dinner. There are some very evidently wealthy people in the hotel; we, visibly, do not fit the bill.

Today, for lunch, we picked up some pizza and arancini to go from a little place in Taormina where the owner stood in the back of the shop, refused to acknowledge us and gave me a look that I recognized so well. She neither moved nor smiled yet the look said it all: “Hmmph, and who do they think they are?” Even my attempt at Italian did not assuage her nor did my purchase.

Still, as I said, il sangue chiama…the blood calls. I feel the pull. This is our last full day and I have a bittersweet feeling about leaving. I will be happy to get back to our house, our family and friends and our cats. But I will miss the gorgeous locale, the familiar voices and faces, the rugged beauty of the mountains and the bay of Taormina. The many flowers and intense blue of the sky. We all want to come back, hopefully with my brother and his family. 

R cavorting in the pool alone ...

Here at the lower “saltwater” pool in the mid afternoon, I sit on the upper level in the only shaded area at a small table. I see that I have unknowingly usurped the elderly lifeguard’s spot (he must be in his mid 50s and quite paunchy) but he has kindly let me sit at a tiny table with an umbrella and will not make me move. People are not swimming except for R and J and a very sweet young Irish couple canoodling in the pool who are paler than pale. Did you put on your sunscreen? I want to ask in motherly way. 

Soon we will go up to rest for an hour or so before dinner. Dinner tonight in town with my sister and T. We want an early night as we will be leaving the hotel very early for a 7.50a flight. Or at least we did want an early night …

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