Tag Archives: acireale

Acireale Carnevale


Buon lunedi, tutti!

Acireale hosts a fabulous Carnevale festival, second in Italy only to Venezia (that’s Venice). The festival carries over many days and the culmination is the parade of floats. These are not the ho-hum floats you made for homecoming. The Acireale Carnevale floats are works of engineering, design and art. Tens of craftspeople come together to achieve the dramatic satires on display this weekend in Acireale. While I was busy admiring the work, trying to understand the message and oftentimes puzzling the musical accompaniment choices, I snapped a few photos to share with you.

The themes tend to be political satire and Berlusconi, Monti, Sarkozy, Merkel, and Obama had significant coverage. Facebook even had a starring role on one float.

The traditional flower-based designs were stunning and stunningly detailed.




Many other floats were more modern an had moving parts, light and music effects, and caricatured features.







The entire event is very Italian! I was set up near a nut stand that was constantly on the verge of selling out of freshly roasted chestnuts. The crowd was boisterous and busy, without any order to it at all, and yet created a pleasant atmosphere of familial enjoyment. Some people were drinking, but the event lacked the overtly drunk idiots I have come to expect at comparable U.S. festival events. Even walking through the crowd was Italian, everything keeps moving and everyone is linked to a small Italian woman who you don’t want to run over, so it is manageable and courteous chaos, like much of Italian culture.


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La Caverna

Tonight, La Caverna comes to life!

Top Five Caverna photos:

(Uno) 1. The table was set before we arrived. The communal taps provided a welcoming invitation.

(Due) 2. The choices were few, but delicious.

(Tre) 3. The blues band with tie-t-shirts (ties painted into their t-shirts).

(Quattro) 4. The ubiquitous cave arch in such cavernas, shadowy and suggestive, rough and primal.

(Cinque) 5. Finally, an IPA!

“They” say that the sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory-holders in our brains. As I notice all of the smells in Sicily, this mythic truth comes alive as my nose to works the streets. Every time I catch a new smell, I try it out. I swirl it around in my nose, my lungs and my mouth. What does it taste like? What am I feeling? Surprisingly, I often find myself linking up memories, playing in the garden dirt (childhood), sweating on the beach (kinda smells the same everywhere), certain garbage/fish smells (Ecuador/Mexico/Seattle), and fresh rosemary (endless possibilities).

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Viva Sicilia



Sicilians are breathing more easily (even me!): gas stations refilled their tanks (!!!), then refilled Sicilians’ tanks…and are empty again. Yes, many of the gas stations pumped out the balance of their refill, but in the coming days and weeks normalcy should return. Lines at the gas stations were hours long, and many waited only to be turned away when the supply ran dry. I ran past this gas station, and it was still “esaurito.” Yet, the trucks on Viale Cristoforo Colombo are gone, a clear indicator that the strike is over and protesters are turning their attention to Rome.


(Uno) 1. While I’ve enjoyed the drama of the sciopero, as well as the additional vocabulary lessons it has offered, I am happy that there is some reprieve offered. I fear nothing will come of the truckers’ efforts, however that remains to be seen. At the very least, these workers were heard by the public, if not by the state of Italy up in Rome.

(Due) 2. Maureen O’Hara! I know her as Maggie in The Parent Trap (original). She co-stars in Rio Grande, which we watched tonight (a Western, and didn’t do much for me, but then again, Westerns aren’t my thang).

(Tre) 3. The prospect of more Italian sciopero drama! Office rumors tell me that a national fuel strike is supposed to start sometime this week, and there is a transportation strike scheduled for tomorrow (???), and a national transportation strike scheduled for Friday (27 January). That means that airport personnel are scheduling four hour chunks of time when they will not be working. Of course, this will wreak havoc on the flight schedules. I’m glad I am not traveling next weekend. La Sicilia says there will be no more fuel strikes for at least a few weeks.

(Quattro) 4. Fuori! This means “outdoors” or “outside” – and I spent most of the daylight hours “fuori” today. The sun was out all day, so I made the most of it by reading in the sun, playing with the cats on the terrace and going for my long run around the neighborhood. I checked out the gas station (still “esaurito”), and ran down to the duomo (main church) in Acireale. (Say it “ah-shee-ray-all-lay”).

(Cinque) 5. New military jargon. Pencil-whip. It is perhaps specific to the Air Force (?) – and it essentially means “rubber-stamped.” As in, “Captain Tomas pencil whipped the contract” – meaning he signed it without really reading it. Throw it into your next office water-cooler-convo and let me know how it goes. If you’re really daring, you might say “Pencil whip that shit!” the next time you pass something to your boss for a signature.


