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Art Exhibit at Castello Ursino

 

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I always enjoy visiting Castello Ursino in Catania.  Castello Ursino is a medieval castle built in  the 13th century by the King of Sicily at that time, Frederick II from the Hohenstaufen dynasty.  This castle is certainly worth visiting when traveling to Catania. Nowadays, the Castle is a museum holding permanent exhibits as well as periodic ones.  One of the exhibits currently on display, running from October 2017 to May 2018 is entitled da Giotto a De Chirico – I tesori nascosti – from Giotto to De Chirico – The Hidden Treasures, curated by Antonio Sgarbi.  There are audio guides available that I strongly recommend listening to while visiting the exhibit.

Listening to the audio guides of this exhibit one learns that the works of art on display come from a variety of sources and do not follow one specific theme or one specific school of thought. These works come from private collections, foundations and have not been on public display before this time.

Upon entering the exhibit, one finds the two sculptures of heads seen below which date back to the thirteenth century. They have come from the Imperial Palace in Foligno. The sculptures were carried out by a sculptor from the Frederick II era and they present a comparison between ancient art and Roman art. They have been called the first Italian faces.

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There are many exceptional works of art to enjoy in the exhibit, although  I shall mention only a few in this post.

Below is a portrait of the Madonna by Giotto; Giotto created this painting at the beginning of his career.

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I giganti assaltano l’Olimpo – The Giants assail Olympus.  Work by Giuseppe Cesari who was the teacher of the world famous painter, Caravaggio.

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Maddalena addolorata- Heartbroken Magdalen by Michelangelo Merisi known as Caravaggio; through his style, Caravaggio presented the human side of his subjects.

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The painting below is Platone, Plato; the painter is Jusepe De Ribera. The painting was originally owned by a Jewish family, but as no family member claimed the work of art after WWII,  fifty years later the painting  was sold at an auction in Austria.

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Ritratti dei Principini Marescotti di Parrano (Allegoria dei cinque sensi) – Portraits of the Marescotti di Parrano by Sebastiano Ceccarini, XVIII century.  Each of the subjects in the painting represent one of the five senses by what they are doing but their characterization stands to represent the power of a lavish lifestyle.

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Below, Allegoria dell’Inverno by Gusto Le Court – Allegory of Winter. While viewing this sculpture and listening to the description of each element of the work that represents its theme, Winter, one can feel mesmerized by the superb work.  I was!

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Antonio Ligabue – Autoritratto – Self Portrait

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Giorgio De Chirico – I Bagni Misteriosi – The Mysterious Baths

De Chirico told that the idea for this painting came to him while he was observing a man walking in front of him on marble floors that had been waxed and were very shiny.   The reflection on the floors made the author think of a pool in which he could just get lost. The painting presents symbols of childhood, classical times, ancient ruins, and skyscrapers in NY.

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I would recommend allowing several hours to visit the Castello Ursino and its exhibits.  I did and enjoyed every moment!

 

 

 

 

A Festa ri’ Morti in Sicilia

November 2nd is the day in which Italians remember all who are deceased.  However, over the years, the tradition  has not been the same in Sicily as in the rest of Italy.  In Italy, November 2nd is La Commemorazione dei Defunti, Commemoration of the Deceased. In Sicily November 2nd is the Feast of the Dead, A Festa ri Morti.

In the Sicilian tradition, the Feast of the Dead has been the day in which deceased family members return to bring gifts to the children in the family.  On the night of November 1st,  children would place baskets under their beds before going to bed.  The children believed that during the night the deceased family members would come to their home and leave gifts for them.  The gifts as toys were hidden around the house so on the morning of November 2nd the children would search for the gifts in a treasure hunt.

The baskets that had been placed under the beds on the night of November 1st were found in the morning filled with the traditional sweets. The children believed their loved ones who had passed on had come during the night and left all those goods for them. Then, on November 2nd, the tradition was for the children to join their parents in visiting the graves of the relatives who had brought them the gifts to thank them. It is clear that although many families carry out the traditional practices some of the true essence of the festivity has gone lost.

The traditional sweets of the Feast of the Dead in Sicily were i pupifigurines made of a mixture of water and sugar, pasta martorana, marzipan made into the shape and colors of a variety of fruits and nuts, and the cookies known as crozza ri morti, bones of the dead, a sugar biscuit with a white topping.

Photo below shows traditional marzipan representing chestnuts, both raw and roasted

Marzipan chestnuts

Marzipan fruit representing figs, strawberries, apricots, a tomato and prickly pears

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Marzipan lemons, strawberries and figs

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More marzipan

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Crozza ri morti – ossa di morti

Ossa de' morti

Fall Colors on Mt. Etna

No matter the season, a visit to Mt. Etna is always an exceptional experience. Fall offers the visitor a chance to enjoy a variety of colors in patches of green and gold permeating the arid areas of old lava flows.

