Why You Must Visit Sicily

It’s been on my bucket list, ever since hearing about its marvels and beauty from my Italian hairdresser. Over the years I’ve explored the north, middle and south of Italy, but never ventured down as far as Sicily. Following are some reasons I’ve gathered together for visiting this gorgeous island.

Pleasing to the Eye

Colourful Sicily…Public Domain Photo …  1533574

Sicily is one of Italy’s most alluring destinations, with mesmerizing landscapes, delicious food and a mix of cultures that, over the centuries, has left a mixture of architectural styles throughout the region.

Sicilia, as it’s called in Italian, is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea sitting off the toe of Italy. “Italy is a popular destination for Australian travellers. In a way, Sicily can feel more off the beaten track, which is perhaps part of its charm,” said Dean Van Es of  Fast Cover Travel Insurance.

Other reasons for visiting this island, apart from its beauty are:

  1. The Food

It is perfectly acceptable to arrive home from Sicily with a bit more girth than when you left. If you haven’t then perhaps you haven’t taken full advantage of the fantastic foods you will find in Sicily! Of course there are the expected Italian dishes to try, including various pizzas and pastas. But you should also try the oranges and other citrus fruits, almonds, pistachios and olives which grow in abundance. You can indulge in delicious arancine, which are balls of saffron rice with meat and cheese, as well as panelle, a popular street food option made from fried chickpea flour. There is also fresh ricotta to try, along with fried ricotta, cannoli, tricotta and cassata.

  1. Palermo

The capital of the island, Palermo is brimming with history and culture. Days can be spent wandering through the city and absorbing the stunning architecture including Piazza Pretoria, the Quattro Canti, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Zisa, the Palace of the Normans and the Capuchin Catacombs. And that’s just naming a few! After a day exploring you can unwind in one of the many boutique hotels.

You can get a sense of Sicilian life in Palermo with a trip to the markets. Shop for fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and delicious breads and cheeses along one of the main market streets such as Ballarò or il Capo.

Cefalu in the province of Palermo

Cefalu in Palermo

  1. Syracuse

Syracuse (or Siracusa in Italian), in the southeast corner of Sicily, is a hub of historic sites with ruins dating back to the sixth century. It’s an absolute must-see for anyone interested in Greek history and culture. Here you can see the ruins of the Temple of Athena and walk between the various sites in Ortigia including the fountain of Arethusa and the Piazza del Duomo.

More history

Ear of Dionysius, Syracuse

  1. Mount Etna

Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and just one of Sicily’s six UNESCO sites. You can explore around the volcano and come across stunning panorama views. Seeing ash shoot up from the volcano is a sight you won’t forget.

Spectacular scenery

Mount Etna

  1. The Aeolian Islands

The Aeolian Islands consist of seven main islands, all notable for their picturesque views, rugged coast and sandy beaches. If you have time between exploring Sicily’s historical sites, relaxing on one of the beaches in the Italian sun is a perfect way to spend a day.

Sicily

Anyone been to Sicily who’d like to tell us more?

 

 

 

Adriatic Romance … Rijeka to Titograd

My Travel Journal 2

the italian boys

Camp Borik

My journey from Paris towards Russia continueswith entry into our first Communist country, Yugoslavia, and the drive along the spectacular coastline there.  Once again we are delayed by car troubles, this time a forced stopover at Camp Borik, a beautiful lakeside camping ground near Zadar, where we meet up with young Italian men, who take us dancing and romancing. Pulling ourselves away, with regret, we continue ever onwards towards Dubrovnik, Titograd and Kaselin

The 4th Day, July: The Adriatic Coastline in Italy

The romance of the Adriatic coastline!  It had captivated us from Venice onwards. We’d made good headway and reached Trieste—beautiful Trieste—on the rocky Adriatic seashore at 8.30. The sun had gone down; the sky was pink. We passed along the cliff road leading around the city.  The youth hostel was marvellous, like a palace set in trees at the foot of the hills, overlooking the sea.  We were given the last beds.  I took a cold shower and changed into my one sun dress.  We rushed out with little over half-an-hour to eat and return to the hostel.  Luckily, we found a tiny bar, where we were served pizza and gelato very quickly and sat there, marvelling at this beautiful Italian environment. We recognized other Australian voices as we went in to sleep at the hostel. Liz moved out on to the balcony. We slept well. Continue reading

From Paris to Russia and Back

Travel Journal 1

The Italy Leg

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I set out from Paris, with two girlfriends, Liz and Kay, from Melbourne in the summer of 1968. We were studying at university and working at the Air Attachée in Paris, which is where I met Liz. The trip stand out in my memory as one of the high points of my life.