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Lo Sciopero Continua (The Strike Continues)

Ciao Cinquecento-ers,


My news coverage of the Sicilian Truckers’s Strike continues today…because the truck strike continued past the midnight deadline. That’s right, the strike continued, with the support of the fishers and the farmers, the truckers held their vigil until at least sundown today. We’ve been following the news updates from the base (Sigonella), online news (La Sicilia), and rumors (facebook!). I also did a bit of investigative reporting, by taking my afternoon run on a route that passes through the Viale Cristoforo Colombo and SS 114, the intersection I described yesterday. It had even more trucks than it did last night! Viva Italia! Viva Sicilia!


Uno (1). “Tutto Finito” (All Finished) – read the sign on this gas tank.

Due (2). The gorgeous view from this gas station on SS 114.

Tre (3). This pump says “Esaurito” – it sounds a little bit like “esorry” or “sorry” – and the sad face is saying “Sorry!” – but in Italian, “esaurito” means “out of stock.”

Quattro (4). The Carabinieri is keeping watch over the protest, the SS 114 continues off to the left of the carabinieri cars, the road to the right is Viale Cristoforo Colombo. As I stopped to take this picture, I was in my running outfit, and Dave was with me. A carabinieri officer got out of his car to ask me about my photograph. With our language barrier, I just showed him the photo I took. We smiled at each other and I continued up the former-road/current-alleyway of trucks.

Cinque (5). Two-parts: A poorly backlit photo of the trucks lined up on Viale Cristoforo Colombo (part 1) and a poster from the strike (part 2). The trucks lined up on both sides of the road from the intersection with SS 114 back to where the road divides (for locals). The past two days, they only lined up as far as the hotel, and then the car dealership. I was starting to get questions I couldn’t answer, so we didn’t venture further. I support expression and fighting for your beliefs, so in that way I support these guys (at the most basic), but I’m pretty sure my Italian wouldn’t carry me too far in any political discussion, so I jogged back home.

Poorly backlit shot:

Truck display:

Close-up of Sciopero poster:

“Impact Forces

Asserting Our Rights

[Map of Sicily]

Sicily is closed from 16-20 January

Tear down this system that has killed Our economy. Delete this incapable political class. Defeat the powers that are are exploiting us. Give our earth and our children a future. Begin the fight for our freedom, our autonomy.”

***Update*** – We are hearing rumors that the truckers have finally relented and are allowing trucks filled with gas to leave the refineries on Sicily. Interestingly, Sicily reportedly supplies over 50% of fuel in Italy. The protesters may be taking the show on the road and protesting in Roma soon. We’ll see what happens next!


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We are Family – an Italian lesson.


Theme day = FAMILY!

(Uno) 1. Family = La famiglia.
Mother = Madre
Father = Padre
Sister = Sorella
Sisters = Sorelle
Brother = Fratello
Brothers = Fratelli

(Due) 2. In our modern age, we need to know how to describe the whole nuclear family:
Stepmother = Matrigna
Stepfather = Patrigno
Stepsister = Sorellastra
Stepbrother = Fratellastro

(Tre) 3. Of course, none of us would be here without the grandparents.
Grandparents = Nonni
Grandmother = Nonna
Grandfather = Nonno

(Quattro) 4. If you’re anything like me, your life is enriched by your wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins.
Aunt = zia
Aunts = zie
Uncle = zio
Uncles = zii
Cousin = cugino
Cousins = cugini

(Cinque) 5. And then, if you choose to get married, how do you refer to your new family?
Mother-in-law = suocera
Father-in-law = suocero
Sister-in-law = cognata
Brother-in-law = cognato

UPDATE: As Tracy pointed out in the comments, I left out two very important family members.
Husband = Marito
Wife = Moglie


“We are family!” (“Siamo una famiglia” just doesn’t roll off my tongue the same way.) Over the last two days, our family has enjoyed the temporary addition of my brother (fratello) Jim. We have mixed sight seeing with starting our home viewing of the HBO series “The Wire.” We visited Nicolosi, Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, ambled about Santa Maria Ammalati, and of course we watched the New Year’s Eve firework show under Mt. Etna’s silent snow glow. Today we walked into Acireale to see the Duomo and pick up veggies. Jimmy cooked dinner tonight, burritos featuring sauteed eggplant and peppers!

Aci Castello on a sunny winter afternoon. I can just imagine all the sun-bathers we saw last summer.

We climbed to the first level in the castle, here is Jim with Aci Trezza in the background.

Jim looking out on Aci Castello.

