Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Workout at C.U.S.

Today was our last Saturday workout before donning the pads on February 7th.  

Seven new Elephants joined Gianmarco Pecorraro for the two hour drive from Palermo.

Gianmarco, in the center of the bottom row with the gray ski cap, will be playing the role of Jesus Christ in several Passion Plays all over Sicily during Holy week this spring.

We met at noon at the Elephant War Room to go over the offensive and defensive playbooks and clear up any questions that they may have had.

It was a very productive session.

Catania University Sportivo (C.U.S.)

As stated earlier, we will be playing our games here at C.U.S. this season.  Yes, that IS the Ionian Sea in the distance.

The view of C.U.S. from the other end zone.
The Elephants on a Warm-Up Jog
near Brian FitzGerald's Newest Sprint Toy

I had to ask what in the world is that huge bowl-like contraption at the edge of the track?  I have never seen anything quite like it before so I asked our owner Davide, sprinter/WR Salvo Persano and WR Claudio Mangano.  The same answer from all three of them independently.

Are you ready for this?  Sprinters are supposed to train in it.  Apparently, a college professor in Italy proposed that if you ran inside this thing, the need to fight centrifugal force would make you faster... if you didn't fall due to lack of speed, visualize me or Giulio Romano running in this thing.

It seems that the good professor was able to sell these things to track facilities all over Italy.  Only later did they figure out that it didn't work but ours is still out there for you to try out.

Now Brian FitzGerald, the Track Coach at Rio Mesa H.S., is recognized as one of the very finest sprint coaches in all of American high school coaching.  If Brian can get one of these things, I know that he could make it work to the Spartans' advantage!

30 Liter Can

This is Davide Giuliano's and it will soon be holding 30 liters of olive oil for his home use.

Sicilians take their olive oil VERY seriously in case you did not know!

at last... RADIO FREE MALIBU!!!

It is with a great deal of pride and with a heavy dose of humility that I can announce to you that Malibu now has a high speed internet connection for the first time in recorded Sicilian history!  That's over 3,000 years you know.

A Close Encounter of the First Kind

 I called Laurie, Jason and our friends the FitzGeralds on Skype and they all confirmed the strength of the connection... THIS IS AWESOME!!!

Now I know some of you are thinking, is this a new internet connection for 2009 or is this last year's "Internet in ten working days" finally being installed after 13 months?

I know which way I'm leaning but I'm not saying, I'm just happy to be alive and connected.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Savoca, The Godfather and Mummies

Feeling MUCH better today so I rallied for the 30 mile drive north to the mountain top town of Savoca.

The Savoca City Limits Wall

I said Savoca was a mountain top town.

Everything is ready in case a parade breaks out. 

Rush Hour in Savoca

Chiesa Santa Lucia

The first priority was to find two of the filming locations for the movie "The Godfather".  This is the first one I stumbled upon since there is nothing posted that refers to the Francis Ford Coppola film crew ever being here, I guess the subject matter of the film probably has something to do with this.

In the movie this is the church where Michael Corleone married Apollonia.

The Bar Vitelli

This is where Michael Corleone, a.k.a., Claudio Mangano, and his two bodyguards sat down and accidently disrespected Apollonia's father who owns the bar.  They were seated at the table to the left of the door and I believe that in the movie there was a shade screen over their table since it was another scorching hot summer in Siciliy.


This lovely young lady had the dubious job of breaking my heart and having to tell me that the Bar Vitelli was CHIUSO or closed.  All I wanted was one small cup of coffee in a historic bar, no such luck!  What was I thinking showing up at 11:30 a.m. looking for sustenance in a place like the Bar Vitelli?

O.K., the Bar Vitelli was closed but the final stop in Savoca promised to be interesting to say the least, the mummies in the Convent of the Frati Minori Cappuccini.

What, they're turning the Mummy Crypt into a restaurant?
Are the Mummies are going out to dinner perhaps?

Or maybe they mean restoration.

Hi-Tech "CHIUSO" Sign

Bottom line, the Convent is closed until Feb. 20, 2009.  You know those people who can never find a mummy when they want one, well I'm one of them having struck out in both Rome and Palermo last year for the exact same reason.  Are they really closed or are they all trying to hide something from the public?

