For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Monday, 12 July 2010

Heartland

... for the last five hours all they had set eyes on were bare hillsides flaming yellow under the sun ... They had passed through crazed-looking villages washed in palest blue; crossed dry beds of torrents over fantastic bridges; skirted sheer precipices which no sage and broom could temper. Never a tree, never a drop of water; just sun and dust. GIUSEPPE DI LAMPEDUSA The Leopard

Sicily's interior is a strange, at times rather alienating hinterland of mountains and rolling cereal fields. It feels like an empty landscape - its population sparse because of emigration over the years from a parched and sun-baked countryside into surrounding towns and cities. Not many tourists penetrate here.

Enna is one of the main settlements of the interior, situated right in the middle of Sicily. We stayed a night in the medieval heart of this old, fortified hilltop town. This is the view from Enna looking over to Calascibetta, a smaller and better preserved medieval town built on a slightly lower hill across the valley ...


Note the cracked urn - and the hazier, moodier weather ... On reflection I think the cracked urn was rather symbolic, for the unsettled, cloudy skies finally released their burden of rain (our only rainy day in Sicily) which lent Enna an even bleaker, gloomier and scruffier aspect ...





One of the main sites in Enna is the Castello di Lombardia. It's free to look round. Out of 20 original towers, just 6 remain. I climbed the Torre Pisano - from where there's a great view. This is the view westwards - of the inner castle, and of Enna itself, stretching along the spur of a ridge ...


And this is the view eastwards - of the Rocca di Cerere, or the Rock of Ceres. Enna lies at the centre of the Greek cult of Demeter (Ceres is her Roman equivalent), the goddess of fertility. In one of the most celebrated and allegorical of the Greek myths, Demeter's daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades and carried off to the underworld - which supposedly happened just a few km from Enna, at a lake called the Lago di Pergusa. We didn't go there, but I read that it's now encircled by a motor-racing track. Mmm ... something symbolic and allegorical about that, too, I think. Which takes us back to the cracked urn ...



The next day we bussed into Catania and took a train to Naples. We crossed the Strait of Messina - the narrow channel between Sicily and the Italian mainland - and were amazed to find that the train actually boarded the ferry boat! This was our last sight of Sicily ...


6 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

We were in Sicily a couple of years ago Robert - we loved it. My favourite places were Erice and Agrigento. We looked down on the straits of Messina and wished we could cross them - looks exciting. This year we did cross over to Elba - that is a lovely island too.

George said...

I've enjoyed the Sicily trip immensely, Robert. Though I haven't yet traveled there, I now have a better idea of the areas I want to visit when I do go. Needless to say, I look forward to reading about your next holiday, especially the tent camping in the Lake District.

Lorenzo said...

A train on a ferry! That delightful surprise helped tone down the sadness I felt over leaving Sicily, as I have enjoyed this series so much.

Bonnie said...

A wonderful series Robert. I hope your readers were clicking on the pics - so much more detail to be seen when they enlarge. A cheque should be in the mail from Sicily's tourist board - they could not find a more skillful beckoning call to their isle.

Tramp said...

Thanks for the trip to Scicily, enjoyable and informative...Tramp

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks all ... but the trip's not quite over yet!