Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Acireale Lunch

After our nice Sunday night passeggiata in Acireale, we decided to go back and have a nice, relaxing pasta lunch there Wednesday.

Will all these April showers indeed
bring May flowers?

Ristorante L'Oste Scuro di Vicenzo Fazio

Paul and I discovered this nice little place back in February before Laurie and I got here.  We tried to eat dinner here last Sunday but they were closed.  They specialize in all sorts of seafood pasta.

Here you see Laurie just before her first ever plate of Spaghetti al Nero, my personal favorite that I went against for once by ordering Spaghetti alla Vongole.

Spaghetti al Nero is made from the black ink of the Cuttlefish.  The Cuttlefish is a sea creature that looks halfway between a squid and a tiny octopus.  Marinate pieces of the Cuttlefish in a little olive oil with garlic and add some white wine, then add the black ink at the end and VOILÁ you get a delicious sweet sauce.

There is one minor problem with this fabulous dish...

It is NOT a good choice on your first date!!!

You can obviously see that Laurie made a great choice by wearing a basic black outfit to lunch.

On the other hand, one should never smile for a photo while eating Spaghetti al Nero.

Fortunately our first date happened in July, 1965.  44 years of dating is a long time, so her smile here is OK for me.

Benito, is that you?

Hey look, a rare old Catholic Church!

What set this one apart is that it was the ONLY one on this block.

Acireale even has something for people who are Disneyholics

They even have a Carabinieri Office in Acireale

I love their symbol under this statue's feet.  On a Carabinieri's hat it is huge.  It looks heavy enough to be considered a weapon.

The entrance to a very interesting
private villa.

The Villa Belvedere is a public park

The Villa Belvedere offers a nice view of the Ionian Sea.

That's not a bad shot of a cute lampadina too.

Sicily, a land of myths and legends

Most people are not aware that much of Greek mythology centers around the island of Sicily which during the Golden Age of Greece was a very important Greek outpost.

Much of Homer's "Odyssey", written ca. 800 B.C., relates to life in Sicily.

At this statue and fountain in Villa Belvedere, you see the death of Acis with his love Galatea in shock and disbelief.

Now, according to Ovid's "Metamorphoses" written in ca. 1 A.D., Acis was a 16 year old mortal lad who was a shepherd that tended a flock on the side of Mt. Etna.  Acis had a torrid love affair with the older Galatea who was and probably still is a Nereid sea goddess.  This makes Galatea one of the earliest recorded "Cougars".

Unfortunately for the two of them, Polyphemus, better known in mythology as the Cyclops who ruled the Ionian Sea coast of Sicily, was passionately in love with Galatea as well.  Unforunately for the Cyclops, Galatea hated him.  With this many unfortunates in one paragraph something bad has to happen and sure enough, when Polyphemus discovers this verboten, oops München beer flashback, forbidden love between a mortal and a goddess he does the only thing a self respecting Cyclops can do and kills Acis by hitting him with a rock!

Galatea takes pity on Acis and turns him into a gushing river that runs all the way from Mt. Etna to the Ionian Sea where the two lovers will be forever reunited.

Today Sicily, though having dropped the "s" from Acis' name, still boasts of the River Aci and several towns that honor his memory like Acireale, Aci Trezza, Aci Catena, Aci San Amtonio, Aci Bonaccorsi and our very own Aci Castello where Malibu overlooks the Ionian Sea.

We had very turbulent waves here two night ago.  You don't think that Acis and Galatea were... 

My little Ray of Sunshine!

"HEY, DAMN IT!  Who just threw that rock at me!  You almost hit me!"

The Joys of IFL Travel

"Italy's Never On Time Airline"

This coming Saturday night we play the Doves at their home field in the very liberal city of Bologna at 8:30 p.m.

The Elephants travel via Wind Jet for all of our off island experiences since they are one of our team sponsors.  This arrangement at times rivals another great sports deal from 50 years ago...

"Damn Yankees!"

... the day Joe Hardy sold his soul to the Devil to help the old Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) win the 1956 American League championship!

Point in case, the only flight we can catch out of Catania to get to Bologna in time for the game leaves our fair city at 6:40 a.m. and arrives in Forlí at 8:10 a.m. a full TWELVE HOURS and TWENTY MINUTES before kickoff!

After the one hour bus ride to Bologna we will eat lunch in one of the best eating cities in all of Italy and take in some of the downtown sights all thanks to our partners, Wind Jet!

Sometimes a great deal costs more than you think.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Rare Tuesday in Palermo

Because this Friday, May 1st is the Labor Day National Holiday in Italy, we will not practice on Friday for our Saturday night game in Bologna against the Doves.  Instead we will work on Wednesday and Thursday nights in Catania thus necessitating that we meet with the West Coast Elephants in Palermo on Tuesday.

