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Hello From Sicily – Italian Studies, a Pottery Lesson and a Hike Up Mount Etna
After a good night’s sleep after learning how to cook last night I woke up around 6am and walked out onto the balcony of my hotel room. The sun had just risen, and the sky was filled with purple and purple shades. From far away I could see the image of a small part of the landscape: the country of Italy, especially the Province of Calabria, was visible on a clear day for the first time. The distance between Taormina and the southern tip of Italy is about 40 kilometers, and the view of the sunset across the Ionian Sea was simply beautiful.
I decided to get up early and wander around beautiful Taormina, before the hustle and bustle of the day. My hotel, Hotel Villa Nettuno, is in the north of town on Via Pirandello, outside the city gates. . I really enjoyed the location as it was quiet and away from Corso Humberto, Taormina’s main street in the pedestrian area.
After walking through the northeast Porta di Messina I came to a quiet place in front of the Palazzo Corvaja, the first seat of the Sicilian Parliament and today the site of Taormina’s tourist office. A few locals had already boarded, the taxi drivers were getting ready for their first payment, while Corso Humberto was deserted. I arrived at the main square of Taormina: Piazza IX Aprile which has a beautiful view overlooking the Mediterranean and Mount Etna. Two churches, San Giorgio and San Giuseppe, adorn the square, and the famous Torre dell’ Orologio (“clock tower”), which houses the Porta di Mezzo gate, and the famous Wünderbar Café set up a public space to its west. I was able to see even more mountains today on a very clear day. Not many views can compare to the beautiful view that spread out before me from this vantage point.
My walk along Corso Umberto continued to the western edge of town where I passed Porta di Catania, the western gate of the city that houses the Municipality of Taormina. From there I walked to a small park with a beautiful view of Mount Etna. After taking this beautiful picture and trying to burn it forever in my eyes I started back, this time along the Via Roma, which is in the southernmost part of the town above the shore of the Ionian Sea. No wonder Taormina is a popular tourist destination, the beauty of the town and the surrounding area is amazing.
Well, after an hour long journey I definitely deserve my breakfast and a little revision of Italian grammar on the beautiful terrace of the Hotel Villa Nettuno before going to Babilonia Language School. At 9:30 our lesson started and our grammar teacher Carlo introduced us to “preposizioni semplici” – prepositions in Italian that are made from combining the words together with the subject. Prepositions are always a difficult subject in any language, and Carlo patiently and succinctly explained to us the use of “in” or “per” to express time in various contexts. We continued with various games to help us remember to use the first Italian words, a fun and effective way to learn and retain difficult language concepts.
Before noon I had the chance to finish asking some more questions: Alessandro, the director of Babilonia, put me in touch with Donatella Rapisardi, an artist from Taormina, who offers Pottery Decoration Classes to Babilonia students. For thousands of years, Sicily has been associated with cultures: the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Swebians, the Spanish and the French have all left their marks in this culturally rich region, and pottery has become an important profession. in Sicily for centuries.
I met Donatella at the Hotel del Corso there, in Corso Umberto, where she offers pottery classes on the rooftop with a beautiful view of the Palazzo del Duca Santo Stefano and Mount Etna in the background. The weather was beautiful, the sky was blue: I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to paint clay than Donatella’s rooftop retreat.
Donatella Rapisardi is a talented home-based artist who specializes in a variety of projects. He also leads the organization called “Grupo Artistico de Perseo” which manages various exhibitions and art in the whole town and the whole region. The team consists of five permanent members and several other allied professionals who are connected to Donatella and her team. In addition to ceramics, Donatella also creates works of art using marble and different types of stone) and directs the restoration of wood.
He also explained that the lesson on pottery decoration begins with pieces of ordinary terracotta such as pots or tiles on which the students put the designs they want to paint. Two different types of techniques used to paint pottery, Donatella explained in his Italian gun: “lavorare a freddo” means that the pieces are painted without firing them, and “lavorare a caldo” means painted clay pieces that are fired. oven to keep the foil.
Traditional Sicilian colors such as blue, yellow and green are often used to decorate the ceramics, although the students have full freedom to create their own designs and choices. Donatella guides them, gives suggestions and gives advice to the students when they need it. He explained that tiles offer an advantage because they are easy to carry and transport and they provide a great place to create pictures.
