Saturday, June 10, 2006

Etna, I'm Glad I Met Ya

So, we made our first stop in Sicily today and I had the unaccustomed experience of being in a place where 1) just about everybody looks sort of like me and 2) I'm really not all that short, comparatively speaking.

This morning, we were guided around a country garden by the lady who owns it, Princess Borghese. Cool chick. Wide and varied knowledge of horticulture. Good taste in hats. Had a signed pic of the Queen Mum on the table in her library. Widow. Alas, not looking for a short, swarthy American husband to help mow the lawn.

Catania is a fun place but just a smidge rough around the edges. I signed up for ship/shore shuttle service and set off on my own. I'd been off the bus and in the public market for maybe five minutes when a screaming match broke out and quickly erupted into a full scale brawl. You know the Montague/Capulet fight at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? Like that, only instead of Escalus breaking things up it was a butcher who looked like Ernest Borgnine.

No, I did not take pictures. I got the hell out of there.

Most of the other travelers hated Catania but it's the sort of place I enjoy as long as I have a camera to play with. Most of my favorite shots have come from stops where there's "nothing to see." Probably because I have no preconceptions about what I should shoot.

Dolores, it turns out, was on the ship. She had just taken up with a couple from Newcastle-on-Tyne who'd organized a swingers party after hours in their stateroom. I was drifting off to sleep when she burst in and said, "Listen, do we have any more of those shortbread fingers they put on the tea tray?" (I like them, and have been hoarding them as bedtime snacks.)

"What for?"

"Better you shouldn't know."

And she grabbed a bunch, and was gone.

I'm never eating shortbread again.

I don't know how she does it, but by the time I got up and dressed and out on deck this morning she was already there, smoking a Gauloise and looking satiated.

"Ready to meet the princess?" I said.

She just let out a long drag.

About an hour later, we filed off the motorcoach and into the Borghese family chapel at Case del Ribbiere. Signora la Principessa stood in front of the Rococo altarpiece and said, "Welcome, my dear guests, to my home..."

And then she squealed.

"Dolores! Bella mia! What you doing in Sicilia? Why you not call me?"

I should have known, right?

21 comments:

Susan said...

Just when things seem to be going along smoothly, why is there always a fight in the public market or a screaming Signora...

Taphophile said...

Princess Borghese? Sure Dolorose knows her. Start to get worried when it's Princess Borgia.

Elizabeth said...

The thing about Italians, though, is after 5 mins of screaming when you sure there will be bloodshed, they stop and hug each other and go off to eat and drink together. Emotional people those Italians.

Say hi to my colleague Wendy if you see her at the market. Maybe she'll introduce to to the Little Old Yarn Man, if he's there.

MarQ1 said...

Lucky you. I have to rent a time machine and go back to medieval England and look for pasty dwarfs.

Ann said...

I once took a WASPish friend of mine to an Italian neighborhood where, just outside a ristorante, two gentlemen were having a screaming argument. I continued on towards them as my friend edges over and says "um, maybe we should cross the street." "why? They are probably just discussing the merits of the scampi." At that moment, they stopped turned and calmly walked back into the ristorante.
Now, if you smuggled a Cirneco dell'etna onto the ship and brought him home for me THAT I'd be impressed enough with to tell you why great-grandpa left Italy.

Divertiti ma stai attento, il mio amico.

Heather Layne said...

"...ship/shore shuttle service "

Say that five times fast.

All the Way With Knitting said...

Those Geordies and their swingers parties.A signed picture of the Queen Mum is a good thing?

Elemmaciltur said...

*Agrees with taphophile* *ROFL*

Aidan said...

My dear, sweet, funny friend -- you are missing your calling. I'm printing off your travel posts and sending them to the New Yorker letting them know I've found them a new travel writer. And maybe Gourmet -- I think you and Ruth Reichel would get along famously. You should ask Dolores for an introduction...I think they spent time at the same ashram in Berkely.

You really are a treasure, Yonkele, dear. Have you found any yarn?

Rabbitch said...

Oh god, you've ruined shortbread for me forever. And I'm Scottish. This could be fairly major.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I'll show you mine, if you show us yours. Photographs, I mean. My 1st husband's family was from Sicily... but nearer Messina. Next time you find shortbread, eat it right up. Don't stop to think. Don't hoard. Let Mz. D find her own accessories.

Sean said...

LOL...yes, you should have know. Dolores has been around once or twice. On my side of the world, I'm waiting 3 hours at the Indianapolis airport for my connecting flight to Detroit, then Home. But I'm a gonna knit. I'm a little intimimdated, but there is security to save me should anyone decide to attack! LOL

Cheryl said...

There's a reason I don't eat peanut butter .......

romy said...

Franklin, I am so sorry you did not like Malta, its a beautiful island full of history and the Maltese are quite friendly. Where did you go? to Valletta only? Romy from Malta :)

Violetsrose said...

Princess Borghese - of Princess Marcella Borghese Make-up fame? - WOW!

Elizabeth said...

As I read about your travels, I feel as though I am experiencing the 21st-century version of Naked Lunch. I mean that in a good way.

Debbie said...

You should have known! Dolores seems to know everyone that is someone. At least she isn't boring.

Mama Lu said...

A friend who is of less-than-average North American height and takes a tan well has, in various countries, been addressed in French, Italian, Maltese, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish. He really enjoys travelling.

Elisabeth said...

My first trip to Italy, I had been off the train for no more than five minutes when I encountered a young woman screaming at an older man in a match that ended with "a fongul!" My father's family is Sicilian and they're about the same. Screaming at you one minute, all smiles the next. Drove my German mother mad.

I don't look a bit Sicilian, though. When I go to Europe, people try to speak German to me. And the Italians refuse to spell my last name "correctly" (that is, the screwed up American version of it). It just doesn't make sense to them. Guess I can't blame them.

David said...

You have such tender sensibilities. I don't think I'd be put off shortbread if I saw them being used to murder puppies. Cookies are cookies.

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