Rookie Linebacker Davide Leotta

Davide has drawn a 24 hour shift this Wednesday at work so he asked to come with us to Palermo on Tuesday to get in some work.  We got to find out a lot about him during our day together.

Davide is 30 years old and has been married for almost three years to Alessandra, a lovely Roman girl.  He is a sargeant in the Italian Air Force who works security at the U.S. Naval Air Station in nearby Sigonella.  A Catania native, this is his 12th year in the Air Force, having previously been stationed in Pisa and Rome where he met Alessandra.  As a teen-ager he played water polo at a very high level in Catania for six years.

Although he had never seen an Elephants' game until this season, he had heard about the team and decided to give American football a try.  He got into his first game last Saturday against the IFL's top team at the moment, the 5-1 Bolzano Giants.  On his first play ever, he actually made the tackle!  Of course he had to use the running back's face mask to do it, earning a 15 yard penalty.

Al Davis heard about it and picked Davide in the last round of the NFL draft for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.  Al reportedly said "The one thing you can't coach is cheating! This Davide kid is a natural!"

Davide told us that he is still weighing his options.

Palermo Architecture

It ranges from the very old...

... to the recent old...

... to the Mussolini era style of the Poste e Telegrafi Building...

... to God knows what in the modern era...

Spinnato Pasticcheria

Spinnato's is one of Palermo's oldest and best eating spots, it first opened it's doors in 1860!  The mandorla and ananas gelato REALLY hit the spot after a nice sausage pasta and swordfish steak lunch at Trattoria Basile, one of my favorite eating places in Palermo for a hearty lunch.

Cruise Ship Girls from Austria

These two youngsters from Salzburg are on a one week cruise of the Mediterranian sailing out of Genoa and were enjoying a caffe' and the sun at Spinnato's.

Paul struck up a conversation with them, weaved his magic and eventually got them to pose for this picture.

He also got my elbow.

I wonder if he used his famous "cuisine" setting on his new camera?

1 on 1 Blitz Pick-Up Drill

LB Davide Leotta about to use one of his dirty Raider tricks on unsuspecting OT Andrea Specchiarello.

Two Blurs out of the Chutes

RB/WR and newly recruited DB Roberto Paderni in the white jersey and DB Emanuele "Manolo" Gariffo racing each other during their conditioning at the end of practice.

Another good day in Palermo for food, friendship and football!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Becoming a Peri Longo

A Peri Longo, I was informed by my softball friends, is a person who travels around a lot discovering all that is around him.  They think that we fit the definition, I think they might be right!

On Sunday morning we drove Paul to the small fishing village of Pozzillo for his latest round of exploration and hiking.  According to our Garmin GPS, Pozzillo is only 7 miles from Malibu as the crow flys.  Paul is not a crow.  The drive out to Pozzillo was probably closer to 12 miles away by winding and steep country roads.  He made it back by late afternoon safe and sound.

Our goal for the day was to catch the 12:30 softball doubleheader in Messina between the home team and the squad from Rome.  If you recall, at our Wednesday/Friday practice facility, IV Novembre Softball Field, we have become friends with Valeria and Adele, pitcher and first base respectively and their trainer Alberto who practice there as well.  They too have had a rough start to their season and Valeria is out for a few weeks with a pulled quadricep muscle. 

The Messina Baseball/Basketball Complex was built in 1996.

Messina Manager Nino Sacca', Valeria, the home plate umpire, Adele and Alberto

We got there about 10 minutes late but no problem, the Rome team missed their plane and would be much later than expected.  This worked out really well for us because we got to meet two of the Messina team's coaches and tour the facilities.

With Messina Coaches Roberto Montero and Jesus Echarte

Roberto is from Camagüey, Cuba and Jesus is from Ciego de Avila, Cuba.

What a small world yet again, my father's hometown was Camagüey!  They both spend about half the year in Sicily coaching both baseball and softball teams in Messina before returning to Cuba.  Roberto has been doing this for nine years, I'm not sure how long Jesus has been at it.

While Jesus was quiet and reserved, Roberto is ALL Cuban.  Both are good guys enjoying what they do.

Roberto giving us a tour of the
multi-purpose gym.

Softball, Sun and a litle Havana Club Rum

Roberto and Jesus have a very nice apartment inside the baseball stadium behind the first base line that includes a bottle of Havana Club rum that Roberto shared with us.

All I need is a Radar Gun and a Cuban Cigar

Our seats at ground level behind home plate right next to Roberto and Jesus' apertment.  Roberto had Cuban music playing in the background during the first half of the game that eventually morphed into The Beatles Greatest Hits.


