Passopomo – Sunrise on Etna & Party Times

The nights are beautifully starry and the days are bathed in brilliant sunshine, about as hot as an English summer’s day. We are often awake at the break of dawn, and after twice missing the magical moment when Etna turns pink, we catch it on the third day.


Turning the camera 180 degrees, we get this:


Lunches are often a communal affair – someone goes off to get a roast chicken and chips or some meat to grill on the big barbecue, and everyone takes a break from mucking out the horses or whatever they are doing to sit together and share food and merriment.

One day, I join Katerina and Davide for a trip into town to get the chicken. Katerina warns me: I’m not a good driver, I’ve only had my license for three days. Well, I think, it’s only a short trip into town and if I get stressed, I can always walk. It turns out she is the smoothest and most caring driver we have met so far in Italy, where everyone seems to go round like they are trying to win a race. The chicken takes ages to cook, and when it comes to paying for it, Katerina bypasses me by instructing the woman behind the till not to accept money from me. But I want to pay, I say to the cashier, who shrugs her shoulders in an archetypal Italian way, nods towards Katerina and says ‘she spoke first’.

The roast chickens here are in another league to what we can buy from an English rotisserie – full of herbs, succulent and with a crunchy skin!

We have arrived just in time for the holy days. No-one knows us and yet we are received with open arms and invited to the festive meals at people’s houses. They are quite an event to behold. For New Year’s Eve, there are discussions for days in advance, about the time and location and most of all about the food. Ideas change on an hourly basis, and they have no trouble discussing the event for two hours at a time without coming to a final decision. In the end, it’s an ad hoc party with bring-along food. All in all, we are about 25-30 people. Almost everyone who frequents Passopomo on a regular basis turns up. By now we have met most of them at least once, but when they are all in one room and everyone is talking at the same time and jokes are flying, it can be quite tiring just to watch them, let alone join in. It is wonderful to see them all so joyful and connected, but generally, after a couple hours’ of exposure, Frank and I are so worn out that we fall asleep on a chair or have to be driven back home after the food and before they start in earnest with their card games. Meanwhile the young kids are still running around. They seem to have a lot more party stamina than we do. Maybe we really are getting old. We are awake every morning in time to see the sun rise and we don’t have the energy anymore to burn the candle at both ends…

For photos of the general merriment, go to our flikr album

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