Forza d'Agro Church

This church in nearby Forza d'Agro, also appeared in "The Godfather" when Michael first sees the town of Corleone.
Padre Pio

Not in "The Godfather" but HUGE in Italy nonetheless.

Of course in these two ancient villages there were several really remarkable buildings such as these next three.

Sicilian Puppet Show

You read about these traditional puppet shows in Sicilian travel books but I have yet to see one.  These were at the small shopping center in Acireale where I shopped for groceries on the way home from a somewhat disappointing day in Savoca.

I forgot to mention that our Elephant's workout Wednesday night was sparsely attended due to the BIG calcio game in Catania's Stadium against Inter Milan.  Inter prevailed 2-0.  It was eerie to be at practice and hear the roar of the Catania calcio crowd about a mile away.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Road to Recovery is a Long One

Another long day in bed fighting this cold I caught in London, no fun!  I'm feeling a whole lot better tonight and I am going to rally Friday morning for a short road trip to Savoca about 30 miles north of Malibu near Taormina.

Why you ask?  Well, I am a life long reader of The National Geographic magazine and the February, 2009 issue that arrived in Camarillo just before I left had a feature article about "The Crypts of Sicily" and their mummies.

Savoca is also where Francis Ford Coppola filmed the wedding reception scene in "The Godfather" that was supposed to be the real western Sicilian town of Corleone.  Coppola thought that Corleone was too developed at the time of the filming in the early 1970's so he went to the east end of the island and found his perfect setting in Savoca.

It should be an interesting adventure.

If you want to read the National Geographic article on the "Crypts of Sicily" click

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Long Arm of the Law, Part II

Sorry that I have not had much to report.  I am battling a sore throat from my long, cold walks in London.  Ergo, I've been in bed a lot, just not feeling too hot.

I have rallied for our conditioning/agility workout on Monday and a workout/meeting with our rookie DB's Tuesday night.  Tonight it will be back to Catania University's Sports Stadium for another round of conditioning/agility drills.

I sent Claudio a copy of the University of Nebraska's Strength and Conditioning book and the Elephants are following it religiously.  

I paid my ticket in Florence for entering a restricted zone with my rental car.  The Florence Municipal Police e-mailed me this very nice receipt and I loved their last line "Thank you and we send best regards."

If nothing else, the Florentines are a polite people.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Italian Legal System

I opened my e-mail today to find out that Laurie had received a letter back in Camarillo yesterday from the Municipal Police of the beautiful city of Florence.  It appears that when I visited Florence last June 18th to see Mike and Vanessa, I was photographed driving my rent-a-car in a restricted area, i.e., only locals with a special permit are allowed to enter these zones.

Of course, no one at the rental company bothered to tell me about these zones and I am sure that they are probably clearly marked in Italian.

Bottom line, I owe the city of Florence 94 Euros for the ticket plus another 0.84 Euros for their postage stamp.  It was over six months ago, does anybody know anything about Italy's Statute of Limitations?

Electronic surveillance, who would have guessed it? Damn their eyes!!!

Stretching at C.U.S.

About 40 Elephants showed up at the University of Catania's Sports Complex to go through a 90 minute session of conditioning and agility drills.  A lot of good work was accomplished.

On a side note, our five home games will be played at this much more centrally located C.U.S. facility this year.

Also of note, our season opener at the home of the Ancona Doves has been switched back to Saturday, March 21, at 1:00 p.m.

A Serene Afternoon on the Ionian Sea


I did my first round of shopping today at the IPerSimply in Aci Reale.  A little bread, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar... what else do you want in life?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Team Building Evening

Sunday evening was a time for some team building so we joined some of the Elephants for dinner and a few beverages.

But first I must digress, last year at the end of the season the four Americans sat down with our owner Davide Giuliano to discuss how to make the team better and how to improve the living conditions for the imports.

While "Malibu" was a great spot for Jason, Christie and myself, Matt and Brandon's experience at "The Dorm" needed to improve dramatically.

Let's take a look at Larry, Taber and Luke's new digs in Aci Trezza, "Newport"...


