Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being tourists: Tindari 6/06/09

We went to Tindari for the bank holiday, a tiny ancient mountain-top city founded by Dionisis di Syracusa in 396 AD as Tyndaris. Romans, Arabs and Byzantines also all spent time there, leaving interesting, but poorly maintained ruins. Part of the original mura or city walls remain, and the massive entrance gate to the city, and what they call the basilica, or Agorà, the central place of Greek life. There were Roman baths to the side with clay pipes for heating the water. But the best thing is the Greek Amphitheatre, with the Mediterranean stretching out behind the stage, beyond scrub and olive trees. They have Greek plays on every evening for a couple of weeks in June, and the actress of the night was rehearsing, her beautiful black curls cascading down her back, her hands gesticulating. Fabulous views of the sea and surrounding countryside. Tufty grass and wild herbs and olive trees to go wandering through, fabulous smell of wild fennel. Lovely big walled entrance to the old city, or the basilica and Roman baths with clay pipes for heating the water. Amazing.

On the edge of the cliff there is a sanctuary devoted to the Madonna Nera di Tindari. The story goes that a ship carrying the Black Madonna got caught in a storm and sought refuge in the Bay of Tindari. When the storm calmed, the sailors couldn’t shift the anchor and started throwing some of the cargo overboard to lighten their load. But only when they threw the Black Madonna overboard did the boat manage to start again. So local sailors brought the precious icon back to Tindari and installed the statue in the sanctuary where pilgrims can come to visit. The cult of the Black Madonna increased due to another miracle which took place in the bay below. A baby girl fell to the sea from the precipice next to the sanctuary, but was found playing safely on a stretch of sand that appeared there, in the form of the Madonna’s profile (the typical slender sideview as seen in many icons and figurines). The baby girl said a nice lady helped her.
Unsurprisingly, Tindari was full of large family groups and tacky stalls with mini black Madonnas and mini shrines etc. Lots of Srilankans. One came to wash dishes our first week but was useless and two more came to the garden gate the other day asking for work but unfortunately their hopeless compatriot has sabotaged their chances. They come through every night trying to sell roses and other gimmicks.
It was like Knock with all the general funfair atmosphere mixed with the religious. We had to park below and hop on a bus that took us even further up the mountain. Stunning views of the sea and coastline, you could see white beaches below. The church itself was magnificent. All the stations of the cross were in mosaic. Very over the top décor but fascinating all the same to look at and wonder how they did the frescoes on the ceiling.

We had a panino after at the bar but massive rain clouds loomed overhead and we ran for the bus back down to the carpark. It was a real struggle to get on the bus with everyone pushing and shoving and determined to get on. Hilarious, everyone laughing and relieved when the rain came pelting down. Huge downpour and a race for the car.
Mio marito was depressed despite the fabulous views. ‘We could be in the Dominican Republic, with normal working hours and weekends free,’ he says, which would have been his next work destination. I said, but you enjoy this, you are stimulated, and he said no … not dealing with these rude people, not staying up till 4am … Plus, hardly anyone came to eat last night, but loads came to the bar. It is obviously in the minds of the people here that the Borgo on Saturday night is for bars and drinks more than dining. Twenty people in total left because they wanted their Panini … I mean, WHO looks forward to going out on a Saturday night for a roll? (Under his family and the previous management it was more of a trattoria and panineria, but we wanted to change that image). We were a bit low as yet another group left – always the ones for whom you have to move tables and get cushions for the babies etc and then the usual ‘ah, we thought it was the old management and wanted rolls ...’ This time I said, well the name has changed we’ve painted it yellow outside and the menu is also outside. There were a few clues that things might be different.

There are nice people too, for example, there was a sweet couple from Rimini in the garden. The girl wanted to know where we had got the daisy candle holders! When I was leaving they stopped me and asked if I wanted to go dancing with them! But then we chatted and they asked how come I was here etc and I told them a bit about myself and about us, and she said for sure you bring so much love to the world wherever you go! What a lovely thing to say I said to her. Elisa she was called. They both said, ah, it is lovely here, you guys have done a great job. I would love a house like this she said, with the white walls outside and the patio etc. It makes all the difference when you get some positive reactions.


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