Thursday, August 09, 2012

Cianciana Life: Saturday Evening – Espresso and Ferraris

In the evening, after we have changed from our pool wear, we do our passagiata or walkabout.  Every evening there are hundreds of people walking about, however tonight it seems that more than half the town is out.  Young girls dressed in their very best – stiletto heels balancing on cobblestones, hair and make-up perfect, they look very much as if they attending a film or art gallery opening rather than the requisite evening walkabout in a small Sicilian town.  Young men, hair precisely quaffed into a faux-hawk, crisp and clean polo shirts with the collars turned up.  They eye the girls who pretend they don’t see them but giggle anyways.  Old men sit on the benches outside the social club, discussing the problems of the world – young people, politics, employment – finding solutions that only they will hear.  Visitors – expats and ex-Ciancianese alike, wander and admire the buildings, and discuss what a terrific place this is.  Occasionally you see a husband and wife walking arm in arm.  This is an influence of the large expat community – it is most definitely not a regular occurrence amongst the older Sicilians. Once we reach the centre of town we see why so many people are out and about.  The Ferrari club from Ribera (a larger nearby city) has come to Cianciana.  The roads have been blocked off to regular traffic and the drivers are giving the local kids (mostly boys) rides up and down the town, engines roaring and tires spinning.  

Later, they park their Ferraris, mostly cherry red, on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel outside one of the larger bars in Cianciana.  The Ciancianese (and the expats as well) flock around these machines and take pictures.  Nick and I are not immune to the excitement and we take our pictures with these powerful cars as well.  On an island with an unemployment rate at 25%, I wonder how so many people in such a small town can afford a Ferrari.  Unsure, I guess that the answer may lie in the ancient houses.  Very few of these houses have mortgages.  They have been passed from grandparents to parents to children.  With no rent or mortgage to pay, it is perhaps easier to live if one is under employed or unemployed.  This is simply conjecture on my part.  I really don’t know the answer.

Later we wander back in the direction of our favourite bar.  One of our newly made friends, Gaetano, stops us.  Are we going to stay for the music?  It is supposed to start at 9:30 – in 15 minutes.  There will be a live band and dancing.  Sit, sit!  Have a caffe’!  We join Gaetano at one of the tables set out on the street.  He buys us each il caffe’, an espresso, and we sit and chat about Cianciana in the summer.  Gaetano was born in Cianciana.  Now he lives alone – no wife or children, but his sister lives here too.  He tells us about the clock tower – built in 1908 – and how life here has changed over the years.  

He tells us how in the summer, people stay out until two or three in the morning and the bar doesn’t close until 4am.  We chat for nearly two hours but there is no music.  The instruments are set up and from time to time someone – presumably musicians – come to fiddle with the set up but no music plays.  Finally, we take our leave of Gaetano.  

My eyelids are growing heavy.  I obviously don’t have the stamina of the Ciancianese.  As we walk home I hear thunder roll and see lightening flash off in the distance.  Once in the house, we sit at the kitchen table to drink a glass of water before we go to bed.  In the distance we can hear the music start.  A rock version of Volare.  Later in the night I wake, cold for the first time since we arrived here.  It is raining – hard.  The water drums on the terracotta tiles outside our window.  I listen to the sound until it sooths me back to sleep.

Cianciana Life: Saturday Afternoon – Return from Santo Stefano di Quisquina and the Summer Pool Club

Before we leave the forest of Quisquina, we sit in the car, air-conditioning cranked to full, and drink the now warm water that we brought with us.  The peaches are warm too, but the warmth brings out the sweetness and the flavour.  When I close my eyes the peaches seem to taste of the tan and orange hills that are ubiquitous throughout this part of Sicily.  Having forgotten to bring a knife, we bite into the cucumber and pass it back and forth.  

