Wednesday, 12 December 2012

At last, the weekly market!

When I looked out at seven fifteen this morning, the hillside opposite was bathed in golden orange light from the rising sun. I ran on to the terrace in my pyjamas to take a photo. It was milder than expected so I didn't get chilled. The photo looks as if it's been artificially re-touched - one of nature's surprises. I made porridge for breakfast and added a persimmon/cechi for sweetness. It was a delightfully sensuous taste to start the day with.

After writing my meditation for the day and saying the Office, I headed across town for the open air market. The second phase of overhead Christmas decorative lights installation was well under way on the Corso. Piazza Sant Agostino was a hive of horticultural activity. A Christmas tree was erected, around its base, a bank of black volcanic earth, foundation for a fringe of potted poinsettias, holly bushes and topiary creatures, kept in place by grass turf. It'll look enchanting when finished. 

The car park above the old town with a view of Mount Etna was full of market stalls and farm trucks, around thirty. Clothes and shoes predominated. Four stalls sold electrical and household goods, half a dozen, fruit and veg. I bought a 1 litre pan with a handle for €10. That'll make cooking easier when there's two of us to cater for. Pistaccio, almond, chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are all on sale,   brought straight from the farms, but I didn't buy any this week. I went for end of season purple plums and green olives, which are in season this month, along with oranges (memories for me of Palestine). I was offered one to taste. Its rich flavour stayed fresh on my palate most of the way home.

Product promotion here isn't necessary. Shoppers know what they're looking for in a market so ruled by the seasons. The only certain packaging with purchases in Italy is a plastic bag, hard to refuse except in supermarkets. They don't litter the landscape now like they did thirty five years ago when we first travelled south camping with the kids. Black bin bags are used in public trash cans but not that much elsewhere. Retail plastic bags get re-cycled for household waste and taken to communal bins emptied daily. Most streets have them. Bottle recycling stations are fewer and far between.

This afternoon I descended the steps to the SS114 main road, and went northwards along the coastal 'lido' strip through Spisone to Letojanni. Of hundreds of hotels and restaurants on this 5km stretch just one small bar was open for business. I walked on the beach for a while. The only sign of life was a few swifts hunting for insects in front of a white marble sea scoured limestone outcrop with a hotel perched precariously on top of it. It looked a bit abandoned and neglected. Few signs here of a tidy up in preparation for Christmas holidaymakers.

Letojanni is exclusively a holiday village, apart from a couple of dozen in-shore fishing boats parked on the beach, a hamlet transformed by a train station. The town, about 400 metres wide, is hemmed into the shore by the railway line and the via Nazionale. Behind them, the autostrada runs along the coast through tunnels over 50 metre high viaducts. 150 metres above the town, stands a huge holiday complex built into the mountainside. I can see its lights from where I'm sitting writing, but I doubt if it's open now. I wonder if its occupants go down and overwhelm the beach in summer months?

Returning to Mazzaro just as darkness fell, I rejected a quick ride home on the cable car in favour of the walk up the steps to Taormina . The ascent took me half an hour, an eleven kilometre walk had taken its toll, but I recovered sufficiently to join the nuns for Vespers and adoration, recharging spirit and body in one go.

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