Sunday, June 4, 2017

258. And now to Catania ...

So after a busy three week stay it was good-bye to chaotic Naples, and here I come Catania, Sicily for my next adventure ...


Situated on the east coast of Sicily, Catania is the second largest city on the Italian island ( after the capital Palermo ) and is an important economic hub for the country. The metropolitan city has a population of just over one million inhabitants.

Its most famous landmark is Mount Etna – lying just over 34 kms to the NorthWest. The active volcano last erupted in 2015 – I can just see her crown from my bedroom window so am keeping a watchful eye on her and kinda hopeful that she might behave herself during my stay.

This city was originally founded as a Greek colony in ancient times and since then has been part of numerous Empires and cultures including the Carthaginians, the Roman Republic, the Ostrogoths and eventually became part of the Kingdom of Italy.


My train takes me from Naples four hours south to Villa San Giovanni where the carriages - with us still on board - are shunted into the hull of a ferry for the 30 minute voyage across the Straights to Messina. Once under way the passengers are allowed up on deck for the duration. 


 Welcomed in Latin by the golden figure of Jesus the ferry docks, the train is unloaded - with one half going to Palermo in the North and the other half ( so my fellow Italian passengers assured me ) two hours south to Catania.


Eventually I arrive at my Airbnb apartment in the centre of the city - on the third floor - with no lift - 82 steps ... !!! ... but with a nice cool outlook on the hot streets below and beyond. My new home for three weeks.


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This week's international environmental news has been some-what grim with the USA Administration pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, so I am dedicating this first blog from Sicily to our wonderful - but oh-so-under-threat - planet earth, and in unity with several US and worldwide cities declaring their "greenness" - this is my GREEN blog ...


Sited in the centre of this busy noisy delightful Italian city is the beautiful green oasis of the Giardini Bellini and Parco Maestranze. Honouring the genius of Catania's most famous and best loved son, Vincenzo Bellini, the gardens and surrounding parklands were first dedicated in 1883. 





  Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini ( 1801 – 1835 )
An Italian opera composer, a native of Catania 
and probably best known for his tragic opera “Norma” …




 Androne ...
 

 Throughout the gardens are many statues and busts honouring famous Sicilian men ( ... I am rather saddened though that there is no recognition of any Sicilian women here ... )


 Giuseppe Mazzini  ( 1805 – 1872 )
An Italian politician, journalist and activist for the unification of Italy and spearheaded the Italian revolutionary movement. His efforts helped bring about the independent and unified Italy in place of the several separate states, many dominated by foreign powers, that existed up and into the 19th century.


unknown and rather startled young man …


To my delight the gardens feature two of my most favourite trees - firstly there are several stands of the grand Peppercorn Tree ( Schinus molle ) ... I just love this tree, and on this very hot morning it was an absolute joy to walk in its shade and breath in its most distinctive perfume ( anyone who grew up in the Australian bush will know what I'm talking about ... ) ...
  

Lots of ancient memories of shaded stock yards and cubby-houses built with the annual lopped branches of the Peppercorn tree came flooding back as I wandered down the green avenues ...

 
 the distinctive Peppercorn Tree

 Carlo Gemmellaro ( 1787 – 1866 )
An Italian geologist and volcanologist 
and the leading expert on the study of Mount Etna.



... And my other favourite is the beautiful Oleander tree ( Nerium oleander ) with its jolly red, white and pink flowers - with its very distinctive sweet-but-not-sweet perfume ... and again, a great favourite for just about every Australian bush garden from a time past.


 

 

 Vincenzo Cutelli   
Roman Catholic prelate 
who served as Bishop of Catania ( 1577-1589 )


... and there on the other side of the street a late flowering Jacaranda tree ( Jacaranda mimosifolia ) ... another Australian botanical icon that I grew up with ...


Director of the Temple
 


 Member of the Sozzi banking family



 No information on this great horseman …

 ... end of flowering Wisteria vine - yes, another favourite ...

 

Pietro Platania ( 1828 – 1907) Italian composer from Catania

 

So there you have it - a hot morning well spent in the cool shade of this beautiful green Sicilian parkland, meeting up with several favourite trees from my younger days spent growing up in the Australian bush ... sigh ... 

And hopefully - despite the attempts of many corrupt and short-sighted business and political leaders around the globe - our environment will heal for the safety and well-being of generations to come ...