On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
While visiting friends in the summer of 2016, they mentioned that they’d recently bought land in Sicily and would be harvesting olives in October. What? Harvesting olives in October! We flew to Catania to meet up with them in the village of Graniti. Night time when we picked up our rental car. No GPS with the car or on our not-smart phones. Plus roundabouts typically had a dozen signs pointing every which way, making for a few circuits around them to find the one we needed. We slowly thrashed our way toward Graniti, and were finally flagged down by our friend mercifully standing in the middle of village road waving her arms.
The village of Graniti, Province of Messina, is nestled in a valley north of Catania.
Not the best photo, but the dry stream bed featured in a funeral procession for Vito Andolini’s father—from the beginning of Godfather II—is just outside the village.
Harvesting olives meant laying out nets and pulling olives down from the trees with long-handled rakes. We were a fairly small, international group of volunteers.
The owners of the olive groves (friends of our friends) had bad luck with both a wildfire that came through their property and an insect infestation that damaged the olives. We spent a fair amount of time culling the sparse olive harvest. Note the fire damage to the trees. Our last night featured a tasting of the oil pressed from the harvested olives. Smokey alas.
After a morning picking olives, we visited the hilltop village of Taormina. A favorite of wealthy Russians, so much so that many store windows feature signs in written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Amazing views, this one to the south.
Dinner, featuring fresh seafood, in the beach town just to the south of Taormina.
Another afternoon, we headed to Mount Etna and walked around the lower slopes. Not actively erupting, but a bit of steam.
The lava flows reminded me of Hawai’i with their sharp boundaries between life as usual and obliteration…
In 2012 my wife and I went to the same area. We flew into Rome and took the train down to Sicily stopping at Ravello on the way. Where I live most of the Italians are from the Amalfi coast and everyone told us it was beautiful. They were correct. The train ride was fun- with the train cars rolled onto ferries to cross the Straits of Messina- and hooked up to another train to take us to Taormina. My grandfather was born in Khagggi ( from the arabic hajj) Sicily was controlled by emirs in the 10th century and the arabic influence in the spelling and food is strong. It’s near the foothills of Mt Etna. We stayed at an old lemon farm that was converted to an inn- highly recommend staying at an “agritourismo” site if in Sicily. Gaggi as it is now spelled is a little town near the Alacantra gorge. It was cool to visit the local cemetery and see so many graves of ancestors, cool to visit some of the villages that have stood for centuries, eat enormous amounts of delicious food and visit wonderful vineyards. It was a wonderful trip
A little mental journey is a nice way to start my morning – thank you!
After years of watching Detective Montalbano, my wife and I really want to go to Sicily. This just makes me want to go more.
@Clem Fandango: Yes! I can hear you, Clem Fandango!
Ahem, now back to regular commenting on the lovely Italy pictures. I wonder, was the oil too fire-smokey or could it be sold to silly Americans as “toasted”?
Put me down for a bottle of toasty olive oil if the proceeds go to the olive tree restoration fund.
@Clem Fandango: Sicily is a magical island with its overprint of so many Mediterranean cultures through the centuries. We only had time to visit a snippet. I do remember driving past many lemon groves. And wine tasting at a vineyard near Mt Etna whose vines survived the phylloxera blight. (A couple more batches of Sicily photos to follow, WaterGirl willing… )