The Romans finally showed up and the doubleheader finally started about 90 minutes late.  The girls were very apologetic about the delay, as if after two years I still expected things to start on time in Italy.

The start would not be easy as the Roman mamager complained first about the pitching rubber being too close to the plate and then as you see here, he demanded that the coaching boxes be properly marked.


Click on this picture, I liked that the innings are marked in Roman Numerals.

"Now batting for Messina, Number 19,
Adele Castorina, First Base"

A Very Spacious Park Indeed

325 feet down the lines for baseball, they bring in the orange fencing as a backstop for softball and notice the cones in the outfield.  The cones are the home run lines.  If a batted ball rolls through the cones it is a ground rule double.  If a batted ball first lands past the cones it is a home run.  I sensed more controversy around the corner.

Sure enough, in the bottom of the sixth inning a Messina player blasted a 3 run home run which landed at least ten feet past the cones.  Never let it be said that an Roman will shy away from an argument!  The fireworks only lasted for about 3 minutes but is was fun to watch both managers go off!

MESSINA WINS!  MESSINA WINS!  6-2 was the final score.  It was the team's first win of the season and everyone was happy and excited in a shared way that only a victorious sports team can understand.  We had a GREAT day watching their victory!

Because of the late start, we opted to start our long trek back to Aci Castello and skip game two but we decided to take Alberto's advice and stop in Savoca on the way home.

A Moorish Style Church in Messina

Laurie had never been to Messina so we stopped to take in a few of the downtown highlights.

A Fascist Era Man Hole Cover still working 72 years later.

Messina's Cathedral

Messina's Cathedral's Ornate Ceiling

Savoca's Bar Vitelli

In the movie "The Godfather" this is the exact spot where Michael Corleone asks Apollonia's father for permission to court his daughter.

The Bar Vitelli's owner is a Rotarian!

A glass of the Bar Viteeli's Vino Rosso

In case you are confused, the Bar Vitelli proudly displays the Corleone's Family Tree

Savoca's answer to the shortage of construction materials...

The Hills surrounding Savoca

Che... the day's Cuban Connection continues

We stopped in Acireale for dinner and found this movie poster.

Acireale's Basilica Collegiata
San Sebastiano Martire

It was 8:30 in the evening and for some reason this Basilica's doors were open so we had to investigate.

Choir Concert

They were open for a very nice choir concert celebrating traditional Gregorian Chant music.

Kono Pizza

A new taste treat, our trattoria of choice was closed so we tried a nearby Tavola Calda and found this interesting cuisine choice.


Here is a small taste of the Choir Concert we experienced at the Basilica.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

IFL Week #8 Results

Bolzano 54 - Catania 9
Milan 20 - Parma 14
Ancona 32 - Bologna Doves 28
Bergamo 35 - Reggio Emilia 24
Lazio 31 - Bologna Warriors 0

Bolzano Giants 5-1
Lazio Marines 4-1
Parma Panthers 5-2
Ancona Dolphins 3-2
Bergamo Lions 3-3
Reggio Emilia Hogs 3-3
Milan Rhinos 2-3
Bologna Warriors 1-3
Bologna Doves 1-4
Catania Elephants 0-5

NOTE:  The top four teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the 2009 IFL playoffs in June.

Saturday, May 2
Catania (0-5) at Bologna Doves (1-4)
Milan (2-3) at Lazio (4-1)
Bologna Warriors (1-3) at Reggio Emilia (3-3)

BYES:  Ancona (3-2), Bergamo (3-3), Bolzano (5-1) and Parma (5-2)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Bolzano Giants Game

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bolzano Giants (4-1)

Catania Elephants (0-4)

The weather cooperated giving us what at home we would call a "beautiful Fall day", unfortunately it is Spring.

The big news of the day was that the Giants would be without their incredible tailback Reggie Greene who has a severly pulled hamstring and could be out for several games.  Unfortunately for the Elephants, the Giants defense did suit up for the game.

Laurie trying to drum up support for a new Cronies Europe!

Optimism ran high for the Elephants as the 2:30 kickoff time approached.

"Captains Out!"

Elephant Supporters from nearby
U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella

Laurie Says:  Thanks to my new friends who are only at Signella for a few weeks this depl0yment for their support of the Elefanti, and especially to Erik from Jacksonville, Florida (second from the right) for the burger and Bud Lites!

Game action from afar


Catania receives the opening kickoff and completes a pass on the first play of the game, but the receiver is stripped of the ball and the Giants recover deep in Catania territory.

