Monday, August 29, 2011

Eurotrip 2011: Caio Messina

We woke up on this day to one of the most beautiful views of the entire trip. We were in the port of Messina, the weather was absolutely spectacular and the boat was in the process of circling around so that our direction for departing was from the way we came. The port was busy with activity as work on the water gets started well before sunrise. We got our things together and headed downstairs.

I didn't get into this last time around, but we had asked around about where to go in Messina the night before. Beth had heard of some medieval clock that's in Messina, and the biggest question was how close was it to the boat. Taking a taxi had been expensive so far, and we were looking to break out of that cycle if possible. We heard a few rumors, but were instructed to talk to the excursion pro that will be in the theater area on the boat, where all the excursions gather before leaving in the morning. We got down there a little before 10am and asked her what the deal was. She let us know everything was within very short walking distance and that there was a shopping district that would should make sure to check out, as there was a gelataria there with the best canolis in town. Even though it seems (from an American perspective) that canolis are an Italian dessert, it's really a uniquely Sicilian dessert which explained that we never saw one canoli in any of the thousand gelaterias we saw in Rome. In addition to this widely known dessert shop there was a place called Coin to get some ladies clothing and accessories. She graciously drew her instructions on a 'map' of Messina, that the ships excursion crew had provided one of the tours earlier, and we were off.

We get off the ship and there's a small sidewalk that lets us cross the major road (Via Vittorio Emanuele II) parallel to the peer. It was lined with locals selling their wares and I began to understand the business of cruises and destination countries a bit better. We found our way across the street and worked our way through the city on the way to Piazza del Duomo and the timepiece that Beth had heard so much about; the Orologio Astronomico or Astrological Clock. This clock/bell tower and adjacent church make up one of the biggest attractions in Messina for many reasons, but the main one is that the clock is a mechanical marvel that produces quite the show at mid-day. When this clock strikes twelve noon, everyday rain or shine, the medieval built machine sets off a series of events much like dominoes falling; a rooster crows, a lion roars and waves a flag, Jesus and his disciples are orbited by birds and for the grand finale a group of statues rotate to an instrumental playing of 'Ave Maria', projected through what seemed like a WWII era intercom/broadcast system (modern update I assume). The whole event is about 15 minutes long and if you're in town it's a must see.

While in Piazza del Duomo (center of map) there are sweeping flocks of locals trying to sell hats. Once you get in the habit of saying 'no thank you' and/or ignoring street peddlers it can make it hard to get valuable information from locals actually trying to share tradition and information with you. There are some interesting historical items here, including this fountain. What you see here is called the Fountain of Orion, and it was built by one of Michelangelo's subordinates (Giovanni Angelo) around 1550AD. This water feature celebrated the first aqueduct in Messina, in the 16th century. While we were Rome Beth and I drank some water from the a fountain across from the Pantheon, and I wasn't inclined to take a sip from this one.

Piazza del Duomo and the tourist buses arriving for the astrological clock show.
To be honest, I didn't know what I was shooting while I was there, we were wandering around hungry in the late morning ha. That brings us to the most important thing, the lunch we had before noon. As they say in the real estate biz, location location location, and the sole restaurant in Piazza del Duomo was Dolce Vita (which doesn't show up on google maps accurately). Dolce Vita was a complete restaurant with a great shaded seating outside and a tasty menu. We found ourselves eating a ton of traditional antipasti throughout our travels in Italy; this day would be no different. We also got ourselves a local pizza variety that escapes my mind currently; it had bacon, ham, potato, mozzarella and red sauce. Another lovely touch was the olive oil and balsamic vinegar condiment packets. A little olive oil, pepper and salt with the fresh baked rolls was a good way to get the party started. Calling the meal delicious would've been an understatement and it was a reminder why authentic is always better than imitation, no matter how flattering it may be. We paid our bill then joined the major crowd that had formed for the show.

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