Another terrific day in Sicily. We left the hotel with an ultimate destination of Cape Passero.
We were barely on the road when we stopped at an abandoned farmhouse. The farm had been made into a museum. Apparently, someone who had found some Roman mosaics and were chipping away pieces destroying them and obscuring the story these treasures told. As I understand it, someone had started farming here when they discovered what was under the ground. It reminds me of something a friend once told me. According to him, there is so very much history in the ground that every construction project uncovers something from the past.
As we entered the archeological digs we encountered a water system. You can see tanks and channels through which the water flowed. The Romans were very good with water. For example, they would pump hot water under the floor to heat homes. Something that is only a recent innovation in our homes.
The mosaics are evidence of the home of a Roman official whose summer home was here in Sicily, but had as his main abode in Africa. As you look at the mosaics you can see the layout of the traditional Italian home which is rooms surround a central courtyard. One of the mosaics I found most interesting is a representation of the continent of Africa which was depicted as a woman surrounded by the bounty of fruits and animals found on the continent. She points to the lower-left corner of the image where you see a lion tearing into a Roman. At the same time, a Roman is stabbing the lion. The lion represented the continent of Africa.
As I approached the town of Cape Passero, in the distance, I saw a low stretch of land extended into the water with a castle-like structure at its tip. This is a fortress which was built in the 16th century to protect against pirates. It has served as an orientation point for me on my approach to the town.
Let me tell you, something folks, we are really getting down there. This is the most southeastern point on the Island. We are opposite of Crete and the Peloponnese. The place is far from being a booming megalopolis with a population of approximately 4000 inhabitants.
We stopped at a bar where we had some drinks a couple of gratina. If you will recall this is a cool icy treat that is very refreshing after a long hot ride. As we sat there I looked up at a sign that read “il bar più a sud d’Europa isole escluse” which means “the southernmost bar in Europe excluding islands”. Its reference to the island is the Peloponnese.
On the way back, we stopped in Marzamemi for a lite lunch. We ate in a piazza which was built out of a tonara. On our way here I heard a great deal about the tonara and I wasn’t quite sure what that was. A tonara is a grid that is used when fishing tuna. The history and the culture of the town is very much intertwined with tuna, specifically the highly prized red tuna. There is also The Tonnara which is a palace built in the 16th century. The external courtyard was initially used to house the Scieri, which were ships used to fish tuna. Later, in 1752, the Prince of Villadorata built the village of Marzamemi and his palace from where he managed his business affairs which were mostly centered around the fishing and tuna processing. In addition to his palace, the Prince of Villadorata built the Church of Torana and a tuna processing plant. The plant remained in operation until World War II.
Sicily, which is also true of Italy in general, is rich with history, as I have noted several times already. The history of this wonderful little village goes back to 1000 A.D. The name of the town comes from the Arab Marsa al hamem, Bay of Turtle Doves. The ride from Noto to here was a short, flat ride that gave us the opportunity to just cruise along enjoying the countryside. As we approached the town, we could see the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean beyond. Entering the town made me feel as if we were stepping back into a time when my maternal ancestors inhabited Sicily.
One of the many other attractions of Italy is the food, right? Traveling to Italy you are treated to millennia of history, a life-affirming culture, and, of course, incredible food. In this regard, Marzememi doesn’t disappoint, especially if you love seafood. Oh my gosh, the food!! The place is known for its delectable seafood recipes of which we took advantage for lunch. The town is filled with these great little cafés and restaurants.
Now, I am not a diver, but if I were, I would definitely put this town on my list of places to go. You can go diving off the coast to find ancient Roman wrecks. There is still quite a bit of research that is carried out by archeologists in the waters off the shore.