Caltagirone has a long tradition of making ceramics. The town in southeastern Sicily offers many examples of local ceramic work, and the first to greet you are the relief tiles on the San Fransesco Bridge. Ceramic shops abound, and one of them we went into painted its own greenware. While the group was listening to the shopkeeper lecture on the ceramics process, I was drawn to the colorful paint pots the artisans use to paint the pottery. Ordinary objects, but to me, liquid jewels.
The big, beautiful, gothic-style Il Duomo in Milan is the fifth largest Christian church in the world (and this is all according to the Internet, so you know it must be true). Outdone by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and Seville’s Cathedral, Milan Cathedral is still one big church! At 109,641 square feet, an entire city block, its size is even more impressive considering it’s the oldest church on that list. I could hardly wait to get inside when we were in Milan in September to feed my love for touring historic Catholic cathedrals.
But the best thing about this magnificent cathedral is that for a fee, you can go to the rooftop and see glimpses of the Alps to the north, enjoy the sweeping views of Milan, look down on the flying buttresses, mingle among the rooftop statues and absorb the architectural details of the edifice. They say there are more statues on this cathedral than any other building in the world. There are 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate Milan Duomo.
Once up there, I simply didn’t want to leave. Only the relentless September sun drove us down after about an hour climbing around the top of the historic cathedral. Awesome has been reduced to triteness in our lexicon, so I use it sparingly. But let me lavish a word on Il Duomo: awesome.
The Ortygia market in Sicily was a rich photo environment and will keep on giving in this 52-week challenge. As you might imagine, such a place as a street market in such as place as the ancient Ortgyia on the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Sicily, was filled with photogenic characters. The trick was to photograph them a little on the sly to capture them without posing, glaring into the lens or fake smiling for the camera. We bought some fruit from this character and he remained gruff throughout the transaction. Loved it.
Ortygia is a small island, first inhabited by the Greeks, that is the historical center of the city of Siracusa on the southeast coast of Sicily. Many of the streets are narrow and only navigable by foot. But for our purposes, Ortygia is the name of Chef Gaetano’s Sicilian restaurant in Bradenton, Florida, named after his father’s birthplace. We are here because Ortygia draws Chef like a magnet, and we are in tow.
The first stop is at the local market, a boisterous, fun experience of tented food stalls and Sicilian shouting from vendors hawking their products. Chef’s like a kid in a candy store, and we are his ducklings in tow.
Chef buys bags of food and we taste, getting morsels of foodie information as we stroll under the tents in the blocks-long market (we later picnic by the sea, and must ask a nearby yacht for a corkscrew). And then we duck into a fish vendor. Chef greets one of the fishmongers in Italiano and the guy reaches for his acoustic guitar. Chef’s been here before. He whips out his harmonica and blues is reborn on the Sicilian coast. Then Ted, one of our fellow travelers (10 of us traveling in Sicily with Gaetano, our Florida chef) breaks into song and another fish monger joins in on tambourine. What a morning!