The Old Bridge, The New Bridge and The Brand New Bridge

20 May

A Street in Ortigia

          We have been visiting villages within driving distance of Siricusa. We pack a lunch of salami, fresh cheese and bread, a bag of almonds and fizzy water. This allows us to meander, get lost and get  found never knowing and not caring if we will be near a village for lunch.
          Our little car struggles up and down the steep hills with hairpin turns as we go on a quest. We make up a quest for each village.
           For example this week we are going to Ragusa, another town destroyed by the earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in Baroque style. Ragusa has two towns, the upper and the lower, named Ibla.  The quest here is to conquer the steps between Ragusa and Ibla. There are 240 steps to climb between the two towns. Of course, you can always drive the distance but that is not really the point, eh? We are getting in shape on this trip in spite of the pasta, pizza and freshly baked bread and cheese.
          Our landlandy, Gigliola Nocera, makes the 4 hour round trip drive to Ragusa three times a week to teach American Literature and American Culture at the University there. Unlike university in the U.S, the students in her classes take eleven exams per year and must pass each one to go on to the next level, strenuous for the professor and her students.
          As I mentioned these hill towns have steep entries and when you reach the top you are immediately on a street so narrow your car mirrors almost touch the walls.  The modern part of the town is cut in two by a valley and is united by three parallel bridges: the old bridge (1825) called “Cappuccini”, the new bridge (1937) and the brand new bridge (1964).
          There is another bridge about 15km out of Ragusa, the 300 meter high “Guerrieri” bridge. Another village, Modica, sits on the valley floor below this bridge. Looking down is very scary.  Our quest in Modica is to taste their granulous chocolate. The village’s chocolate is rooted in Aztec culture. Brought to Sicily by the Spaniards 400 years ago. The Sicilians think their chocolate is unique because they add chili…any New Mexican knows better.  But we shall go to Modica and decide for ourselves.
          If you are interested in reading more about the hill towns of Sicily, I highly recommend  “The Stone Boudoir” by Theresa Maggio. I just read it and it captures the simple beauty of Sicily and Sicilians.

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