Passopomo – the Beauty and the Beast

We arrive in Passopomo during a torrential downpour on the morning of December 20th. There is a whole group of people waiting for the weather to clear so we can go horse riding, but it doesn’t let up, so we share lunch in the rain and then people disperse. Towards the evening, the clouds lift and we begin to see what a beautiful place we have arrived in: to the north, we see Mount Etna, quietly smoking (apparently we just missed a fairly spectacular eruption) and to the South, the land gives away, with spectacular views all the way down to the sea. The stables lie in the centre of a large estate with vineyards, olive, orange and mandarin groves. We have taken residence in the car park, which is covered in black volcanic grit that dries out as soon as the rains stop.

What strikes us when we open the door on the first morning is the amount of rubbish that is lying around just outside out doors. So as per usual, we take some time to clear our temporary ‘garden’ (little do we know just how long we will be encamped here…). What is it that people in Sicily don’t seem to see how ugly all this plastic is, let alone dangerous for animals? Two large rubbish bags later, we sit down for a breakfast in the splendid sunshine.


I am writing this chapter two weeks after the fact, and the contrast between the Beautiful and the Ugly continues. We have never been in such a beautiful place, combined with the openheartedness of people, and the joy of being surrounded by a bunch of horses that are so calm that some of them can be let out to roam freely during the day. Our encounters are so manifold and rich that they warrant a whole load of chapters – but so is our discovery of a terrible fly-tip just on the border of the property, where people abuse the fact that a quiet road crosses the riverbed on an old bridge, to chuck their rubbish, letting it spill into one of the most beautiful ravines we have ever seen.


Most of the time, this ravine is dry, but there are clear signs that once the winter storms come, the rubbish is swept down and along with great force, distributed and embedded between rocks and volcanic sand, or wrapped around trees. Whole cars fold themselves along the line of this force.


We are stunned by the contrast, and shocked into action. In the following chapters we will share our discovery of the beauty of this this area, as well as its ugly pollution, and you will see how we progress (or not, as the case may be) with the cleaning of the ravine, and whether and how the people around us and in the local government respond.


For more pictures on this chapter, go to the flikr album

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