DAY 6: Arrivederci Agrigento (Sicily)

IMG_1219Let me put this day into five simple ten words: I was almost eaten by a wild pack of dogs. But more on that later. The day started with our saying farewell to Cianciana, the birthplace of my maternal grandparents. We watched the blessing of the bread for women gathered before the statue of St. Anthony. On the way out of town, I was called over by a group of elderly men who said that they had heard that I was a descendent of the town and that my grandfather was Dominick Piazza. One of the men was a Piazza and was named Domenico. We compared family names though it was not clear if we were related. It was a wonderful conversation as the men asked in broken English about my grandparents and America. After saying goodbye, we made our way to Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples.


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IMG_1216IMG_1220We arrived at Agrigento and immediately went to the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient greek architecture and a UNESCO Heritage Site.It was an awe-inspiring site to walk among the ruins amid the ancient olive trees. Of course, while some of us remained over-whelmed by the collection, others showed how no amount of effort would curtail the sense of entitlement in some people. One Italian woman climbed over the fences and dividers in front of us so that she could have her picture taken amid the ruins. We were honestly shocked but her entire family squealed with delight over her actions. Nevertheless, nothing could truly spoil the sights, including seeing up close how the builders fitted the columns with lego-like interlocking forms for the columns, as shown below.

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IMG_1250We then went to the town to see that amazing streets and churches of Agrigento. This is an incredibly charming town with amazing streets that have changed little for hundreds of years.

IMG_1238My favorite stop was to find (which was not easy) the Abbazia di Santo Spirito run by the nuns who are famous for their cooking. We were shown the church by a wonderful nun who took us behind the alter to see the fantastic architecture and art. This included a wall containing the bones of martyrs.

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IMG_1243IMG_1245Our helpful nun then led us to a special door where we could ring for bakery goods by the nuns. Once allowed in, you order the pastries from a barred window. We ordered the lot: a platter of traditional Sicilian cookies and a dish of the sweet couscous — wrapped with neatly with a bow. They were delicious and well worth the search for the church.

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There were some incongruous moments like the Pringles dispenser in the center of the old city famous of its Green ruins:

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Now for the pack of wild dogs. After finishing off some gelato, Leslie and I set off for Siracusa (Syrcuse). However, after an hour, the highway was cut off and we were forced on to local roads. Nothing led to Syracuse and we found ourselves on another harrowing mountainside of switchback turns and hair-raising curves. We eventually pulled into a train station hoping for find someone for directions. However, as soon as we pulled up, a pack of dogs attacked the car. I kid you not. Snarling and biting, the dogs jumped all over the car. They were literally trying to bite the tires and side of the car. Even as we tried to pull away, dogs continued to try to bite the car and block our departure. They actually followed up biting and barking to the highway. We had to laugh. After hours of being lost and almost failing off a mountain, we were set upon by wild dogs. We were wondering what would come next: a leper attack perhaps?

We eventually found a way to an alternative highway — only to have that highway shutdown due to an accident. We finally pulled into Syracuse and the lovely Grand Hotel Ortigia, where the staff welcomed us like Jonah fresh from the whale’s mouth.

I am going to go to bed now . . . unless the pack of dogs has finally located my hotel.

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