The Italy leg would set the tone for the whole trip: exciting, adventurous, frustrating, exhilirating, with breakdowns and meetings with mechanics (machina caput!) in every country.

July, 1968: Paris

It hardly seems credible now, when I think back on this time. I was young, naiive, and looking for adventure. I’d just lived through the student and workers’ strike in France, which ended in a near revolution. The fear at the time was that General de Gaulle might send in troops to break the stand-off between police and radical students in the Boulevard Saint Michel.

I’d spent the previous twelve months in Paris, working as a clerk at the Australian Embassy, the Air Attaché section; handling secret files labelled “Mirage Jets” or some such. It was boring work, but I’d earned enough money to move on to a more interesting job as a teacher’s assistant in a provincial high school. I was also enrolled in the first year of an Arts degree. During my time at the Embassy, I’d made some good friends, in particular, two girls from Melbourne. Liz was studying Linguistics at the Sorbonne, while Kay was writing a thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre; me, an ex-primary school teacher with no degree under my belt at all. At the end of the twelve-month Embassy position, instead of saving my money, I’d acted impulsively, as usual, and lashed out on a second-hand car. Continue reading

Ukraine Adventure in 1968

FROM PARIS TO RUSSIA AND BACK

My Travel Journal Continued: the Russia Leg

on our tour

The Red University

Saturday  24th August, 1968 (Day 55 of our journey)

I awoke feeling sick on our 5th day in Russia.  So Liz drove us into the Intourist Centre where  we asked for a guide, who was sent for immediately.  Kiev was a very beautiful city  with wide streets,  huge buildings,  many shops and more western-looking than Odessa. Our chubby, round-faced guide, who said he was not Ukrainian but of Tartar origin, attempted to amuse us with an American-style accent. He was an extremely good guide, and told us many interesting facts about each monument.  As if in passing, he also announced the news that Russian troops were currently occupying Czechoslovakia, and said it was to stop Czechoslovakia from moving towards capitalism.  We saw the statue of St Vladimir the Grand Duke,  who  brought Christianity to Kiev: it overlooked the River Dnieper and showed a fine view of the city. Continue reading

Delphi and its Sacred Ways

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The Sacred Way

I have a connection with Delphi going back to my Armidale Teachers College days.

Ancient Greece gave such a lot to the world, including architecture, philosophy and theatre. I thought about this when I visited Greece with two friends  in the late sixties. Stories of Delphi  and the oracle had enthralled me when I was studying at Teachers College a few years previous to this.

Beautiful Ruins

The Mamaria Temple

Miss Margaret Mackie, my Philosophy teacher at Armidale Teachers’ College in 1961-62, regaled us with stories of the Delphic Oracle, and of Plato and Socrates; we studied parts of The Republic by Plato in detail, and I came to idealise these great thinkers of ancient times. A few years later, I revelled in the chance to visit these magical places that my teacher had opened up for me. This was in 1969, when I travelled from France to Greece with two girlfriends from Melbourne, whom I had met while working at the Australian Embassy in Paris.

Beautiful Scenery

Mount Parnassus

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Temple to Apollo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More recently I saw a play, “The Pride”, which was a comment on society’s changing attitudes to our LGBT) communities. The playwright, Alexi Kaye Campbell, was born in Athens to a Greek father and an English mother.

 

More recently I saw a play, “The Pride”, which was a comment on society’s changing attitudes to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. The playwright, Alexi Kaye Campbell, was born in Athens to a Greek father and an English mother.