The view out their front door is the side of our favorite local cafe, Mythos.  Convenient to say the least.

One of their spacious bedrooms.

Their living room

The view out of "Newport's" front window is nice.

Dinner at a new spot, Camelot,
near Castello Ursino

Bacon and Green Onion Cipolata, Veal Involtini and Bistec di Cavallo

Parking Karma?

Fondo Bianco

Atilio is the owner of the team bar.  An avid Harley-Davidson rider, I brought him this H-D T-shirt from the Camarillo store which he really appreciated with a series of complimentary beverages.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Atilio also is a staunch supporter of U.S. Navy personnel stationed at the nearby Sigonella Naval Air Station.  He is very proud of that they awarded him this U.S. flag and certificate in appreciation.   

Team Bonding is a MUST for Team Chemistry

The Phone Man Cometh

This morning Gustavo arrived with two representatives from the phone company to activate the phone line in Malibu.  The router SHOULD be in by the end of the week which means high speed INTERNET at home!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Glynis Carrodeguas and the flight to Catania

Who is Glynis Carrodeguas you ask?  She was the charming stewardess aboard my British Air flight from London's Gatwick Airport to Catania.  First, she was the winner of the recent "Great Britain Molly Slavin Look-a-Like Contest".  Molly was one of the absolute best booster club Moms in the history of North American high school football!  Glynis is a dead ringer for Molly and unfortunately the picture I took of her to prove my point didn't turn out well as a shaft of sunlight through the porthole window behind her ruined the shot, DAMN!  In talking to her I found out that she, like most of the Europeans I met last year, was not a George Bush fan.  The only way I could make sense of her viewpoint on Mr. Bush was that her ancestors must have worked in the Tower of London in the Glory Years under King Henry VIII.

Check-in at Gatwick was smooth taking a total of maybe five minutes from baggage drop off to security screening.  The flight it self was smooth as well but we only had 37 customers on board with only about 20% of the seats being filled.  I had a seat on the aisle in the exit row and was the only person in any of this row's six seats.

Good British Air news, they did not lose my bags on either of my two flights this week!!!

Elephants at Catania's Fontanarossa Airport

They came out to greet me, our new American DB, Larry Atkinson is next to me and a lot of the new faces are players who have joined us from last year's Palermo teams.  It was great to see and meet  everyone.

Arancini Ball at Etoile D'Or

The first stop was obvious, REAL SICILIAN FOOD.  An arancini ball is deep fried rice with an infusion of cheese and meat with rich ragu sauce!

Squisita Pizza at Jonica's Pizzeria

This is a Sicilian individual pizza at one of our favorite haunts in Aci Castello.  This particular one has ham, mushrooms, pistacchio, Swiss cheese and panna which is sour cream.  DELICIOUS!!!

The Guys outside Jonica's

We went to Jonica's for my first night in Catania just like last year.  Good food but the renewal of friendships was better!

Chiara, always funny and animated, was the first Pink Elephant I saw this year.

I woke up this Sunday morning to this view out my window at Malibu of the Ionian Sea.

It is still VERY brisk here because of winds that we did not experience last year.

Two of the Savia Bakery's Pistacchio Cannoli

At 11:30 a.m. my doorbell rang with a home delivery of these two beauties!  Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang again with another delivery, a warm chocolate tartufone hidden under the Savia napkins.

Let the diet begin... on Monday!

Roberta attempting to take a taste of the cannoli.

Roberta and Claudio were the deliverers of the cannoli while Gustavo brought the tartufone.

It was fun to see them and share some breakfast pasteries.

The first of many I'm sure!

Today is "International Jet-Lag Day" in Italy so I had to honor the cultural folkways of my host country.  This called for almost an entire day in bed getting up only for another slice of tartufone, the cannoli were long gone by the time my guests had left.

"I'm feeling better!"

London Pub Signs

As I have stated in past visits to London, I am really fascinated by the signs posted outside of London area pubs to try to entice you into joining them for a pint.

I ate lunch at this one in Covent Garden on Thursday

Good food, good atmosphere

The scene of my Friday mid-day repast.

The rest of these were ones I liked but did not have the time to visit their pub, hope you like them.