Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Duca di Avarna's deserted village 9/12/09

For Festa dell’Immacolada we went up the hills, even though we were working last night. Lovely colours on the hills, yellow and golden in the midday light, then stark purple grey shadows silhouetted against the sky at sundown. Amazing stripy sunset. Ruins at the corner of a scenic path with loads of bamboo and olive trees and mandarin and orange trees, the orange trees seemed to guide the path and then fell like a carpet down the green steep banks of the jagged valley. Old ruins of a farmhouse, with the outer shell still standing and quite grand but inside looked like there had been a fire. Roof and walls inside made of bamboo for insulation. Another outhouse had the stairs still intact though we proceeded with caution and got upstairs, wonderful views.

Down another road we came to the Duke of Avarna’s village, 'Gualtieri Sicamino'. A whole street for him, with school church, and a long low row of houses with a few more behind, and then opposite, houses on three streets called Serro 1, 2 and 3 going up into the hill, with steep steps linking the houses together. The last one on serro 3 seemed to be looked after now and again, had a fabulous lavender plant which we took lots of strands from for our idea of putting it on the tables, now I have it drying. Also a rosemary bush and mandarin trees and green lemon trees. Some of the houses were totally wrecked, ruins with no roof, others you could look into and they had stores of wood and tiles, strangely. A family came along and climbed over the gate of the church and got up to the bell tower and rang the bell! We saw them later down a lane chatting to the only inhabited house, a man asking if somewhere was for sale. There was no one else. Deserted village, quite eerie at that time. There was even a massive cantina for wine, with stone wine presses and big grooves in the stone for keeping the wine barrels, on a square the Duke had called Garcia Lorca square.

The Duca, Giuseppe Avarna, known for his eccentric nature, left his wife and three children in 1980 when he fell madly in love with an American air hostess 40 years younger than him. Due to some twist in provisions in the will, the couple were not allowed to live in the ducal manor, where his ex-wife continued to live, but had to occupy a room in the deconsacrated church. But they lived there happily, she playing the guitar and he writing poetry. Every night after they had made love, he climbed into the bell tower and rang the bells, to annoy his ex wife and proclaim his love to the skies! He was killed in a fire at his home ten years ago.

The kind of place that in Tuscany would be restored and a major tourist attraction, here in Sicily totally abandoned, that is the sadness of Sicily, so much ruin. Even at the catarate, the waterfalls we went to see, the visitor centre had been stopped half way through – there was a huge carpark but no other amenities, overgrown grass encroaching on the picnic table of the designated family area… the waterfall itself disappointed mio marito who remembered standing under the huge torrent with his mates 20 years ago all in the nude with fig leaves taking a picture. Not so much water now and it looked like the stone had crumbled away from the cliff. We went to a bar nearby to warm up after the dampness by the woodburning stove.


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