Campbell calls on the beauty and mystery of Mount Parnassus to portray one of the main character’s epiphany, prophesying a better future for LGBT people. I must add, too, that my cousin’s daughter, Geraldine Hakewill, played the only female role alongside the two male actors. To add further to the synchronicity, at least for me, I watched the play at the Eternity Playhouse, a modern theatre in a restored heritage listed, 129 year-old building in Sydney.

Matt Minto, Geraldine Hakewill, Simon London (c) Helen White

The Pride

 

 

 

 

 

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Around the same time, I saw an episode of the British television documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys, presented by Michael Portillo, who visits Delphi, and reveals some of the theories to do with the identity of the oracle.

We learnt that the name “Pythia” is derived from Pytho, the original mythical name of Delphi. Pythia was also the House of Snakes. The modern theory is that the Pythia (oracle) spoke gibberish while in a frenzied state induced by vapours rising from a chasm in the rocks at the site. Priests interpreted the woman’s ravings as the enigmatic prophecies preserved in Greek literature.

Continue reading

My 1968 Travel Journal: a metaphor

I’m grouping together here several posts on my travels during the sixties when  I was studying and  working in France.
in-yugoslavia-1
I found it difficult, almost impossible, to work at a full-time job and to write creatively at the same time. My first writings were straight journal entries.  While travelling around Europe in the sixties,  my journal entries ended up being novel length, but would have required skillful editing to be publishable. I lacked the time and know-how to be able to do this back then. I have copies of these writings now, but still haven’t put in the time needed to restructure  them.  A small, recently edited segment follows.

From Paris to Russia and Back
I was living in Amiens, in the north of France at the time. I’d spent the previous twelve months in Paris, working as a clerk at the Australian Embassy, the Air Attaché section, handling secret files labelled “Mirage Jets”. It was boring work, but I’d earned enough money to move on to a more interesting job as a teacher’s assistant in a provincial  lycée for primary school teachers. I was also enrolled in the university there: first year of an Arts degree. During my time at the Embassy, I’d made some good friends, in particular, two girls from Melbourne. Liz was studying Linguistics at the Sorbonne, while Kay was writing a thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre. I was an ex-primary school teacher from Sydney with no degree under my belt. At the end of the twelve month Embassy position, instead of saving my money, I’d acted impulsively, as usual, and lashed out on a second-hand car.

It was the start of the summer vacation. I’d just lived through the student and workers’ strike in France, which turned into a near-revolution, with the threat of General de Gaulle’s troops hanging over our heads.

We three friends decided, over a map and a bottle of rough red Moroccan wine, to leave on a voyage in my car, setting out from Paris and heading for Northern Italy, thence southward to the warm Mediterranean countries, then eastward as far as Turkey, and onwards to the Ukraine, behind the Iron Curtain. It was the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Luckily, Liz spoke a spattering of Russian and we were French/Australians, not Americans. We would travel in a 1960 model French Citroen—a “deux chevaux” (two horse-power) car—through fifteen countries, and get caught up in Soviet troops en route to Prague to quell the uprising there. The car looked like a battered jam tin on wheels, until it moved into action, when it ressembled a dazed beetle with the hiccups. It bumped and tottered along. This was the first car I had ever owned.

The First Day
Left on trip at 1.30 p.m. We travelled practically non-stop, without eating, until midnight, when we arrived at Pontarlier, near the Swiss border in France, and were directed to the Youth Hostel. The woman kindly let us in. It was wonderful to wash and collapse on to our bunks.

The Second Day
We set off fairly early, after coffee at a terrace café, and crossed the Swiss border about lunch time. It was exciting to be in our first foreign country, after France, and we noticed the signs in different languages, Italian, German and French. By then, well into mountainous countryside. We were following the route to Lausanne, and the scenery was charming, but the going became harder and harder, the car straining in first gear. Driving along Lake Leman was breathtaking. We stopped about 4p.m. in “Heidi, Girl of the Alps” countryside, flowery and hilly, to give the car a rest; and we drank freezing water from a flowing stream. I picked some flowers and put them in a book. After more climbing and dust, it was like a magic moment to hear the melodious Italian voice at the border, and to find that the mountainous road was over. We made very good time once on the autostrada and were in Milan and at my Sydney friend, Julie’s place by 11p.m. We had to ring for the concierge to let us in, but soon we were in the apartment, talking, eating Italian fruit cake and drinking champagne… That night, we three interlopers slept seven storeys above Milan on a small balcony, side by side in our sleeping bags. I dozed off with the worrying idea that I might sleep-walk, but slept like a log.