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Bagheria aka as Baarìa in Sicilian

In 1989, while living in Virginia, I saw an Italian movie, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, which won an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film.  Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, a native of the Sicilian town of Bagheria, told the story of a projectionist, Alfredo, and his young assistant, Salvatore during the 1960’s. Most of the movie is played as a flashback of Salvatore’s memories from his childhood years spent in Bagheria and shows the deep friendship that had grown over the years between Salvatore and Alfredo as they both worked the projector in the town cinema, named Paradiso. Under Alfredo’s encouragement,  when he grows up, Salvatore leaves Bagheria to pursue a career in movie making and does indeed become a successful moviemaker living and working in Rome.  In the movie, Salvatore, who has been away from Sicily for thirty years, learns of the death of his old projectionist friend, Alfredo, and returns for Alfredo’s funeral.  Ever since I saw the movie, many years ago, I had wanted to visit the town of Bagheria, located not far from Palermo, and I finally did on a hot summer day.

I started my walk around town at the Bagheria Train Station.

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Walking down the alley across from the train station.

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Corso Umberto during afternoon siesta when shops are closed.

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In the XVIII century, Bagheria became the summer vacation spot for many wealthy families from Palermo.  There are many villas that were built in those days but only one is open to the public.

One of the Villas is Villa Trabia

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While walking down the Corso on that HOT summer afternoon, I saw these two young girls out for their stroll Read more…

Parco Museo Jalari – A Visit to the Tools of the Past

The city of Messina lies on the Northeastern tip of Sicily; at a one hour’s drive West of Messina is the town of Barcelona Pozzo di Gotto, the largest town in the municipality of Messina.   A drive up the hills that are the backdrop to the town of Barcelona Pozzo di Gotto will lead to Parco Museo Jalari.  This open air museum is dedicated to the old trades and offers a display of old tools for a variety of trades. The Park Museum lies in a beautiful natural setting, offering from its various corners a glimpse of  the Northern Coast of Sicily from up high on the hills.  As one walks along the paths adorned by trees and native plants, over forty workshops can be viewed each telling a piece of history.   From sewing and weaving, to grooming and shoe making, to wine making and other agricultural practices, one can see original artifacts of the trades utilized by artisans in the past.

One of the paths in the Parco Jalari

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sculpture on a path in parco jalari

Sewing and weaving

antique spinning wheel and more

Old wooden loom and embroidery loops

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Shoe making

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Old barber’s utensils

old barber shop

Old wine press

old wine press

Old Sicilian cart wheels and tools

parts of old sicilian carts

Old sewing machines and radio

sewing machines parco jalari

Old irons in tailor’s shop

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View of the Northern Coast from Parco Jalari

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This is a place worth visiting on a trip to the Northern Coast of Sicily.

Hiking Mt. Etna at Night

Mt Etna holds a special place in my heart and although I also love visiting the volcano at night, it is only when I can join some friends and not go alone that I enjoy  its nocturnal beauty.  On the evening of my last last daytime excursion up Mt Etna, I joined some friends and their children for a night time hike up the volcano. At that time,  Mt Etna had been erupting for several days and we decided to hike up an area that would allow to see the lava flowing at night if the eruption were still taking place.

After consulting with experts of the area, the decision was made to head towards Monte Vetore, a mountain formed by a past eruption, at a point which would offer a view of the spot where the recent eruption had been taking place.  That night, the eruption was not taking place, but the hike and the whole experience was well worth the trip!!!

We drove through some back roads known by my friends and arrived at Strada Provinciale, SP, 92, which is the main road that leads from the town of Nicolosi, on the Southern part of My Etna to the Cable Car, Funivia dell’Etna.  At the 14th Km point on this SP 92 we parked on the side of the road where it split.  At this point, on the left hand side is Monte Vetore.  The hike up this mountain from the point where we parked  was approximately 30 minutes; our goal was to reach its highest spot, its dormant crater.  That night the ground was covered in snow and the moon’s reflection on the snow created a wonderful light to lead our way.  We were carrying flash lights, but at one point, we decided to turn them off and let Mother Nature lead our path.

Before reaching the top of Mount Vetore, during the climb up, we walked by an Observatory, the Astrophysics Observatory.  This is a good landmark for anyone trying to make sure they are on the correct path.  Shortly after the beginning of the hike, we ran into a picnic table and benches and stopped to eat our snack.  Then, slowly, we walked up the side of the mountain.  After reaching the top, the crater, we decided to walk around the perimeter of the crater  returning to the side of the mountain we had hiked.  We looked over to the side where the eruption had taken place earlier that week but saw no action, no eruption taking place.

After enjoying the feeling of being wrapped up by the stillness of the night mountain air  and the magical lights cast among the trees by the moon, we decided it was time to walk down to our starting point, close to our parked car.   Upon reaching the final point, close to the car, we sat on the wall along the road to take in one last view of this beauty of Nature.  What we did not expect was to suddenly see a flash of light, a squirt of lava coming out of the mountain adjacent to us.  Yes, right there, the spot we had expected to find the eruption if it had taken place.  There were two lovely children in our group, one seven and the other eight years old.  When that squirt of lava just made its appearance disappearing in just a few instants, one of the children exclaimed: “See!  Mt Etna wanted to say Hello to us and sent out a squirt of lava!”

What an exciting feeling and we all were so glad we got a glimpse of the lava!  After returning home that night I could not take out of my mind the feeling that had arisen from such a beautiful experience.  I plan to return to nighttime excursions on Mt Etna in the future, but the memory of that special excursion on Mt Etna, guided by the moon through the forest, will stay with me for a very long time!!