Erice, at 750m above sea level, and the first time I’ve felt cold in Sicily. Cold enough to be thankful for my warm jacket and twice-wrapped scarf.
There’s a funivia, cable car, that takes you from Trapani up to Erice, but I gave that one a miss. I couldn’t see the top of the mountain from Trapani and there was no way I was getting into one of those swaying things to ascend far above what was visible from ground level. I’ve seen too many James Bond movies.
I took the bus instead.
The first thing I saw after arriving at Erice was the little pony.
I approached the man leading the pony and, after the customary Buonogiorno and associated remarks of good will, I just had to talk about the little horse.
Mi scusa, il cavallino, lui è un pony Shetland, no? – He is a Shetland pony?
I was answered with a shrug (a great shrug, by far the best I’ve seen) and Non so Shetland, che cosa è Shetland? He doesn’t know what a ‘Shetland’ is.
My ability to speak Italian has hardly moved forward at all but I can understand now almost everything that’s said to me. OK. So how do I explain “Shetland’?
Isole, I said. Islands. L’Isole Shetland, vicino la Scozia. Near Scotland.
An even better shrug.
Scozia che cosa è fatto chea?
He pretty well asked what Scotland had to do with the price of fish. OK, I’ll leave it at that. I’m not getting myself into a conversation well above my head.
But I still reckon this is a Shetland pony.
Anyhow I came to Erice not to discuss Shetland ponies but to see the temple of Venus.
This particular temple had quite a name in antiquity. According to Claudius Aelianus the Honey-Tongued (meliglossos), animals chosen for sacrifice at this temple would voluntarily walk up to the altar. That’s obviously stretching the truth even for about 200 CE but I’m not going to quibble.
I walked even further up (and up) from the bus stop to see this wondrous Temple of Venus.
I didn’t really expect something like I saw in Agrigento, but these remaining stones were enough to let me imagine how the temple would have looked. It’s enough that some of the foundation stones are still here.
The skies were grey in Erice – and the view from the top was even greyer.
This view is over Trapani – lovely little town and where the Odyssey was written. Or so I believe.
The grey skies reminded so much of Melbourne that I got quite a nostalgic lump in my throat. Ah well, I’ll be home soon enough and plunged into the ruthless heat that my friends have so lovingly described – I may as well appreciate the chill up here on Erice while I can.
The same tiny, twisting streets are up here.
I’m getting better at walking up and down the streets but I do wish the footpaths or, rather, roads (there’s no delineation) were more comfortable on the feet. They’re always made of uneven stones.
Some of the little streets actually go down before they go up. I’m sure there’s a reason for this although it escapes me.
A little further along the street suddenly becomes an underpass.
And the arches again. I love the sheer madness of these arches. Why are they there?
There’s no logical reason to separate streets with these bits of architectural frills and furbelows unless it’s purely for the beauty of the view.
It’s these unexpected views that always stop me in my tracks. This is indeed a beautiful place, this is a beautiful island.
I love Sicily.