My writing development has been a weird ride, not a linear arc at all. In the sixties and seventies, I found little time to write, apart from in journals. I had no idea about genre, apart from “short story”, “novel”, and “autobiography”.  I’d read the great classics in English and French, with the omniscient narrator,  all-knowing, standing back from the characters and from the reader.

On returning to Australia, I was still carrying emotional baggage from the past that I wanted to exorcise.  Pouring out my feelings on the page was one of the methods I used for this.  Apart from depth therapy, that is.  I began  by spewing out bittersweet memories of an emotionally  underprivileged childhood. It didn’t matter that no-one else could access my writing.  It was something I needed to do at the time. Later on,  I was seduced by the aesthetics underpinning creative writing. I wanted to learn more, to become better at it. This would become an obsession for me.

In the eighties, starting a family put paid to  any ambitions of mine.  My desire to be a good parent, to nurture emotional intelligence in my children, something I felt that I had missed out on andlacked, took precedence over the other “selfish” passion of writing.

I joined a Life Story Writing class in the early nineties, when my children were a little older. The first time I read from my therapeutic outpourings in class, it ended in tears.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was too close to the writing.

My first attempt at what I thought was a novel, “Frogs and Other Creatures”,  based on childhood memories, was little different from the journal writing.  I was still just narrating events, rather than dramatising them.  And it was structured like a collection of short stories, with titles at the head of each chapter.  It didn’t matter that my classmates were enthralled by some of the stories, the manuscript didn’t fit into any genre, and I was dissatisfied with it.  Publishers and booksellers hate these hybrid genres, as they don’t know where to place them. I was beginning to want more from my writing.

Studying writing at the UTS, Sydney, in the late nineties helped me get a handle on the features of creative writing, and to gain valuable feedback from classmates and tutors. I started learning about, and practising, narrative form through writing short stories, which is a great way to gain knowledge of structure in general. We read “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”. I began to think more and more about structure.

When I retired in 2008, I had more time to practise writing. By that time, I’d learnt about the relatively modern genre of “memoir”. This is defined as “a part of a life”, as distinct from autobiography. At its best, it utilises the same features as fiction, including sequence of events, structure, characterisation and dialogue.  Unlike fiction, the main requirement is to pare back the complexity of events in a life through finding a relatively narrow focus.

We drove through 15 countries

The Deux Chevaux

 

 

The Golden Ratio in Nature

 

Another close-up of a snail shell

So pleasing to the eye

I was never interested in mathematics at school,  because of the way it was taught; it was seen as a subject for boys in the 50s. Perhaps today, things have changed a bit.  In any case,  from early on, I was on the creative spectrum, rather than the logical/rational one.

Today, however, I’m fascinated by the idea of The Golden Ratio, and its links with mathematics, nature and art. In fact, it also has links with science, architecture, music, and many other areas besides.  The golden ratio essentially states that a + b is to a, as a is to b.

Around 1200, mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci discovered the unique properties of the Fibonacci Sequence. This sequence ties directly into the Golden ratio because if you take any two successive Fibonacci numbers, their ratio is very close to the Golden ratio. As the numbers get higher, the ratio becomes even closer to 1.618. For example, the ratio of 3 to 5 is 1.666. But the ratio of 13 to 21 is 1.625. Getting even higher, the ratio of 144 to 233 is 1.618. These numbers are all successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. (Wikipedia)

 
Here is a visual representation of a Fibonacci spiral which approximates the golden spiral, using Fibonacci sequence square sizes up to 34
Wikipedia

 

 

 

SECONDARY FARM

Notice how the lengths get smaller in a spiral pattern. This spiral pattern is used throughout nature.

 

 

Many shells, including snail shells and nautilus shells, are perfect examples of the Golden spiral. Similarly, hurricanes often portray the golden spiral.

