Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Renovations curtail museum visit but opera is superb

On Sunday morning we headed off to the Archeological Museum. It was a really pleasant walk even though once again it was hot and humid.  Nothing is better than walking down old streets in Italy and finding other very narrow streets filled with the colours of laundry hanging out to dry or finding a beautiful square tucked away.

We were pleasantly surprised to find admission was free but this was because most of the museum was closed for a major renovation that has been going on since 2010. Situated in a Renaissance monastery surrounding a gracious courtyard, the museum houses some of Sicily's most valuable Greek and Roman artefacts. Sadly, we wouldn't get to see them today. The entrance opened through some small cloisters centred around a lovely hexagonal fountain bearing a statue of Triton.

We did admire a Phoenician sarcophagus from the 5th century BC and pottery from various inhabitants throughout the ages. In fact we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the largest collection of ancient anchors in the world.

It was time for some refreshment and we stopped at a little place on one of the narrow streets. The servers were very friendly but in the way of hucksters the world over with the greeting, "Where do you come from?" This always engages you in conversation. Later we wandered around and went back to this restaurant for lunch since they had veal on the menu, something you hardly ever find in Spain.

I chose a veal stew that was as tough as old boots when it arrived. Needless to say I sent it back. I didn't appreciate the accompanying lecture about how to cook veal. I know very well how to cook it. Then some regulars came and were offered the “menu of the day”, which we hadn't been given. Watching the "greeters" I noticed if a foreigner came along the menu of the day was taken out of the menu folder. Finally I got veal scallopini that was edible. Before we left I asked one of the greeters why visitors didn't get the menu of the day. He responded that Italians have different food tastes. Bollocks. This restaurant had a good rating from trip-advisor, which we find you can never really trust.

In the late afternoon we went to Palermo's grand neoclassical opera house, the Teatro Massimo that took over 20 years to complete and has become one of the city's iconic landmarks. The closing scene of The Godfather: Part III, with its visually stunning contrasts of high culture, crime, drama and death, was filmed here.

We had come to see Lucia do Lammermoor written by Donizetti in 1835. At a time when there was a European interest in the history and culture of Scotland. Sir Walter Scott made use of these stereotypes in his novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which inspired several musical works, including Lucia.

The story concerns the emotionally fragile Lucy Ashton (Lucia) who is caught in a feud between her own family and that of the Ravenswoods. The setting is the Lammermuir Hills of Scotland (Lammermoor) in the 17th century. The staging was a bit dark and dour but suited the opera. We enjoyed our evening at the opera sitting in our box, and the smoked salmon sandwich at the interval. Even though things didn't end well for Lucia and her lover it was a good day for us after all.

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