Bolzano ends their short drive with a 1 yard QB sneak to take a 7-0 lead.

The Elephants are forced to punt but the snap sails over our punter's head.  He falls on the ball and the Giants once again have great field position.

The Giants new tailback scores from 2 yards out to give Bolzano a 14-0 advantage.

Catania punts.

Bolzano punts to end the First Quarter still leading 14-0.

The Elephants get on the board with a 3 yard pass from Arturo Sanchez to Taber LeMarr.  Andrea Mannino adds the PAT and Catania cuts Bolzano's lead to 14-7.

The Giants respond with a long drive ending in a 2 yard TD pass to extend their lead to 21-7.

The Elephants drive down the field with great efficiency setting up a third and goal at the 4 yard line.  An option pitch is batted to the ground by the Giants' defensive end and returned 90 yards for a Bolzano TD.  Giants now lead 28-7.

Catania turns the ball over on downs.

Bolzano's drive ends when Larry Atkinson makes a spectacular leaping interception near the Catania goal line.

The Bolzano cornerback picks off a Catania hitch pass and returns it 10 yards for a Giants TD.  Bolzano is starting to go to cruise control leading 34-7 after missing the PAT.

The Elephants try to rally through the air again but a screen pass is intercepted by Giants star lineman Edwin Reed who returns it 20 yards for another Giants TD.  The Giants now lead 41-7.

Catania runs out the clock trailing 41-7 at the half.

Bolzano is forced to punt.

An Elephant pass is picked off again and returned 30 yards for Bolzano's fourth consecutive defensive TD of the game, Giants lead is now 48-7.

Catania punts.

Bolzano punts.

Catania turns the ball over on downs.

Bolzano's punter drops the snap and is smothered by linebacker Roberto Conti for a safety, Giants are now ahead 48-9.

Catania turns the ball over on our first play via a fumble as the Third Quarter ends with the Giants in command 48-9.

Bolzano makes a time consuming drive that ends with a 15 yard TD pass.  With time running out in the game, now leading by only 45 points and knowing that the Las Vegas line had favored the Giants by 46 1/2 point at kickoff, Bolzano decides to go for the two point conversion to "beat the spread" with a called fake PAT kick.  The Elephants pressure the holder who is trying to pass and the ball falls to the ground.  In Nevada casinos, thousands of bettors who took the overs groan as they see their hard earned wages starting to slip away.  Giants lead 54-9.

Catania punts.

Bolzano runs a couple of plays to end the game.

Final Score
Bolzano (5-1) 54 - Catania (0-5) 9

Despite the long afternoon, our cheerleaders still love us.

SMALL WORLD CONTINUED:  After the game we spoke with the Giants DE Edwin Reed who is a nice guy off the field and, for the last two years in our three games against the Giants, has been a royal pain in the rear end on the field.  He can flat out play!

As it turns out he played his college football in the San Fernando Valley at Cal State Northridge which has since dropped football.  At Lancaster, California's Highland High School he played for one of my favorite guys and a legend in the coaching fraternity, Linn "Bearcat" Parker.

In a situation like this, their is only one thing to do to battle the depression as the losses mount...

We drove into Aci Castello to eat a pizza forgetting the Prime Directive:
"Ristoranti do not open for dinner until 7:30 p.m. at the earliest!"

We found a Tavola Calda that we like open so we had something to drink, a small hot dish and a little dessert.  I was still depressed so we searched out to find another place for a pizzeria.

As we roamed the streets in search of sustenance, we ran into the childrens amusement center set up at this time of year in the piazza near Aci Castello's Norman Castle.  I understand that the owner got a GREAT deal on these decorative banners.

Love on a scooter/motorcycle will NEVER be out of style!

Protect that "Love Nest" at all costs!

What weighs more, this Vespa or the lock and chain protecting it from the Gypsies?

Grassroots Calcio

While we waited 20 minutes for the pizzeria to open we waited in the piazza across the way to witness calcio at its finest.  About four games were going on at the same time with eight different imaginary "goals" being established at strategic parts of the piazza.

One lady, in her 50's I would guess, decided to take the shorter diagonal route across the piazza rather than going around all the hubbub.  Predictably she got hit in the head by one of the ball for her efforts.  She was angry but for goodness sake what was she thinking?

The Pizzeria La Piazzetta finally opened its doors at 7:30 p.m. after tempting us with some incredible aromas for nearly a half hour.  We were greeted by our waitress, the delightful Irma, and proceeded to devour an Aci pizza which is designed with a carnivore in mind!  Add a little vino rosso and some friendly conversation with Laurie, Paul and Denver to the mix and life seems a little brighter.

"Smile Not To Cry"