Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Train Ride to the Ancient Greek City of Selinunte on the Coast of Sicily, Italy

Journal Excerpt - April 22, 1976

The train ride to Selinunte, an ancient Greek city located on Sicily's southern coast, was quiet - we read most the way. When we got off the train people stared and several men attempted to find us hotel rooms. Finally, with no luck, we decided to return to the station and wait for the next train, frustrated with full bladders.

Suddenly, a girl came running up to us yelling, "Selinunte! Selinunte!" We both shook our heads as she and the people with her helped us into their car. We told them we wanted to stay in a 'pensione economique' which turned out to be their home and an incredible experience.

They treated us with such hospitality, as if they'd known us all their lives - a mother, father, sister, brother, and two friends. We were well fed and well cared for, "Mangia! Mangia!" they kept saying.

Cetty puzzles me and Nicholas amuses - he's so full of life and mischief and, unlike his sister, seems to have been allowed more space to explore himself.

After having talked to Cetty (we had been hoping to find an Italian woman to ask questions about the men and their attitudes). We learned that it is highly expected that the woman be a virgin when she's married and, afterwards, should the man choose to go out with other women the wife may often excuse this behavior in her own often by simply acknowledging that, "He's an egotist!"

The man's job is usually one of financial support and the woman's of child support. Not to say that the man isn't a good father or the woman a good worker but rather that their established roles are usually accepted.

Our trip to the visit the archeological site of Selinunte's ancient, stone walled temples was a highlight of our travels. It's so undeveloped you can really get the feeling of what it must have been like more than two and half thousand years ago. Wildflowers were growing everywhere and seeing these monuments situated by the sea was extraordinary.

April 23, 1976

The train ride from Selinunte was beautiful. The hills rolling magestically in green, brown, darks blending with lights. And, flowers everywhere! The small flowers covering the hillside were the most lovely and came in variations of yellow, purple, blue, and red all blending together to make a family. I'm glad now we came to Sicily and our course seems to make sense; having come from Naples - down around the boot. And, we kicked the boot!

Sicilians are a proud people and it is important that they distinguish for the visitor that there is a difference between Italy and Sicily which they regard as a separate country with its own language, attitudes and, in some ways, lifestyle. Of course, the north and south retain their animosity towards one another in a more class conscious way.

I found it interesting to observe the small town train stations. Oftentimes, people on the trains will hang out the windows to ask for 'aqua' from a nearby pump, to talk to those standing in the station or, as happened yesterday, to purchase food, i.e., the man who bought some sweet smelling onions.

The train yesterday was only two cars; no one bothered us and we were left to gaze in wonder at the magnificent scenery rolling past us in glorious colors.

The bus ride up into Agrigento is one I shall never forget as we were the only women among a few middle-aged, and quite jolly, men. English music was blaring and Italian words flying around accompanied by the usual disorganized chaos but we finally got there.

I cleaned out my art supplies - in the plastic bag where I keep them. Charcoal and purple paint had made quite a mess and made me realize that I must start my artwork again.

Sicilia in the springtime is graced with the smell of flowers, air pure with the gaiety of children's voices. But, in some ways it is special, holding an old world flavor to be equaled in no other place. While riding the trains or even in the busy sections of towns (ie., Agrigento) it is not uncommon to see the old men with their donkeys laden down - carrying goods from the farms to the markets. Everything is so green + fertile.
I would have to say the 'real' Italy for me began as the train pulled onto the ferry and we made our way across the Strait of Messina  to what was about to be the most enlightening part of our journey.