The course includes three lessons per week, and is very popular with Babylonian language students from Japan and the United States. Donatella added that Japanese students in particular are very precise and detailed and very gifted when it comes to applying decorative paint to pottery. This may have something today to do with the famous Japanese culture of calligraphy.
Often Donatella’s students become her friends and she invites them to her home and exchange recipes: Donatella will make different Sicilian crafts while her students prepare different flavors from their country. He revealed that to this day he still receives emails from his former Japanese students years ago, and he is always happy when he receives letters from foreign countries from his former students.
After living in Umbria, another beautiful region in Italy, Donatella returned to Taormina a few years ago which she enjoys and which inspires her art. She also teaches art classes for children and volunteers at other local schools. He showed me a few pieces he had finished with his three works of art. I said I would like to see his studio to see more of his art. Maybe next time.
Following this exciting side trip, another adventure was waiting for me: by 2:30 pm eleven people gathered in front of the Babylonian Language School, ready to climb Mount Etna whose peak is at an altitude of more than 3200 meters. Peppe Celano, the social coordinator in Babylon and one of the language teachers, was ready to inform us about the highest mountain in Sicily and the volcano.
To be honest, Mount Etna had just erupted a few days ago on April 30, but unfortunately I didn’t see it. The eruption lasted only a few hours, and one of my fellow students saw a red stream of lava at night! So today we can see the biggest volcano in Europe is near.
Peppe had rented a minivan and a minivan. Our trip to the south parking lot of Mount Etna took about an hour and twenty minutes. We passed through local towns such as Giarre and Zafferana Etna where Peppe explained that near this area the Arabs used to grow saffron, hence the name.
It was a rainy day and it was very cold, a windproof jacket and a nice sweater were just right. We parked our cars at a remote parking lot and got ready to ride. The lower part of our hike took us into a forest area where the leaves were just beginning to emerge. It is not surprising that at an altitude of about 2000 meters, the growth of plants is slow, even on an island as hot as Sicily.
Peppe explained that local fauna includes chestnut, oak and birch trees that have been here since the last ice age. We walked single file along a small path full of roots and rocks, on the side of a hill overlooking the “Valle del Bove” (Valley of the Cow), a place with layers upon layers of lava. .
Our descent continued for about an hour and took us from 2000 m in altitude to 2400 m to a vantage point, overlooking the latest lava flow in the Valle del Bove. The area above the mountain stretched out before us. Our area was a side meeting that was chosen by a cross and a wide natural path that our group used as a good vantage point for our group to conquer Mount Etna. We spent about half an hour at the summit of this side, chatting, taking pictures and enjoying our mountain tour.
On the way down three women, one from Switzerland, one from Germany and one from Austria (me) ran down the mountain in about 20 minutes. Going down was much easier than going up, and almost running down this steep mountain road was fun in itself. After the rest of the hikers arrived, we set off to visit the winery. The vineyards of “Murgo” were about 15 minutes away, located at the foot of the fertile Mount Etna and many people in our group bought red, white and sparkling wines. A lively conversation ensued in the car and by 7pm we were back at school.
After a little refreshment at the hotel, our group met at a restaurant called “Trocadero” near Porta di Messina, where we were going to have a nice dinner. For some of us this Thursday evening was our last night in Taormina; I was leaving tomorrow night for Milazzo while someone else was going to the Eolian Islands. Most of our members are leaving Taormina this weekend, and we were all commenting on how much we enjoyed our experience.
Everyone around the table spoke German: we had three people from Germany, two from Switzerland and me, from Austria. Considering the linguistic differences in all German-speaking countries, we all mentioned that each of us should speak “Hochdeutsch” (Standard German) so that the whole group could be understood. We all speak strong languages that are not understandable to German speakers from other areas, so we get by, speaking our own language. For me meeting other Europeans was very interesting. Having lived in Canada for over 20 years, I have never met German-speaking people, so the experience of enjoying a delicious meal, speaking in my native language was very exciting.
By 9:30 pm I was getting very tired as I had already walked an hour through Taormina before breakfast, followed by another walk through town to meet Donatella, the pottery artist, after a short but tiring walk. above Mount Etna. And tomorrow would be my last day in Taormina, so it was time to relax.
One thing is for sure, when you come to Taormina to study a language you will not get bored.
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