From clay to decoration. Ceramic in Caltagirone

Caltagirone is a town in the district of Catania, in between Iblei and Erei mountains. I arrived there through Ss 124 coming from the innerland. I had a wish: to visit the Varsallona family factory.
I had the pleasure to be guest of the Varsallona family for a day and, thanks to that, I’ve got to know one of the most colourful tradition in Sicily.
The laboratory and the shop owed by the family are one of the most important thing happening in Caltagirone.
Riccardo is the creator of this reality and he started to be a student of artisanal art when he was a teenager.
Caltagirone itself is one of the best place to be when you want to admire and buy fine ceramics from Sicily.
The city of Caltagirone has become iconic for his beautiful and long stair going up to the Santa Maria del Monte church with his 152 steps decorated with polychrome majolicas. This stair represents how affectionate the people are to artisanal handycraft.

When I start the tour with Giuseppe Varsallona I didn’t know how pottery was made and everything was looking weird and cahotic to me and this feeling became the opposite after his relevant and punctual explanations.
Clay is a rock that mixed with water becomes malleable. First step to use this malleability is put it in a mold while is wet. It can stay wet a couple of days depending on the humidity and temperature of the place where it is.

When it dries it’s time to add some details and decorations that would make the piece unique together with the painting process. After details are added it’s time for the Bisque firing (or Biscuit because after this process the clay becomes brown).

After this process the glaze will be applied in a way that pottery can be colourproof and so painted. This is where Andrea Varsallona excells, Apart from his own genuine and “futuristic” project: ceramic sculptures fired on high temperature without oxygen reaction. Andrea talent helped by this special process made a stunning result: iridenscent figures, unique pieces of pure art that has to perform necessarly while there is an active audience. All those beautiful colours can be appreciated only when you move around Andrea’s sculptures.

Road to Eraclea Minoa

Eraclea is an ancient greek city located in the district of Agrigento in Sicily. This area is packed of beautiful greek ruins and stunning landscapes.

When the Scirocco wind blows here everything changes.

Strong events and tan sandy sky take over and the landscape is affected considerably. Like almost everywhere in Sicily the weather shapes the territory as well as the mood of the people living or travelling here. Who is not ready to face big changings is not ready to embrace the beauty of this rough land as well as its most fine secrets.

Eraclea Minoa has a wonderful easy -to- access beach surrounded by a maritime pine tree forest growing onto a white marlstone cliff which rises nude soometimes, especially on the west part of the beach to admit its majestic nature. When the tide allows that, you can walk along side the cliff and reach the mouth of Platani river that flows in the Platani river natural reserve, an other perl of the Agrigento province.

The condition of this shore is, like unfortunately happens very often in Sicily, quite polluted. Even if waters are clear and nice, they carry, especially after a Scirocco storm, a certain amount of rubbish. On a quick vew, it is visible that Agrigento province itself has suffered a lot for illegal building over the years. Driving around this amazingly beautiful area, among cliffs and hills it is a shame to spot huge palaces among greek temples and theatre dating more than 2000 years. I love Agrigento province bytheway, and I will be always happy to pay a visit to this enchanted lands.

I strongly believe that ignoring history or nature would let this sad goal of modern human being take over and win his hugly battle against the beauty. And that’s why it is necessary to claim it, writing about it, travelling around it, being into it.

The clown senza frontiere Austria at the Timbuktu hostel

So we did: organize a beautiful afternoon for the kids of all the villag e in Sanvito Lo capo, to have fun, talk about this beautiful group of clowns and their activity, to laugh togheter.

Finally we had some real “young” guests at the hostel thanks to the clown senza frontiere.

The Show was playful, the girls are fantastic.

Check their facebook page for more info and updates.

Saint Vito celebrations in June

The “antenna a mare” is
a game where a mast is put in horizontal position at the Sanvito Lo Capo harbour with a flag at the end. Participants have to walk all the way till the end on a soapy surface to grab the flag. No need to underline that this thing can become dangerous. It takes place around 16:30 during the patron saint day, the 15th of every June.
Same day the saint (a “live version of him”) arrives from the sea in a boat. Everybody Onshore waits for him to have a procession till the Sancuary and fireworks for the religious community.

