Wednesday, June 14, 2017

6/14 -- Castelbuono, Cefalu, Mafia Discussion

We headed east today, and stopped at a mountain town called Castelbuono. It had been important for a while, but now is mostly pretty, although it does have a castle we visited. The drive took us along the coast, and the waters of the sea were truly beautiful. On the way into the town, we passed a Sicilian cemetary, which is all above ground mausoleums, which are still being contructed. Most of them are owned by families, but there were also buildings  I called condos, which owned by various communities like a church or social group.


Some of these are huge- two stories

This section had a lot of modern design

Basic construction looks done but far from finished.

The community 'condo's: coffins were in many rows, with the
ends facing out, unlike most of the families, with the sides visible.
Before we started exploring the town, we got to taste a local delicacy called La Manna. It comes from ash trees, much like maple syrup, and is available in a nutella-like product with hazelnuts and La Manna. Jim liked the straight nuggets of it better than I did and we both thought the spreadable hazelnut product was okay, but we weren't tempted to buy any. We also tasted the cactus liquor again, this time cold, which was better, and limoncello, which was way too tart.

We hiked up to the castle and Isabella initially showed us into a closed room with a very short entry -- it had been used as prison cell for heretics, and the short entryway was designed to make them look like they were bowing to get in. Next was Sant Anna's chapel, another baroque work, followed by rooms with sacred art like vestments and gold jewelry donated to the chapel. There was also a wonderful view of the valley from this level.

Castle exterior
Prison cell
Chapel, above and below. The walls are colored
with gold.

Above and below: views of the city and countryside from
the castle.

This is a clearer view of
the puppets we saw yesterday,
displayed in the castle
Above and below, more views of the town.

Isabella told us that garbage here is collected
with donkeys and transferred to trucks for
disposal, because the streets are so small.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see them
because today was a regular day off.

From there,we had time to explore before lunch, which consisted of a lot of very fancy mushrooms that are generally pricier than black truffles and only found in this area.

Back on the bus, we went back west to a seaside resort town, Cefalu, which has a lot of rocky shore and one small beach. We saw lots of folks sunning and swimming in both settings and got to wade in the sea briefly. We also saw an ancient laundry. Rivers in Sicily are often routed underground to avoid flooding. In one such space, a laundry was created using the ice cold river water. The town is also known for its Norman cathedral, which we also visited.

Craggy rocks above Cefalu

The rocky beach

We were impressed by how clear the water is.

Entrance to the sandy beach.

Lynn getting toes and ankles wet. It
was lusciously cool on this hot day.

The river exiting the laundry area.

The water was channeled into separate basins with scrubbing rocks.
Brian graciously demonstrated the process for
those confused by the slanted rocks.

Exterior of the Norman cathedral

The wooden roof in the cathedral is unusual.

More of the rocky beach as we exit town.

A view of Cefalu from above.  One tower on the cathedral
represents the pope (on the left) and the other, the king. The
king's is slightly taller and the crenelations and domes are
different, one more crown-like, and the other with the pope's
hat shape.

At the hotel in the afternoon, we went searching for a snack and a watch band after mine had problems. This gave us an extra hour to walk in the 85+ degree heat. I am starting to remember how to deal with it, but it tends to make you think twice about walking in the sunshine.

We finished our day with a fascinating talk about the mafia from two men whose fathers had been conscripted into it at the age of 7 and made to leave school and start doing collections. They said the name and origination came from the time of all the raiders who came to Sicily and wanted to subjugate the people, who formed self-protection groups that the Arabs called mafia, meaning bold. These strong-arm groups eventually branched out into other areas but came to power in a serious way when Italy unified in the 1860s. Some time in there, they started calling themselves the Cosa Nostra, and had really never like the mafia label. Sicily at the time had lots of problems like rampant crime and the new government was wildly ineffective and turned to the mafia groups to bring order to the province and stepped back and let it happen. When things were under a semblance of control and the government wanted the mafia to step back so government could take over again, it was too late.

The next big growth time was in WWII when the Allies were getting ready to invade Italy and wanted a quick source of inside information, so they turned to the Cosa Nostra. There were efforts to rein in the lawlessness, and many mobsters in Italy were jailed. Two bold  judges took them to task, and were finally murdered. Drugs became a  major money maker and Rudy Guiliani in New York, as a young attorney was  looking for people in Italy he could rely on, and the two judges became his helpers. They were killed by Toto Riina, who was finally captured and convicted.

At that point, the father of one of the presenters became the big boss. He went into hiding for 43 years, taking his wife and two sons with him, but he prevented his sons from getting involved and that's why the son is now able to talk about his experience -- he knows nothing of the secrets, but has had a hard life because his father's wealth was confiscated and he is assumed to be a mobster by many. The other man's father had become a tailor and tried to win an important job by making free suits for the men in one of the main families, but was never accepted the way he wanted to be so there was less of a big deal about his son getting on with a normal life.

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