Thursday, 6 December 2012

Castelmola in the rain

St Nicholas Day began with a rain shower and gusts of wind, but sun poked through the clouds, encouraging me to walk to the far end of town to see if there was an open air market going on. There wasn't, but for the first time, at a crossing up the hill beyond Catania gate I saw a sign declaring traffic regulations in the narrow streets for market on Wednesdays. It's the only place I've seen any public information on this matter. Well, now I know.

Not wanting to squander the climb so far, I carried on uphill until I found the via Saraceni and the start of the climb up and around the steep hillside to Castelmola. There was a cold wind but the sun shone, so conditions were just right for going up, and up, and up! The steps were less well maintained than those containing the via Crucis I climbed last Saturday, with attending street lamp standards broken or missing and the wooden handrails rotting and collapsed in parts, but it was fine underfoot and the views were ravishing, even of approaching rain clouds.

I made it off the mountainside and into the lowest street level, and was surprised how much more of a climb there was through narrow lanes to reach the main square, and above this the ruins of the old castle. The via Saraceni continued into the village, and didn't seem to link up at all with the tenth century Saracen fortress sitting on a separate peak 400 feet below us towards the sea. Castelmola's highest point is 1,700 feet above sea level, so I'd climbed up 1,100 feet to get there.

The wind was pretty chilly and before long the rain clouds loomed over the town and showers began. I took refuge from the showers in the main church. It was first raised in the sixteenth century, but rebuilt in 1936 in an eclectic mix of Gothic, Moorish and Norman styles. The west front with a terrace looking out towards Mt Etna was pure Romanesque in its fine carved decoration. It was ranked as a Duomo though no more than a big village church. Is there a bishop of Castelmonte I wonder?

I drank a welcome hot chocolate in the bar on the main piazza, and set off to walk back down the road. I'd not gone more than a kilometre when the wind and rain pciked up. There was no placd to hide, so I retraced my steps to a large ugly coach and car park behind the town, furthest from the pretty side, and here sat out the cloudburst in a bus shelter for twenty minutes until a rainbow appeared.

Fearing a repeat performance I returned through the streets abck to the steps to descend the quick way. Finding where they started was less than easy in the opposite direction. The lunchtime streets were almost deserted, but I met a man returning from feeding his rabbits and enquired. When I found them, I jogged town the steps, which aren't too steep thankfully, and dodged a soaking. It started in earnest just after I got home, precluding any further outings. I cooked lunch and did some washing instead, glad to have escaped a complete drenching high above. Later I learned that going down by the road is a two hour walk. Glad I didn't discover that the hard, wet way.

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