Even though the cucumber has been sitting in the warm car, it still tastes of the cool earth and freshens our mouths after the sweetness of the peaches.  We reluctantly leave the pine forest and drive the two or three minutes into the town of Santo Stefano.  We need to make one more stop before heading home.  Gelato.  We stop at a little sports bar.  These bars, besides selling beer, wine and a variety of hard liquor, also sell panini, pizza, and the beautiful thing that is gelato.  Nick gets his gelato in a cup but I ask for mine in a brioche.  What a wonderful idea to take the sweet freshness that is gelato or granita (sherbet), slicing open a sweet bun and scooping it in.  This is heaven.  We sit watching formula one car-racing coming from Germany on the bar’s television.  This is the first television we have seen in a week and, while I enjoy it while we delight in our gelato, I am not reluctant to leave it behind when we leave the bar.

By the time we return home it is 1:00 pm.  The streets are virtually empty and the shops are all closed.  It is the beginning of the hottest part of a very hot day – the sign above the farmacia says that the temperature has hit 37°.  Not the hottest day we have encountered but today there is no breeze on the now quiet street making it feel like the hottest.  Time to nap.  In her book, Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes says that these few hours – approximately 1:00 – 4:00 – are prime time for television, and the hours when most babies are conceived.  It is also when many people nap and Nick and I, every day, make use of this time to sleep through the worst of the heat. 

Nick and I wake at 3:00 to the sound of the clock tower.  It is still hot and we are sticky from the sweat in our sleep.  We had heard that there were two swimming pools in town and one we passed one our initial drive into town.  A swim seems like a perfect idea.  Back into the car with the air-conditioning on full, we drive about 4 minutes to the turn off marked by a small sign demurely saying “Summer Pool Club”.  We follow the bouncy dirt road until we reach a parking lot much less demurely decorated with large flags from many countries.  No Canadian flag.  We determine that when we return next summer, we will have to correct that deficit.  A wall of green fabric surrounds the pool.  We poke our heads over the cloth to see a beautiful, clean pool surrounded by deck chairs, tables and umbrellas.  To the side is a bar.  On the far side, the forever amazing views of the mountains and valleys created a beautiful backdrop.  This doesn’t just look like a pool – this is a resort. 

For a mere 3 euros each we enter the pool, change, shower, and done the requisite bathing caps (you can purchase them there for 1 euro) and jump into the pool.  It is perfect balance between warm and cool and we gratefully feel the warmth of the day drift away from our bodies.  We are the only ones at the pool other than an inordinately attractive pair of lifeguards.  Is this Baywatch, Sicilian-style?  We ask the female guard why there is no one else there.  She flashes a brilliant smile and shrugs. “It is the wind, and maybe a storm is coming.”  She waves in the direction of the clouds that are gathering in a corner of the sky.  She is right about the wind.  It has picked up and our umbrella is shaking, edge flipping up and down above us.  The wind is perfect – keeping us cool as it evaporates the water from our bodies.  I walk up to the bar and order a limonata, a refreshing lime drink, to share with Nick.  I comment on the lifeguard/bar keep’s tattoo – an interesting Asian design with a date underneath.  In a mixture of Italian and English he introduces himself as Robert Clark: he is so ultimately Sicilian looking and sounding that his name seems truly out of place, but I don’t feel like I should ask.  He explains that he runs the town’s Bushido School (we have seen the signs as we have walked through Cianciana) and was World Jiu-jitsu champion on the date beneath his tattoo.  I am suitably impressed and congratulate him.  It certainly explains his god-like physique. 

Nick and I lay in the sun for a lovely, relaxing hour with the pleasant sound of the flapping of the umbrella and the occasional shadow drifting past as clouds slowly continue to gather in the mountains lulling us to sleep.  The female lifeguard has left, returned with her 8-year-old daughter (my god!  How could that figure have produced a child?) and then left again.  Two other men have joined Robert Clark and the three sit at a table, sipping from cold bottles of beer and playing cards.  Not one other patron has entered the pool.  This is a perfect afternoon.