Tuesday morning's breakfast found us in collective quorum on making today's touring a bit less hurried in nature. We opted for a day as urbanites in the seaside town of Cefalù, a fairly short drive east from Castellammare.
In today's Italy, Cefalù is a favorite beach vacation destination, as well as one of a handful of towns with a special designation for their cultural, historic, and artistic offerings. Cefalù guards its origins fiercely, though, and no one is quite sure of just when this community first appeared on history's map.
Historians do note, however, that Cefalù is mentioned admirably by Pliny and Ptelomy (remember those names from world history?), and most likely was established towards the end of the 5th century BC. Yep, it's old. And like most of Sicily, it enjoyed coerced cohabitation under various rules including Greek, Byzantine, Roman, and Arab.
What a brilliant Sicilian morning we arose to! Quite possibly the turquoise blue of the Mediterranean pours itself into the skies above, thus creating the azure canopy that greeted us. Whatever - the morning sky was mesmerizing!
Just as we finished munching on a fine array of breakfast choices provided by the hotel (and shared with about 1,000 bees out on the deck -- "So that's why no one else was out here!!"), our friend Rossana from the northern Italian town of Cremona, her niece Greta, and Greta's boyfriend Alessandro arrived. They would be joining us for this week of exploring a slice of Sicily: the first time here for them, as well. Greta and Alessandro spoke little, if any, English, so our acquired Italian would sure get a welcome work out!
Sal and Winnie joined us shortly thereafter, and a little caffè and chat concluded with plans to journey southwest to the ancient theatre and temple in Segesta.
Segesta's recorded history begins in 500 BC, but archeological evidence points to an earlier settlement called Egesta which was established by the Elymians, one of Sicily's indigenous cultures. Experts believe they arrived on the island from Asia Minor somewhere around 1200 BC. By the time the temple was built pre-460 BC, the Greeks had assimilated themselves with the Elymians.
Author Vicenzo Salerno writes a great little article on this topic, which also includes an interesting blurb (at least to us history geeks) on a DNA study tracing the origins of 21st century Sicilians.
Days blend when you cross multiple time zones. All I know is that I left Kerrville at about 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and it's now almost 9:00 p.m. Sunday evening here in Castellammare del Golfo.
Add in a couple, at most, hours of fitful sleep, and I am definitely running on wine vapors and giddiness at being on the northern Sicilian coast! The craggy mountions lay dusted in ruddy red as they overlook a Mediterrian sea as blue as your wildest dreams could conjure. The sleepy little harbor town of Castellammare offers views almost too fine to tuck away, numerous restaurants touting the freshest of sea fare, and uphill sidewalks that give someone who thought she was pretty durn fit a huffing and puffing worth pausing to take in a vista of two whilst catching escaping breath.
Our journey here, however, offered not much beyond the modern wonder of air travel, effectively taking one from pre-dawn San Antonio to Atlanta to pre-dusk Palermo in less than 24 hours. Pretty remarkable. And what a remarkable little town we found ourselves in...
No matter how hard I tried, I could not for the life of me find an Italian long-lost ancestor to claim as an olive branch on my family tree. Lots of good folks, but not one, single Italian.
But this trip does entail a journey to a homeland; to a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants named Chiusa Scalfani, perched on the hills of north-west Sicily . Not much of note happens there as the residents make a simple life in agriculture and textiles; however, it looms monumental in the mind of a certain pilgrim, of sorts, accompanying us on this trip. Let me briefly tell you the background story of our 84 year old friend, Salvatore Vetrano...
Paula A. Reynolds
Lover of travel and life's many other blessings!