Dinner with La Famiglia, Part 2 - Gagliano Castelferrato

Gagliano Castelferrato Travel Blog

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In Taormina, celebrating my reunion with my cell phone by buying Turkish jewelry.
Friday, 10/9/09

Liz, Mags and I went to Taormina as soon as we got up. We went immediately to the "internet point" which had just opened at 9am. As I walked in, it was the same lady behind the counter as the day before. She looked at me and took my phone out of a drawer and held it up with a “is this what you’re looking for?” look. Yay!

We went to a pasticceria for a celebratory coffee and pastry. Delicious cornetti and Liz had an eclair (I prefer French eclairs, but the flavor and texture of the cornetti was different than a croissant in a good way). Then we spent the rest of the lovely surprise morning shopping. We found a shop called Il Turco, and wound up spending loads of euros on funky jewelry.
Gagliano Castelferrato
I got a black beaded Turkish-style necklace on a cord.

We got back to the villa, got the rest of the gang in tow, and drove both cars to Lino and Mariolina’s condo in Tremestiere Etneo, a suburb just north of Catania. The GPS guided us to what seemed like it must be across the street from their condo, but we couldn’t find the building number. We texted Lino and told him we couldn't find their building, but we were in front of a store/café called Sicily Outlet. He said that was much further up the road and he’d come to us in 15 minutes.

15 minutes later he shows up on his motorcycle with Elvy behind him, and told us he went to the BIG Sicily Outlet, which is in Misterbianco (another town over) and forgot that there was a small one just a block from their condo.
Alla famiglia!
Ah well. We collected Mariolina, they switched to a car, and our 2 cars followed his to Gagliano.

They were working on the roadway between the A19 and Gagliano - for a short distance, but it really was a dirt and boulder mess. Mags was driving and we caught a huge rock in our undercarriage and dragged it for awhile, but no damage done to the car. We drove through Gagliano to Saro’s “country house” just outside. They had set up 3 banquet tables so everyone could sit, and had paper place settings for everyone. Even MORE people came than the dinner at the villa, including Zia Petrina, and I finally met Zia Giovanna. No idea why I didn’t meet her the other two times I visited Sicily.

The family was all hanging outside waiting for us, and when we walked up it became a Fellini movie again - loud, chaotic and fun.
The four Scialfa sisters - my great grandfather's nieces: Giuseppina Gagliano, Antonina Muscarella, Giovanna Mantrino, Petrina Scialfo
We went inside to eat and the food just kept coming. Marinated eggplant and peppers and green tomatoes, then lasagna, then meatballs, sausage, veal cutlet milanese, and thick slices of pork au jus with peas, then dessert: crespelle stars filled with cream, a tart, and a fantastic tiramisu, plus fruit and nuts, of course.

Afterwards, we all went back outside to chat, and Saro came over with a bowl of pomegranate arils for everyone to eat for "good luck." My brother and Melissa were cracking up later over how they got the fruit: a couple of the cousins indicated that Eric and Mel should follow them, and they tiptoed over to the neighbor's yard, while humming the Pink Panther theme, and then they stole the pomegranates from the neighbor's yard, as my aunt looked on, wagging her finger that they were going to get in trouble.
Mom and Zia Antonina


Saro, Lino, Mariolina, Piero and the kids took us all up to see “La Rocca” - which turns out to be 14th century fortifications carved out of the natural rock formation. I had never seen it, and it was impressive, but a long climb up with some stairs, but mostly natural rock - and they kept pushing Mom up - and she kept going! But then she just got too tired, a short way from the top - and there are several rooms carved out up there. Pretty cool, and great view. But Mom did get to see the house where Great Grandpa was born & lived. I took a close-up picture of it and Piero verified that I had the right one. We saw "La Porta Falsa," - the False Door - which is now a doorway carved in rock on the top of a cliff, but used to have a wooden door and when the enemy came up to it, they'd open it and plunge to their deaths, apparently.
Saro, Mariolina, Mags, Gabriele, Piero, Illaria, Liz, Me, Roberta, Melissa, Eric, Mom, Dad at La Porta Falsa, near the top of La Rocca
There was a carved-out church, tombs, etc. And there aren't any tourists in town at all.

We came down from the rock and began chatting with an old lady with no teeth, wearing black, who seemed to be asking me if we went up to the top of the rock, I said, yes, and she asked who we were. I said we're from the US, and my mother's grandfather is from this town. She asked more but I didn't understand, so Saro came over, and it seemed like he was explaining which family they were, who was in the family, that they owned 2 stores in town, etc. The answer seemed to appease the old lady, so we kept walking. Mariolina and I sat down on the church steps and she wanted to see pix of Morgan, so I showed her the ones on my cell phone. We were finally able to catch up on our lives during the last 13 years since I last saw her (when she lived in Pisa), and got into a conversation about how she and Lino wanted more kids, but they couldn’t - she’d had several miscarriages, and then they tried fertility clinics, but they just couldn't conceive another one after Elvira.
View of Gagliano from the top of La Rocca
It was nice to have a substantial conversation and I felt like I understood 80% of it.

