Category Archives: architecture

Sorrento to Sicily: A Different Kind of Coast

Mediterranean coastal waters of Calabria
I grew up in an area called the Central Coast, but traveling this leg of my recent trip to Italy showed me a coast with a very different personality. If my home coast in California was the quiet Woody Allen heroine, the Calabrian coast was a battle-scarred, blue-eyed Warrior PrincessWhat makes me think of a warrior princess? The colors are fierce, for one. Look at those blues!
Sorrento Bridge High Above the Trees
This bridge near Sorrento, though not ancient, reminded me of the Roman aqueducts (another warrior reference…) constructed to move water hundreds of miles- I guess for these builders it was a case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ From Sorrento to Sicily, Mediterranean waters

As I bumped southward from the Naples train station to the toe of Italy’s boot, I was treated to breathtaking views, those vivid colors, and a special quality of light that comes out really well in some of the snapshots.

Light Traversing Sicily
The coast displayed its vivid colors on the sea side, and its homely, timeworn hill-towns facing it on the other. I wondered as I passed in the train what people did there for a living, and saw evidence of some agriculture, some tourism. It definitely felt very low-energy, content. Nothing like a newcomer, intent on a goal and working feverishly to attain it. No, the land I passed showed a quiet, sleepy face. Let sleeping dogs lie?

But then I arrived at one of my transfer points, Villa San Giovanni PortVilla San Giovanni, where I would have to hop off the train, find the port, search out the ferry or hydrofoil ticket offices, and decide how to get across to Sicily. For someone who is used to researching schedules, routes, and costs online, it was an exercise in letting go to have to uncover new information in real time and make a decision on the spot, but I managed not to burst into flames.

Before too long I was pulling out of the port in the hydrofoil, trying to take a picture through the I’m-sure-they’re-impossible-to-clean windows of this white stone monument above. No idea what it is. I’m taking the view that it’s to look after the souls who have perished in the maws of Scylla or Charybdis, purported to have been real-life  obstacles near here for ancient sailors.
Of course, once I got off the hydrofoil on the Sicily side, it was another round of: find the bus station, compare bus companies that go where you want on timing and pricing, decide, and jump on! I had time to dash into a quick cafeteria-style Messina mom-and-pop for some bread and a sugary treat, but that was it- and away we went!
 Windy Sicily Road
We scaled heights. (See that speck of asphalt down there? Yeah, that’s the road we were just on- yowza!)
The bus ride took between 2 and 3 hours, and it was more distant from the shore than the train had been, so I couldn’t see the water past the other side of the highway, the cypress screen, and some buildings, but the journey was painless enough, until we approached my destination- Taormina– and started CLIMBING. Then it became positively edge-of-your-seat. Apologies at this glimpse I offer: it was hard to get photos because you never knew what would be around another corner, and we were twisting up and up and up enough for us to be in a Dr. Suess tree by the end.
At long last, we emptied into Taormina’s town centre. I beheld this place, a cute little shop selling pizza and other dainties made with savory bread and tomatoes. It was a hard sell.

Sooooooooo satisfying… and I’m glad I got something to eat right away, since what happened next put my devil-may-care attitude about planning to the test! Stay tuned for that, in my next installment on Sicily.

And side note, if and when I try making these in my kitchen, I will be going straight to the authority on Sicilian food for a recipe. Happy eating!

What is your association with “coasts”? Do you prefer quiet or warrior-princess ‘bold’ in your landscape retreats? Let us know what floats your boat in the comments!

Why Some Places Call to You Again and Again

Stop Look Enjoy reminder

Last year, I visited San Francisco.

Sam's Log Cabin, Berkeley

I was yearning to breathe free of stifling DC, and so planned a trip to a place I knew I loved to explore, and added a few activities with people I loved to be with. I had an awesome trip (a short one, at 4 days, that packed a punch).

Then I went home to DC.

 

 

 

San Francisco building

This year I returned to San Francisco with the glorious excuse of it being on the way to Yosemite, where I was headed for a quadrennial Family Reunion (posts coming soon!).

I once again got lost in the foliage, the sea air, the cityscapes.

Union Street Papery graphic

Oakland gondolier

And yet, when I contemplate the life change of moving cross-country, I shy away from SF- why is that? The city calls to me, and I know I would love living there, but my mind stops at the “Oh, but it’s so expensive” line. Hmph. Apparently the ninja is not yet ready to be trained…

I’ve done some reading about places, how environment affects one’s thinking, and experimented with some of my own place-based habits. I still find there are locations that seem to call to me. Scotland is one of those places. San Francisco is another. It varies. It may be an attempt to balance what the mind believes is an imbalance:

Too much citified noise and agitation? –> go to the quiet, misty hills of Scotland

Not enough creative energy amid the strait-laced DC crowd? –> let loose with the hipsters and entrepreneurs of the Bay Area

But I also think it might just be that some places make you feel at home, and they call you. Where do you feel you belong?

San Francisco blue day hill

 … and is that where you currently live?

Books Fly in San Francisco

Do I need a more obvious sign that this is where I should be?

Offbeat Art, With Some Lost in Translation

More photos from la bella Napoli, with more observations…in fact, I observed so much life in Napoli it would take months of posts to do it justice. You had better go and experience it yourself. :-)

One of the repeating themes of Naples (entirely open to interpretation, I might add) was the graffiti, and this character was one of more than a dozen similar figures I saw in red, white, blue, and black. They were all clownish stylized figures, and this one made me think it might be related to a football club, but I can’t find anything on it, at least not by searching in English.
Here is another one, which might be related by the colors and shapes. Anyone have theories? I like the whimsical design. This picture was at Porta Medina in Naples, as you might be able to see on the hundreds-of-years-old sign there…

I tried to pay attention to these signs, but there were so many! Naples is crammed with so many layers of history and competing cultures that while it is very easy to find something peculiar and charming, it is difficult to determine the origin of that thing. Well, usually. Not so for the historical courtyards, which are marked by marble signs on the street, as proper as any town of antiquity. This was my favorite: simply an inner courtyard, now for parking, that used to gently welcome its inhabitants home with the sound of water and the pleasing elegance of stately painted columns. (I think that’s supposed to be a stag, but its ears to the side do give it the look of a donkey, don’t they?) Ah, the life of a courtier, eh?
More like:

“Ah, the life of the imagination, that can fling its arms to a distant past and feel the air and in so doing, understand how much things can change, and have changed, and will change again.”

-Me
That’s one of my favorite lines of thought while out traveling the world: what happened here? What did life used to be like? How do people here cope now?

This is what happens when you travel alone for long stretches of time, evidently. 
Finally, there was the art that was lost in translation, which I here offer up for your perplexitude…
What does one eat there?
Halb fub or half foot fruit? It makes a big difference!


I love quirky finds, both animal and mineral, from trips to new places. What have your adventures brought to your notice recently- real or imaginary?