Henry Thornton News&Views No 34.
The Thornton family is currently eight people (with partners),and currently six out of eight together in Sicily. Our daughter and her husband are coming shortly, making eight out of eight, plus around 20 friends and relatives.
So far the Thornton couple and oldest son David have spent four days in Siracusa. The weather has been delightful, although afternoons were daunting at over 30 degrees each day. We visited various nice places, including the end of the land mass of Italy, watched lovely ladies and fat men swimming and we dodged cars and motorbikes racing down narrow roads.
A high point was a visit to a Papyrus Museum. We learned many interesting facts including Papyrus being used to make particular types of boats two thousand years ago and other purposes of the useful grass throughout the years.
I was very tempted to buy a statue of a presumably lovey lady but was told I’d get a better chance later in our visit and in any case we were due to catch our train to Palermo. The owner of the excellent art shop has a nice card and will send items, and will be contacted in due course.
An enthusiastic taxi driver took us to the local railhead and tried hard but pleasantly to persuade us to let him drive us to Palermo, but Mrs T had been warned that such a venture would cost a great amount.
We were dropped at the railhead and off we went. Ahead of the departure, tough-looking railway staff made any people without a ‘a 46 face mask that covers both mouths and noses’ get off the train. Young people seemed to be treated especially badly, but we were merely frowned at.
The ultimate objective was Palermo, at the other side of the Island, but our train set us down at a place called Catania, with a train to Palermo allegedly leaving the station in 12 to 15 minutes. We walked quickly to platform 6 to see nothing but a few bits of rubbish.
A rather sheepish staffer turned up and we asked him when our train would come. He called head office to chat. Initially he said ‘Your train left early’. ‘Rubbish’ I said to myself – has any Italian train user ever left early?
Then a large train rattled in and a large number of people disembarked. ‘Is that our train?’ I asked our sheepish staffer. More discussion to head office. ‘No,’ he said, ‘It went before you arrived’.
The new train sat with the driver firmly in his seat in Platform 6. After a while the sheepish staffer said: ‘Your train will leave from 5.20 hours from Platform 2’. The timetable said it would leave at 2.20 PM from Platform 6, but this was not happening today.
We took our luggage slowly with some complaints among the only people who arrived where the info said it should be and NO other people showed up, possibly informed.
We settled on the relevant bench at platform 2. Luckily Mrs T had made tasty rolls, one each, which we ate slowly. We debated the reasons for today’s time wasting, and the apparent fibbing from the company. Has ANY Italian transport company ever ‘left early?’.
To me it is simple. Like the better Aero businesses, Italian Railroad had decided that not enough people had agreed to ride from Platform 6, and notified regular people to be there at Platform 2 at 5.20 rather than 2.20. What a rort, and waste of our valuable time. The second train for the trip from Catania finally arrived on time for its 5.20 pm leg to Palermo.
From Syacusa to Catonia the land was very dry - many eucalyptus trees, or are they a similar Italian tree? There was a strong industrial presence, but it was hard to decide which ones are still working. Similarly with agriculture. Near our starting point we saw two groups of scrawny cattle, eating what looked like mainly dirt.
There were many broken or derelict old houses, with one such place close to the train line proudly putting their wet clothing and sheets on their lines. Also some very flash large houses or groups of what looked like council homes.
The main picture for the Catania-Palermo stretch of railroad was richer agriculture, much greener grass, larger agriculture holdings, and beautiful hilly landscape. We saw many (fatter) cattle and one group of apparently cheery sheep.
Palermo is a far richer city than Siracusa and thanks to Olivia’s efforts on Air bnb we have a three bedroom apartment which is part of a former massive palazzo. There is an enormous lounge with a fresco on the ceiling and other very large rooms. But there is no washing machine and the three bedrooms are up a modern spiral staircase that terminates in a mezzanine that is a recent addition.
Fiona Prior is suitably dazzled by the man who decided to live the most extraordinary adventure. 'Moonage Daydream'. More here.