Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Exploring Erice

03/26, Monday
From our balcony window this morning, nothing is visible except fog. By 11:00,MIT has pretty much burned off, but as we found throughout the day, fog/clouds roll in and out. It is part of the intrigue and beauty of this town. The town only has 200 residents. Most workers need to come uphill from Trapani each day.

Our first stop is the tower of the Duomo. 108 steps to the top seems pretty easy. Clouds pass by as we gaze to the plains and sea below, 721 meters plus 108 steps. There are only a few tourists and students milling about the streets. Our walking tour includes 8 or 9 churches and one castle ruins spread around the village.

We think this town is more dramatic than Ravello, Taormina, or Civita della Bagnoregio. Oh, Bagnoregio was pretty dramatic but on a much smaller scale. Erice is perched on a rock plateau way above the sea, probably the result of an earthquake millennia ago. Protective walls, buildings, streets, castle, and churches are well preserved due to the inaccessibility of the town. Also, there has been a lot of restorative work recently and ongoing. Walking the winding streets that are marble placed in square patterns you feel the remarkable medieval atmosphere. This is quite a town ! We are actually above the clouds at many look outs and the fog/mist just magically comes and goes.

They seem well organized here and have a booklet with two walks through the town, which we take. One follows the various churches in the ancient city ending at the Castle of Venus. Some different art in several churches, wax modeling, Misteri(four statuary groups representing Christ's final hours of life, made of wood and canvas and very touching), altar cards with ornate frames and a huge lapidary collection. Guess everyone has the desire to hand down memories for future generations.

Anything connected to Venus gets high regard, so the castle ruins were almost a sanctuary as well as a phenomenal fortress. What a view !

The second walk took us through basically silent streets, sights of the steep cliffs and "Cyclopic walls", which are the very ancient and best preserved walls. Had a view of these from our balcony. They were a real feat of engineering with massive stone blocks at the base. Just how was that done ?

Walking back to Il Carmine B&B, we decide to explore an area on the town map called the Spanish Quarter. One false start, and then Sandy spies a small sign pointing "this way", actually blocked off to pedestrians. It looks safe enough to us, and it is paved with old stones following along a stretch of the original town wall. It's another adventure! The Spanish Quarter, which was to hold a garrison of Spanish soldiers in the 17th century was never finished. It now looks like someone tried to turn it into a restaurant or hotel and that too was never finished. The panoramic view is fantastic and again the fog comes and goes. Very serene.

We learn from our little booklet "A Friendly walk around Erice" that an annual seminar on subnuclear physics meets here and has give the city the title City of Science for Peace. It sure seems to fit. This place seems to have a magical aura.

Passing one of the ubiquitous tourist shops we spot little magnets of Obama, Brigett Bardo and Paul Newman. That pulls you out of medieval times, but even these shops are rather tastefully done and don't seem abundant. Wouldn't want to be here in the summer though. Luckily the residents seem to have their places secluded and quite inaccessible to the public.

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