|Today we got our first real lesson of “you absolutely can NOT count on Italian transportation to follow a schedule!” The bus not showing up in Positano was nothing- today we found out that the 10:30 train we had very carefully checked out last night (via the schedule posted at the train station, guaranteed from Dec ’04- Dec ’05) just doesn’t exist. There was one that had left at 9:40, and the next one wasn’t until nearly two-thirty! Simple, we thought, we’ll just catch the next bus instead. HAH! Bus strike today! So we walked the 20 minutes back to the hotel with our luggage and painfully tried to make our situation clear to the maid, who spoke barely any English. How, I ask you, can the Italian phrase book have a translation for “the barometer is rising” but not “there is a train/bus/other strike”?? Oh well.
We had time to kill yet again, so we wandered to the west end of town along the water. A scruffy stray dog followed us all over- across roads, down stairs to the water, even through the courtyard of our hotel, where we finally had to scare her off. Then we ate lunch at a café (a sandwich for R, a meat-filled arancini & granite for K), grabbed our bags, and headed back to the train station, where, despite what we had so painfully gleaned earlier, we were told that the next train to Segesta Temple left at 16:20! So instead of going to see the ancient (400s BC) Doric Greek temple, we bought tickets straight to Castellammare. (We were also told that there was no bag deposit at Segesta, and hauling our packs around a dusty ruin in the afternoon sun didn’t sound very appealing.) We checked the scrolling departure screen, realized that there actually was a train leaving in twenty minutes after all, and got on, so here we are now. I guess we will have to miss the Greek temple and theater, sad. But going to lay on the beach in Scopello sounds pretty darn nice right now, after all this. If we can actually catch the bus there from Castellammare, that is. We just hope it’s not too terribly difficult getting to the airport on Sunday!
So anyway, happier things- last night we went to see the I Misteri figurines, which are carvings depicting the sorrowful mysteries of Christ that are carried in a procession through town starting on Good Friday. Some were 400 years old, but many had to be remade due to damage from the war. They are nearly life-sized, carved of wood and decoated with cloth and metal. Each had a sign explaining it, saying who made it and what group carries it (the clothes merchants, the fishermen, etc). Then we went to the Tavernetta for dinner again and both got the antipasto buffet and split a meal (Cassatelle al ragù di salsiccia) that was basically huge raviolis with cheese in a sweet tomato sauce (it had hints of cinnamon or something similar) and a tasty, meaty sausage on the side. It was recommended by our waiter, and it was transcendently tasty- amazing flavors! Then we split a dessert that looked like a cheesecake with berries on top, but was really a sort of custard filling in a cookie crust with berries, also very delicious! We got there a bit early, so it was completely empty, and we got to talk to our waiter a bit, explaining what part of America were were from (“Oregon, north of California;” his reply, “California- my dream!”)
They are re-doing the road surface about two blocks from Ai Lumi, which makes it difficult to get around, but it is a fascinating process to watch. This part of old town is paved with big blocks of stone, something sort of like marble, but with an uneven surface so it’s not slick. The workers use a machine to help them lift the rectangular blocks into place (they are about 18 inches by 6 inches and 4-5 inches thick). They would tile them out and pout mortar in the cracks, making a street that will probably last for centuries.
So we got off the train on the outskirts of Castellemmare, caught a bus into town, and are now waiting for a bus to Scopello. The bus driver was very talkative, he explained everything to us in Italian (we understood the important bits) and then just kept talking, which was confusing, so he got someone walking by to explain the same stuff to us again, in English this time. Then he explained everything about catching the next bus, which I understood (yay!). I wish I could speak more. It’s hard not knowing simple things like strings of numbers. The beach looks beautiful; we can’t wait to get there!
Ah Scopello, so tiny, so beautiful! The bus took a very circuitous, scenic rural route here, through all sorts of little farms and olive groves. Scopello sits up on a ledge several hundred feet above the sea, and it goes about two blocks in any direction from the little central square. Apparently the population is around 40, probably all hotel owners, it’s completely full of hotels and tourists. Our bed and breakfast is a cute little place, not as aesthetically adorable as the other two we’ve stayed in so far, but nice and friendly. Unfortunately all the sea-view rooms were already booked, but our room has a view of the mountains, such rugged cliffs!
We opted to have the guest dinner here tonight, it was E19 each (plus wine) but SO GOOD! First course was more pesto pasta with the tomato/almond/garlic/fresh, homemade olive oil and basil on top. The main course was tender, tasty, fabulous swordfish steaks with lemon and herbed olive oil. Then salad, with strange, mottled green-and-red tomatoes that were so tasty, even R liked them! Following the salad was a palate cleansing dish of sugared strawberries and oranges (so ripe and sweet!) and then a cinnamon chocolate cake with a sweet lemon glaze. YUM! So much food, and all so good! The people at the next table over were Matt and Emma from Brooklyn, also on their honeymoon. They seemed like really great people. It’s amazing how this day could start out so crappy and end so wonderfully!
Once again we need to mention all the dogs wandering around town, although unlike other places, these dogs are cute and aren’t strays- they all have collars and are content and happy. But they still aren’t opposed to plopping down in the middle of the street for a nice nap. There is also a pair of ducks that swim around in the cistern of the public fountain in the square here, they are quite amusing. Oh yeah, and we had decent sandwiches for lunch from a little place in the square, K got the Sicilian specialty Pane Cunzatu (a sandwich of crusty Sicilian bread with olive oil, salt & pepper, cheese, tomatoes, and sardines- good, but really dry) and Ryan had breaded eggplant, which would have been good if it weren’t cold. We also had a gelato this afternoon, baci (chocolate hazelnut) and coffee, good combination! Oh such great food here! We sent a postcard saying, “Scopello is like the rocky coast of Mexico but with Italian food and German tourists!“