God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Villa Praiola—The Oasis

Written June 24

Today the usually sparkling Ionian sea hides under a blanket of shimmering, undulating heat. It is hot here on the east coast of mystical Sicily. Even dozing Mt. Etna is hard to see except for her smoking top. And—we sit in an oasis of beauty, with large shade trees cooling us after quick dips in the clear, cool pool. Surrounding us are petunias, bougainvilleas and myriad other flowers of all colors decorating walls and stairways. Birds fly from lemon tree to lemon tree and big fat lizards climb the walls looking for a cool corner.

We are at one of our favorite places—lovely Villa Praiola, perched between the Ionian Sea and Mt. Etna. When we were last here, we watched lava flow down the mountain, but this time we are not so lucky. The fire god is quiet for a while—but maybe domani? From the veranda we look over fields of trees—lemon and palms--all the way to the sea.

Today we went early to Taormina to again wander its charm and enjoy its beauty—with thoughts of buying another piece of unique pottery. I am glad we have been there before so that today we could pick and choose what we wanted to see rather than feeling the need to discover it all.

It was not long before we found an air conditioned trattoria before running back to the cool of the villa. I would have really liked to go on up to charming Castelmola but the pool and fans beckoned. I did find the ceramic piece but will give it a day’s thought before buying; it will need to be hand carried home and, after a year in bella Italia, there are already a few other things in that category—but, surprisingly little, actually.

Yesterday we did nothing—except for a short drive along the coast. When we were here before it was in October and the beach areas were shuttered ghost towns. The scene is quite different in June, particularly on a Sunday when people carrying umbrellas and multitudinous other necessities jaywalking streets to get to the beach side.

Plus we either have forgotten or habits have changed but by all appearances most drivers here have clearly not been to driving school—yesterday there were several hair raising near catastrophes —fortunately not involving us. I will say, today wasn’t bad at all-more like what we recall, a cross between San Francisco and, say, NYC.

Casey is now down at the pool with Lucio, the caretakers’ son—his friend from two years ago. The beauty of children is that friendships pick up where they leave off—particularly true of young boys who share the wonders of such things as Pokeman, Dragonball Z and transformers. I think for Lucio having another boy here for a week is a rare treat. And Casey loves being somewhere that offers a break from gramma and pappa.

Villa Praiola is a special place because of Vera and Francesco, its special owners, who take pride in offering strangers a beautiful place to live for a week—or more. It is decorated with marvelous taste but remains comfortable and enjoyable—totally relaxing.

It was a wonderful serendipity event which found us here in 2004 and now in 2007 the property has only grown better—a/c in all the rooms, an old building in the pool area has been transformed into an open air rec room with cooking facilities; the antique traditional winery below the villa has had lighting added which makes it much easier to absorb. Many such places have been long destroyed and so seeing this one, cobwebs and all, is like stepping into the past—huge, decaying wine vats, crushing screws, stone fermenting basins and more—everything but the contadino.

In 2004, when I was still keeping a travel website (which I may resurrect when this blog is finito), I wrote a lot about Villa Praiola and provided many pictures. If interested—check here. This is a 2007 photo update.

Created with
Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Now—I am off to join Casey and Lucio in a swim. And the sea is opening up—the blue shows and glistens like diamonds—the haze has lifted and I see a sailboat. Beautiful!

If you are interested in the villa, their renting agent is Ville in Italia. My experience with them is that they service clients well and are a business which values integrity.

Since I am writing this and whatever follows with no internet connection, it will be several days before entries are posted. So—travel back in time to catch up.


Judith in you know where said...

That's wonderful and I am envious. I love places where things are growing in neat rows.

Jane said...

Judith, I LOVE your new website--the slide shows are wonderful. Your eye with the camera is enviable!! Is WordPress hard?