On Thursday morning, we managed to get to the council offices in Zafferana to try and deliver our letter about the pollution in the ravine. This is the first day in the new year that the offices are open after the festive season, and we feel a bit bad to come with such ugly news. Quite soon, we have found the right office, where a very receptive woman listens to our story, and others are gradually gathering around us too. Eventually, the vice mayor arrives, and it turns out that he is a real champion for the cause: he is the founder of the local group “PuliAmo Zafferana” a group of volunteers who meet once a month to clean an area of fly-tipping in the region. He promises to come and view the ravine this afternoon.
On our way out of the offices, we come across a great set of class photos from the times when the building was a school. Check them in our flikr album.
True to his word, Giovanni arrives in the afternoon, accompanied by Sergio, an advising lawyer, and together with Giacomo, the helpful neighbour, we take them on a little walk to show what we have already cleaned, and how much more work there is to be done.
This is by no means an easy situation. Although this Ravine is not in the area of Zafferana, Giovanni, the vice mayor, says he will try and do something about it. There is no government money to do a clean-up like this. And once it is clean, how can further fly-tipping be prevented? Giovanni feels that people have to be caught and held responsible for their actions. Personal dumping attracts a fine of 500 Euros; if a business dumps, it is a punishable crime. However, he has made good experience with a solution of an interesting and more personal nature. Once, after PuliAmo Zafferana had spent a whole day cleaning a part of a wood, he found a whole new lot of rubbish in the same spot. Against the advice of his wife, he donned rubber gloves and successfully searched the rubbish for personal evidence. He rang the person and told them that he would not press charges on two conditions: one, that he would go and clean the place better than it was before, and two, that he would join PuliAmo Zafferana for three consecutive sessions and work harder than anyone else in the group. The person agreed, joined the group, changed his habit and became friends with Giovanni!
We must stay long enough in the area to join PuliAmo Zafferana for one of their action days! Removing rubbish is an intensely satisfying action, especially when done with a whole lot of people. You become one with the piece of land, you feel it breathing out and coming to rest. The name of the group plays on words: Puliamo means we clean, but using the capital A in the middle of the word makes it sound like I love a clean Zafferana.
We are intrigued to see how the story with ‘our’ ravine goes on.
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We’ve been very, very lucky to have met Chantal in Bologna last month, and to have received her invitation to come and visit once we are in Sicily. We’ve spent some lovely days together with her, chatting, sharing stories and visiting beautiful places.We would never have found Passopomo without her. Or maybe we would have – when we went dancing in Catania, the first person to speak to us was Giulia, Rosi’s daughter… I think fate was making doubly sure we would definitely find our way up to here.
On some days, we leave Passopomo, usually with the competent help of a local guide, and explore some of the beautiful places nearby. One day, Chantal and her bouncy dog Zagara take us for a walk up the mountain to the Crateri Silvestri, where there’s been a lava flow as recently as 2001. The colours and shapes of the landscape are extraordinary!
On another ‘must see’ trip with Chantal, she takes us to Taormina to see the sunset from the Amphitheatre. We arrive late on the first day, so she takes us there again the next day.
One day, I’m ill in bed and Frank and Chantal go on an outing to Syracusa.
Thank you, Chantal, for sharing so generously of your time and knowledge of the area, for the laughters and stories we share, for your help with internet connection and washing clothes.
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Passopomo has many friends. One of them is Rosa, who arrives one morning, equipped with several plastic bags and a knife, to go foraging for wild food. In her seventies, she is a fountain of knowledge about edible plants and how to use them. Frank, Giulia and I go on a walk with her and we return with a big bag full of various wild plants.
Her advice is to blanch them and them eat them with pasta and a bit of olive oil. They taste delicious – like spinach, but stronger and with that unique flavour of wild food. There is a plant that looks like fennel but isn’t (and it’s not edible), and then there is fennel too. I find it impossible to tell them apart by sight. Likewise with some of the dandelion-like looking leaves, of which there are some that she deems ok to eat and others not. We come past a patch of chickweed and I tell her that that is edible too, but she won’t even try a sprig, despite my protestations that it is full of vitamin C. She was taught to forage by her grandfather, and whatever he didn’t tell her she won’t touch.
We invite Rosa for lunch, but she declines, saying she needs to get back to her disabled daughter to cook for her.
While we sit and eat, Rosa is still foraging. At some point I see her up in an olive tree, hitting the higher branches with a stick, another time, she’s picking the mandarins off the neglected trees in the lower orchard. We are told that when she was younger she used to collect a lot more and if she had a surplus, she used to sell it too, making jams from the mandarins and the oranges, collecting chestnuts, wild plants and truffles.
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