Today’s view of Acireale’s Duomo, still decorated for the holidays. Being a strongly Catholic country (about 98%), the Sicilians are celebrating Christmas through the Epiphany. Decorations and parties will continue until that time.


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Leroy Merlin


(Uno) 1. Breakfasting on the terrace for the second day in a row. Yesterday morning was full of sunshine and I got warm enough to shed my sweatshirt and soak up Vitamin D in a tank top. December in Sicily ain’t too bad!

(Due) 2. Running down into Acireale to the Duomo and piazza near it. Thanks to our neighbor Warren, we found a great new running route!

(Tre) 3. I haven’t mentioned any tough conversations lately, because Dave and I have been too busy to have one. Yesterday we busted through THAT barrier with our relaxing weekend…and while it was short and sweet, it was a tough one! Deciding how to spend our “free” time – I know, what a rough life I lead! We are both hard-headed, but we both stayed in the conversation, listened to each other, and found some resolution. Yay!

(Quattro) 4. Lamps! We picked up some lamps this weekend – finally! Prior to this we had the meager overhead lighting. Now we have accent lights and reading lamps. Leroy Merlin helped us out (think of a Menard’s if you’re from Wisconsin, or Home Depot if you’re not). See pictures below.

(Cinque) 5. Wall hangings! Thanks to a wonderful colleague of Dave’s, we have an Italian powered drill. At Leroy Merlin, we picked up the concrete drill bit to be able to penetrate the concrete walls of our condo. We still have a few things to put up, but it feels so much more like home with paintings on the walls. I’m feeling a home tour photo blog coming up.


Arguably the BEST mozzarella cheese in the world. In. The. World. Folks! Mozzarella di Bufala – yes, fresh mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk. A colleague of Dave’s brought it to us from Napoli and wow – it is the most amazing cheese! Yummy. The cheese is sort of braided and the outside layer is almost stringy like string cheese, but still so much more delicate than that. Then, the inner core is this soft, flavorful and salty goodness. We ate it fresh, and on toasted bread with tomatoes and basil. Not enough can be said about the tastiness of this cheese.

A mini introduction to Leroy Merlin

The beginning of the lamp section. This section took up about a good 1/8th of the store!

There were some of the unique lamps. This is just the tip of the iceberg…



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Smoky smoke

A few real time photos of Mt. Etna throwing up smoke.




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Sa sa sa Saturday


Uno. Early morning workout refreshed me after a long week of moving and shaking.
Due. Mad Men Season Four. So much better than Season Three.
Tre. Saw a cruise ship go past at night, pretty lights.
Quattro. Speaking of pretty lights, I saw a gorgeous orange sliver of a harvest moon last night at dusk.
Cinque. As dusk faded to twilight, stars appeared in the night sky above Etna.

Panther enjoying the terrace. Yes, that is our dryer behind him and yes it is permanently outside. We ordered a cover for it today as it already has a fine layer of Etna ash from a recent ash output.


Mac or PC? PC or Mac? I asked, you answered and I bought……..a Mac! Dave’s computer gave the blue screen of death once in the last week as well, so we both bought Macs and we are now an Apple household. It looks strange to see the iconic white cords running into wall sockets in my home. Strange how that cord reminds me of studying with Millie in law school and of my cousin Steph (who has accepted a mutual generation grouping!!!). I hope I have as wonderful a Mac experience as everyone who commented. Thanks for your recommendations.

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Summer camp is over.


  1. Seeing not only 1, but 2 beautiful homes where we’d be quite happy living. One in Acitrezza, the other in Acireale. *hint* If you want to look at an Italian website, go to the Google homepage, at the upper left hand corner click on the “More” tab and select “Translate.” A new page will open and you need to cut and paste the URL of the webpage in Italian that you want to translate.
  2. Semi-communicating with the Italian landlord (with the help of the English-language speaking real estate agent).
  3. Watched “Conviction.” (Official site here)(Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, et al.) Great true story basis; adept tear-jerker adaptation, I cried.
  4. Made a yummy dinner with the last of the fruits and veggies we got at the Catania markets on Wednesday (and some leftovers in the fridge): leeks, tomatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms; and finished with ricotta salata.
  5. Got my new phone!!! It is an iphone – my first smartphone!

Lately, I feel like I am at summer camp. What with the heat, humidity, and planned activities; not to mention I’m tan! Even using the locker rooms at the gym contributed to the camp feeling. Now, orientation is over and we’re looking at housing and planning to purchase a car; reality snuck up on me. Bills are rolling in, the cats need new supplies, and I have a considerable to-do list. Overall, I am grateful for the people I have met, for the wonderful man Dave is, and for the opportunity to be here and live in Sicilia with him.

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