If you love flowers, especially flowering vines, then Italy is the place for you. The flowering season is long and dazzling displays are everywhere, from the northern regions all the way down the Boot to Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. Early spring is best to see the wisteria displays, but don't worry, there are many types of flowers that grow all through the season, such as the amazing tropical bougainvillea. The grow up and around houses, seemingly in an attempt to swallow them up completely. The balcony gardens are another pleasure to see when Voyaging throughout Italy. So, bring your camera, your pastels or watercolors and take in the scents of Fioritura Italia...
Castello di Ruffo di Scilla (also known Ruffo di Calabria castle) is an ancient fortification, originally built during the 5th century BC, and located on the Scillèo promontory, looking out over the Strait of Messina. The castle is in the town of Scilla, about 20 km north of Reggio Calabria. The castle also houses one of the Navy lighthouses, the Scilla lighthouse.
Mythology tells us that Scilla was a beautiful young girl, daughter of Niso, who was King of Megara. She was loved by the marine god Glauco, and transformed by a wizard named Circe into a monster with six heads of ferocious dogs who devoured sailors passing through the Strait of Messina. Due to the unpredictably strong currents, the Strait of Messina had always been feared by ancient mariners.
It is said that Tyrrhenian pirates were first to settle this coastal area in 493 BC, but others claim it was already settled during the time of the Trojan Wars in the 12th century BC.
Built by the Dukes of Calabria, the Castello di Ruffo costs a mere €1.50 to tour, overlooking the Marina di Scilla and its wonderful pebble beach. The beach-front in summer is frequented by tourists and surrounded by hotels and restaurants. Because of its location in the Straight of Messina, the waters are typically very warm. As such, the fishing in these waters are world renowned for catching Pesce Spada, or swordfish and the Castello contains many exhibits about what it takes to catch this elusive great fish.
When I Voyaged throughout Puglia, it became obvious that the Olive Tree is king here--and has been for thousands of years. There are more ancient olive trees here than anywhere else in Italy, many of which are hundreds of not thousands of years old. What is intriguing about these gnarly giants is their bizarre, fantastical shapes, often twisting and turning about themselves, even when the interior of the tree is gone, they continue to live. One can regard the resulting shapes as one does when finding animals and babies in passing clouds... but these shapes aren't going anywhere.
This particular olive tree was given the name L’Ulivo Pensieroso (the Pensive Olive Tree) by photographer Michele Grecucci. What is he thinking after living on this Earth for over 500 years? Is he forlorn about the loved ones and neighbors he has lost over the centuries? Does he miss the children who used to play at his feet? Is he worried about the future with blights, wars, drought or fire? Is he simply pondering, worried, concerned or trying to unravel a problem of the ages? Perhaps we'll never know...
The photo was captured near Ginosa, Puglia but in order to retain the olive grove owner's privacy--and to protect the tree from damage--Grecucci is keeping its precise location a secret.
This winter in my Bucks County Pennsylvania home, we've had less than normal snow, and they've all been little annoyance snowfalls... half inch here, two inches there, a dusting, a coating of slick "black ice". I think my son Lucas has only enjoyed two leisurely "snow days" so far, the last for a very wet and slippery 4" of wet snow. A couple of years ago we had over 6 feet of snow over the winter--one event dropped 28 inches in one day. That's the sort of snow that stops everything for a few days until we plow and shovel out.
But in Italy, at least in the more central and southern parts, snow is more rare. Sure, in the mountains they get snow, but in Rome, not so much. So when it snowed on Rome this past Monday, Romans were both delighted and crippled. Snowball fights erupted, cyclists slipped and slid their way to work and police were called to many fender-benders.
They are simply not used to the white slippery stuff. In fact, the government announced they were going to call the army in to clear the snow away... all 2-4 inches of it. Hell, I love when the snowfall here is more than two inches because I can use my snow-blower rather than have to shovel it by hand. Our local road crews spread a salt slurry on the roads before storms and have the roads cleared before breakfast.
Someone give this man a proper snow shovel!
But when the snow hit Rome, it suddenly fell silent. Few cars were on the streets that usually host a melee of honking horns, "bee-doo, bee-doo" sirens, scooters, cursing and Grand Prix wannabees. People stayed home... perhaps to simply enjoy throwing snowballs or making a pupazzo di neve (snowman). Enjoy it while it lasts... Rome will heat up soon enough. Trust me.
Matera, located in Basilicata near the border of Puglia, is one of the most unusual towns in all of Italy in this respect... because of its Sassi (literally, rocks), the cave homes dug into the mountain that the city sits upon. People have been living in caves for 50,000 years here. The Sassi have been restored into posh hotels and B&Bs and apartments with Matera itself declared the Capitol of Europe for 2019.
In winter, the surrounding rocky landscape and the Sassi homes are a wonderland, especially with a dusting of snow...
In December and January, visitors to Matera can walk through the Sassi, along the edge of the gorge and enjoy the Living Presepio displays. Much like small presepio displays, besides the Nativity scene itself (with Joseph, Mary and Jesus), there are costumed Materese portraying shopkeepers, musicians, beggars and gypsies from the time of Jesus.
He looks a lot like the Thing in Marvel Comic's, Fantastic Four
On the Cinque Terre coast, the Voyager will come across il Gigante, the gigantic statue of Neptune in Monterosso on the beach near Fegina. Sculpted by the Arrigo Minerbi in 1910, he is over 40 feet tall and holds up part of the Villa Pastine. Neptune used to hold a trident and a giant clam shell above his shoulders that was used as a dance floor by the Villa. During World War II, Monterosso was bombed by allied forces, and the Neptune statue and the Villa suffered serious damage. A strong storm in 1966 damaged the statue even more.
Most people watched the recent solar eclipse through pinholes projecting tiny images on a piece of paper. Or they wore very dark orange eclipse viewing filters, looking like they were about to watch a 1950s 3-D movie. My son and I built a large projector using a pair of binoculars that gave us a crisp 4" large image to view. But the most interest method is the way Italian Nonnas might have used in to view eclipses in the past... just go in the kitchen and grab a scolapasta--a common colander. You'll have to agree, the varied patterns of holes make for some great eclipse art... some of which look absolutely astronomical!