Sunday, March 1, 2009

Assault on Tortorici

As Sunday approached, we prepared to use the reconnaissance information we gathered last Friday for another assault on the mountain fortress that is the DiPaolo family stronghold in Tortorici.

If you were not with us for the last episode of our saga, Carmen DiPaolo is a longtime friend of Paul's who has coached for decades in the Ventura/Santa Barbara Counties of southern California.  As I understand it, Carmen's grandfather, Carmello, left the idyllic life of his native Sicily to go to America many Italian governments ago.  Since Carmen has never left the New World in his travels, we decided to gather photographic proof of his ancestry.  

We prepared our limited winter gear for the journey over the Nebrodi Mountains for our planned lightning strike, again using the north face of Mt. Etna as our approach route.

We suffered an early setback when our Wing Man, Denver Wade, was taken out of the action due to some gibberish about having to study.  I don't know, it may have gotten lost in the translation from the ancient Greek/Latin that he uses to write all of his messages to us.  Paul, our decoder, is fluent in several languages but unfortunately these are not two of them.  We forged on as a now more mobile strike force.

The Bread Man of Fiumefreddo

Fortunato "Call Me Lucky", introduced this GREAT bakery to me last spring.  We stopped for supplies not knowing how long the clandestine campaign might take.

The Cheese Man of Fiumefreddo

What the Hell, if you are going to have bread you might as well have a hunk of cheese too!  How could I say "No" to this face?

The City Hall of one of the dozens of mountain villages we passed through on our journey.

Paul at his observation post seeing if we were being followed.

So far, so good!

Did Austin lose his Mojo AGAIN?

If so, we know where Dr. Evil hid it this time.

They said that it would get serene as we got closer to Tortorici and they were right!

Where did the roof go?

A goat or a clever disguise?  You decide.

A Horse Farm or a Horse Meat Farm?

That Shetland pony makes me hungry.

An innocent looking building but you can't be too careful!


... But not until we've had some nourishment.

The wind in this Alpine-like town was blowing hard enough to make me lose my balance a bit.  We decided that we needed shelter from the elements if we were going to continue now that we were SO close to Tortorici.

The "A Baracca Du Rizzu"

That translates into English as "One GREAT place for meat".  Located in Ucria, they did not disappoint us!

Two huge meat and cheese antipastos, two Fantas, two Heinekens, two copertos (service charges) and two large and incredible sausages all for only 32 Euros.  A good deal that got even better.

When they brought me the 32 Euro check, I plopped down a 50 Euro bill to pay for this delicious repast.  The waitress did not want to bother with change so she gave me a 20 Euro note as change.  So much easier than having to count out 18 Euros in a combination of paper and coined money (there is no one Euro note).  We left the extra two Euros she gave us as a tip.

Finally,feeling fat and sassy, we saw Tortorici down in a valley.

The Neighborhood of San Paolo

We're getting REALLY close!

I felt MUCH safer knowing that Tortorici is a
"Nuclear Free Zone"!!!

And for goodness sake, don't even think about honking your horn!!!  No nukes and no horns... I like this town already.

Tortorici is actually mentioned once in the book "Sicily, Three Thosand Years of Human History" that I recently reviewed on one of my blog posts.  In the 1950's as land reform was attempting to put land belonging to the Duke of Maniace up for sale so that the peasants who worked the land, land that for centuries had been owned by one of Sicily's major land barons, could now be theirs.

Great idea except that the Duke told the peasants to buy NOW or they would sell the land to others and thus throw the peasants off the land.  In order to buy the land in question, peasants went to the the nearby towns of Randazzo and our own Tortorici to borrow the money.  It was common, it turns out, for the peasants to be charged interest rates on their loans that ranged anywhere from 35% to as high as 50%!  Oh, the Duke also charged them twice what the land was worth, gave them only five years to pay and if a payment was missed the land went bacxk to the Duke. 

Nobody said it would EVER be easy to be a peasant.

Theses two Tortorici Home Boys made us VERY nervous indeed.

The statue honoring Tortorici's dead from World War I


Included in the Honor Roll of the citizens from Tortorici who gave up their lives defending Italy in "The Great War" were Francesco DiPaolo and Giovanni DiPaolo.  I assume relatives of Carmen and his sister.

A Fountain in the Town Square

Also in the Town Square was this sculpture entitled "Fusion".

For a while I thought this man had figured out our mission.

I was wrong about him and it turned out that this village was an absolute delight.

They even had a life size statue of our son Michael's favorite 20th Century saint,
Padre Pio.

As I have stated before, though trailing Jesus by a large margin, I think he may have passed the B.V.M. for the #2 spot in Italian spiritual circles.

Koreen, get this poor guy a new window treatment PLEASE!

Tortorici's 2008 Urban Renewal Plan

Urban Renewal Accomplished ON TIME!

On Time? In Italy?

Marika, our friendly server at a cafe in Tortorici.

Here she tries to direct us to the road where the last known DiPaolo family relative resides, one Maria Mazzurco.  Maria's grandmother Angela was Carmen's grandfather Carmello's sister.  Carmello came to America and Angela stayed in Tortorici to marry one Sebastian Mazzurco.  Unfortunately, my Garmin GPS did not recognize the street name that Carmen's mysterious, unnamed sister sent me via a blog comment last Friday.  Even if it did we had no street number for Maria's home and the directions that Marka gave us with great animation and a winning smile were WAY lost on us... WE TRIED!!!

By the way, Marika didn't even bat an eye when we ordered two cappuccinos at 3:00 p.m.!  This is considered a MAJOR social mistake by the Sicilians for some as of yet unexplained reason.

The City of Messina

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  We were none the worse for wear and our trip to Tortorici was a GREAT success so it was time to let off a little steam in Messina which, as we all know is the key to Sicily!

Laurie loves Lady Bugs

Did I mention that she arrives in Catania in only 19 more days?

Laurie, not the Lady Bug.

The Messina Cathedrals famous calendar was off by about two months.

But their VERY COOL clock was working just fine!

Messina's Harbor with Calabria's Mountains, the "toe" of the Italian peninsula, in the distance.

Why, in the name of the Florio family, haven't they ever built across the two mile Straits of Messina?

Paul taking a self-portrait of the Assault Team

Is there any better way to celebrate success than with a HUGE Blood Orange gelato?

King Neptune Reigns Over the Messina Waterfront

I love Art Deco Graphics

A GREAT one word motto if I ever saw one!

An Italian verb that translates as "To Win"!

A final "THANK YOU" to the DiPaolo family for giving us a reason to have enjoyed such a great journey.

Also a big "THANK YOU" to all of you who read or are regular followers of this blog.  According to Google Analytics, during the month of February, 2009, there were 4,420 visits to the blog from people residing in SEVENTY different countries!


Andrew said...


Got the wedding pictures today (faster than I thought!). Thanks again.

George said...

Just as I predicted, the Italian Postal Service is now faster and more efficient thanks to their latest technological breakthrough, i.e., "TAKE A NUMBER".