Also, the seeds of a sunflower, which start in the centre  and  radiate outwards to fill the space follow this pattern. If you look closely at the centre  of a sunflower,  you’ll see the golden spiral pattern repeated endlessly, a perfect example of the golden proportion in nature. There are no gaps from beginning to end.

Some spiders form their webs in spirals that suggest the repetitive pattern of the golden spiral.  And the beautiful patterns on the wings of moths and butterflies approximate the golden mean.

Beaty in nature

Beautiful spider web with water drops close-up

Design i nnature

Beautiful design

SnaIL Shell

Close-up of a snail shell

 

 

Graphic Stock Photo

Spiral Sea Shell

Seeds in the centre of a sunflower

Another example of the Fibonacci sequence in nature

The symbol that has come to represent this ratio is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. See below.

The Golden ratio is a special number (1.618), found by dividing a line into two parts, so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized using phi, after the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In an equation form, it looks like this:

a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.6180339887498948420 … (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia

 

 

Other examples of the Golden Ratio in  nature are Spiral galaxies, such as The Milky Way, dolphins, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, ants and honeybees also exhibit the proportion.

Scientists today, have moved away from thinking  about such considerations, and they are deemed to belong to an ancient time. Darwinian evolutionary theories, and findings from archaeological diggings are more likely to be of interest to the modern mind, because they are evidence-based.

It is still amazing for me to see how much order, beauty and patterning exist in the natural world around us, and to wonder at the time it took, and the processes at work, to create all of this amazing diversity surrounding us, and which we are part of.

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line d...

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more about the Golden Ratio, go to my website at “anne skyvington” (write 4 publish) at

http://www.anneskyvington.com/

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Change

Graphic Stock

Change

I had, for a long while, been addicted to self development. It was like peeling onion layers; more were always waiting for you to deal with. But I was determined to  recover from the effects of crippling emotional baggage I’d had since childhood.

I’d felt an outsider most of my life, especially at school, even though there were times when I was popular. I rarely felt happy inside, even though I had a smile on my face much of the time. It started in early childhood. I wasn’t as bright as my older brother and younger sister; I wasn’t as pretty as my two younger sisters. Mum didn’t actually say the words, but when she talked, and she talked a lot—I became a good listener—and I read between the lines: ‘He’s a genius… she’s pretty…’ etc etc.  There was more to it than that, there always is…  But I grew up believing I was unworthy: stupid, ugly. It was all untrue, I believed it at my core, and I couldn’t shake it off as I grew.

The change in me started around the time leading up to, and immediately after, my father’s stroke. It would take a long time, and much inner work on my part, to rid me of the bad feelings I carried about myself. Continue reading

Fear of Death

When I was sixteen, a boyfriend said during one of our many debates on the existence or not of God: “What if we decide not to believe, and wake up one day to realise we were wrong all along. Maybe we should hedge our bets just in case.” I tried to do that, but I was the original “Doubting Thomas. I went through periods of believing in a higher being; then sometimes my belief would evaporate like the morning dew, just as quickly as it had appeared. Continue reading

Fear of Rejection

For a long time I was afraid to show my work to others. Like a lot of writers, who tend to be sensitive souls, preferring  to immerse themselves in the written word rather than “leading from the mouth”,  one or two rejections were enough to stop me from trying to get published. Joining a writing group marked my first breakthrough moment. Members of this group—part of the Fellowship of Australian Writers—gave me the ability to give and receive  feedback in a safe and supportive setting.

Statue in a Cemetery

One day I asked how many of my group were writing in order to be published.  I was surprised to learn that they all, without exception, wanted to be published.

They all agreed, of course, that the basic impetus for good writing is passion. That is, you write because you really want to, and love to, not because you want to get published. Otherwise, your writing will probably not be good enough to be published in any case.

And trying to be published has not always been easy for many of us. In order to get published you needed an agent, and in order to find an agent, you needed to be published in some form or other!  It was a case of the ubiquitous vicious circle! That is why it’s an exciting time for writers today.  A Strategic Book Publisher sums it up: “With ebooks and Kindle and m-books for mobile phones around the world, it’s a great time to be an author and a publisher. We hope to convey that enthusiasm to the world.”

Of course, quality needs to be maintained as well as publishing facility, and that’s where editors and reviewers come into the picture.