We took some group shots on a terrace by the church looking out at the town, chatted with some of the old folks who live at the almost deserted top of the town, by the church (which was closed again - the 3rd time I’ve tried to see it!). Then we hurriedly drove around so I could get a nice panorama shot of Gagliano before we rushed back to the relatives to say goodbye and then take off before the sun set (Mags didn't want to drive back in the dark with the roads so bad). I really wanted to get a photo of that war monument in town that mentioned the Gaglianese from Newark and Brooklyn who fought in the war because it lists all the other names in my family, but I guess I’ll have to ask one of the relatives to take one for me so we can read the names.
Close-up of the house my Great Grandpa grew up in
I also wanted to take my mom to the center of town where Aunt Giuseppina and Aunt Antonina had their stores (which are now rented out and they're retired). Mom was really choked up when we left, and so was Aunt Antonina.

The drive back was actually uneventful. The road crew had moved the boulders from the roadway. Lino insisted we meet them at the last rest stop before we split off to go to the villa so we could say our goodbyes. I’m going to miss them.

Saturday, 10/10/09

In the morning I got up early to take Liz and Mags to the airport and Roberta to Le Dune hotel for an overnighter before her flight. When I helped Roberta check in, I asked the desk clerk for a non-smoking room. He said they're all non-smoking...just open the window. Nice.

I returned the VW to Hertz and went to the cafe at the top of Catania Fontanarossa Airport to wait the couple of hours until my family and Melissa showed up for our flight.
I think this is our next Christmas card!
I eventually checked to see if there were any messages on my phone, and there were 6 - from Mom and Melissa, saying there was a problem with the flight. I got my crap together and ran down to the check-in area where they were all waiting. Apparently our airline, MyAir, had gone out of business a couple of months ago and hadn't told us (par for the course for this trip!). Melissa quickly found a flight on Meridiana and bought the last 5 tickets on the plane, and we we were off to Venice.


On to the second part of my trip...Switzerland with a couple of days in Venice (separate blog). Ciao Sicilia!
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In Taormina, celebrating my reunio…
In Taormina, celebrating my reuni…
Gagliano Castelferrato
Gagliano Castelferrato
Alla famiglia!
Alla famiglia!
The four Scialfa sisters - my grea…
The four Scialfa sisters - my gre…
Mom and Zia Antonina
Mom and Zia Antonina
Saro, Mariolina, Mags, Gabriele, P…
Saro, Mariolina, Mags, Gabriele, …
View of Gagliano from the top of L…
View of Gagliano from the top of …
Close-up of the house my Great Gra…
Close-up of the house my Great Gr…
I think this is our next Christmas…
I think this is our next Christma…
Zia Giovanna and Zia Petrina
Zia Giovanna and Zia Petrina
Zia Antonina and me
Zia Antonina and me
I think these are Pieros kids, Il…
I think these are Piero's kids, I…
Da Boyz - Lino, Saro, Vito, Dad (a…
Da Boyz - Lino, Saro, Vito, Dad (…
Mangia, mangia!
Mangia, mangia!
More food...!
More food...!
Piero and his mom, Giovanna
Piero and his mom, Giovanna
From right to left, Piero, his sis…
From right to left, Piero, his si…
Mariolina and me
Mariolina and me
Eric, Zia Giuseppina (also called …
Eric, Zia Giuseppina (also called…
Mom and Zia Antonina discussing so…
Mom and Zia Antonina discussing s…
Mangia, Mangia!  Vito helps feed A…
Mangia, Mangia! Vito helps feed …
Me and my cousin (2nd, once remove…
Me and my cousin (2nd, once remov…
Lino (Mariolinas husband, and our…
Lino (Mariolina's husband, and ou…
Illaria, Piero, Vito, Sevi and Anna
Illaria, Piero, Vito, Sevi and Anna
Rossana and Gabriele
Rossana and Gabriele
Eric, Zia Antonina and Mom
Eric, Zia Antonina and Mom
Driving up to La Rocca - the nat…
Driving up to "La Rocca" - the na…
Looking up at La Porta Falsa  - …
Looking up at "La Porta Falsa" -…
The intrepid climbers before the a…
The intrepid climbers before the …
Rooms carved out of the rock, and …
Rooms carved out of the rock, and…
Helping Mom up the treacherous slo…
Helping Mom up the treacherous sl…
La Porta Falsa
La Porta Falsa
Another view of La Rocca
Another view of La Rocca
Mom, Mariolina and I pause for a b…
Mom, Mariolina and I pause for a …
Eric and Dad take in the scenery
Eric and Dad take in the scenery
Looking down onto Gagliano from th…
Looking down onto Gagliano from t…
Look at the the white house at the…
Look at the the white house at th…
Mom posing with Great Grandpas ho…
Mom posing with Great Grandpa's h…
Gabriele
Gabriele
Ta-da!  It took 3 trips to Gaglian…
Ta-da! It took 3 trips to Gaglia…
One of the carved-out rooms - a we…
One of the carved-out rooms - a w…
La chiesa - the church - which is …
La chiesa - the church - which is…
View from the front of the church …
View from the front of the church…
Da Lunds
Da Lunds
I Siciliani e gli Americani!
I Siciliani e gli Americani!
Bye Gagliano!
Bye Gagliano!
Gagliano Castelferrato
photo by: puttyland