It’s an other tradition where sacred and profane melt into the same frame of celebration, the same day, the same supporting elements which are the sea, the boats and the crowds watching, living and rewarding them.

Greek Ruins

No matter how crazy living in Sicily drives me, during this fake “modern” times I take always my time to appreciate places where I grew up, once again, beautiful thanks to the long time ago facts.

Segesta is one of the biggest archeological site in Sicily, a place of interest for those who wants to approach sicilian ancient history.

Segesta can be reached by the highway A29 (PA-Mazzara).

These big area includes a Temple (still not known if to worship Cerere or Diana) an Agora, a majestic and panoramic Theatre (it lays on the slopes of mount Barbaro) with a stunning vew on the Castellammare gulf and Mount Inici, and other finds from classic age. Not to mention that still in the same area there are hot springs, little fresh water rivers and canyons to be visited.

I always considered my education with a lot of passion. I loved to study what I wanted to study and the feeling that I couldn’t trust what was told to me at the school had his big proof the first time I went to have a look to my (literally) “backyard”. Segesta is not even half of hour driving from where I used to live with my family. The very first time I was there I couldn’t enjoy like I wanted to. I was feeling overwhelmed by my own ignorance about sicilian history. In school they were teaching stories of far away things and skipping the very closest ones in time, for the sake of the bloody unification of Italy and consequent rising of poverty and rebels movement in the south, and in miles, I suppose, to improve a feeling of modesty and awe in the southern people to eventually become a subservient colony. There is indeed a whole hidden history on how the rich south became poor and got rubbed to make the unification wished by the Savoy kindom possible but I won’t talk about it in this article. I wanted just to mention the great feeling of ignorance I experienced And how miserable I thought my studies of “great things in Rome and elsewere I maybe see one day” were.

That’s how I started to build my personal knowledge about my history, throughout books and frequent visits everytime I was around Trapani.

Beauty on the way

Today I was cleaning the porch and patio space while in my mind I had the little project of saving some mint plants.

They where gorgeously blooming and many bees and indigo blue butterflies where hanging around. This feast was making me so happy that I couldn’t touch the plant for days, even knowing that once they make the flowers they start to die.

I was quite resigned about mint life cycle, and let it be for a while for the insects to enjoy, when my grandma told me there might be a way to save it.

I tried with a couple of plant from the graden. I chose to not try with all of the mint plants we have at the Timbuktu Hostel, cause I’m not sure I’m the right person to take care of life, no matter if it is human, animal or vegetal. I started to cut them following strict suggestions making my way into the bees and the purple flowers.

What I was left with was a several bunch of parfumed flowers and unhealthy mint leaves. I thought they were looking beautiful anyway so I decided to put them in different buckets and make a “show” of their last chance to live. I left buckets everywhere around the veranda where every guest chills and eats and talks. One was left with this wicker busket in front of the main door so everybody could almost step on his beauty.

Somethings are meant to show their beauty from their very last beginning to their very last and tragic end. That’s their purpose, I believe, that’s their only way to be.

Sunsetting around Trapani

In the western facing little seaside towns, Sunset is a must to see. Around the western costline in Sicily is such a deal that doesn’t lead to any romantic attachment anymore. People from Trapani are so into the sunset that they always try to get along with it. It’s a show that our world offers on a daily basis and this doesn’t make it boring at all not even if you attend it every single day.

A very common and lovely routine here around is to invite friends for “sunsetting” together. That makes it the most social part of the day. Even when alone, it is still something that makes you willing to stop for a second, no matter where you are. Watching the most special star falling behind the horizon is the best and chilled part of the day.

Here is a list of what I belive are the Best spots to have the greatest enlightments of your life: “Punta Sottile” lighthouse in Favignana island, Faraglioni in Favignana island,

Lazzaretto in the old Trapani harbour, Mount Erice at Venus castle gardens,

Stagnone Lagoon sault farms,

Mount Monaco in Sanvito Lo Capo,

Mount Cofano at Cornino side, Macari bay

Sanvito Lo Capo lighthouse