I’m off! We perpetual tourists (PTs, as we like to call ourselves) sometimes even leave home. Mozart balls in my pocket (don’t ask) we’re going to Sicily, and I’m completely prepared.
I have read entire books on Palermo and Syracuse; I have toured the island with Laurence Durrell; I have taken short courses on Greek history with Edith Hall and Norman Douglas. I have made notes. I am classically red-hot.
I have learned about sieges and marshes and malaria. I have been captivated by invasions and conquests and tyrants. I know about boat battles in harbors and cavalry attacks and looting and pillage and ruin. I have learned of the double wall of Syracuse built by the attacking Athenians to keep the enemy in.
I know that Constans II was killed with a soap dish in his bathtub by Andrew in 668 and that Cicero means chickpea. I have read of Santa Lucia and Santa Rosa and their miracles and bones and catacombs and caves.
Solidus of the bearded Constans II
I have been told that Palermo is named after a purple dye made from mollusk shells, and that “harena” is the Latin word for sand as it was used to soak up the blood at the public Roman games. “Odeon,” more cheerfully, means song house.
I have found The Book of Roger (1154) with maps of the world-as-it-was-known-then with Sicily right smack in the middle. I know about Frederick and falconry and Goths and Vandals and Punic Wars and Saracens and Marsala.
I know that earthquakes destroyed everything many times and Baroque was built.
In fact, I am factually full up and completely exhausted. My brain is melting into Byzantine butter. I fear that I am losing threads fast, and historical holes are popping up all over the place.
Fortunately, my husband has bought an illustrated pop-up guide to the whole island. The “must see” items are clearly listed, illustrated, and explained. We will take that slim volume with us, and all will be well.