After Ulysses and his crew, hanging onto the bellies of sheep, escaped from the Cyclop’s cave, the angry giant hurled rocks after their boat. You can still see these rocks in the Ionian Sea today.
How could I resist seeing the rocks that were thrown by Polyphemus the Cyclops?
Ulysses, you could say, is shown in a bad light by this incident. He was a man of inquiring mind, of outstanding prowess and bravery, but he had a couple of minor weaknesses. The first was pride. The second was his fondness for women, but I won’t go into that here.
Pride is natural to find in a Hero, although some might say that in Ulysses’ case he had far too much of it.
As his boat moved away, Ulysses bragged a little loudly about his exploits and boastfully revealed his name to Polyphemus, who then called upon his father, Poseidon, to punish the man who had harmed him.
This regrettable lapse of his usual intelligence hurt Ulysses more than losing a few men, because Poseidon, surely one of the nastiest gods ever, made the poor man’s journey home so much longer and so much more arduous. Still, it’s these negative aspects of Ulysses that makes him more real to me.
So off I went to see the rocks, Scogli dei Ciclopi.
Just a few kilometres north of Catania, a short bus ride brought me to Aci Castello.
The Castello was built in 1076 by the Normans upon the foundations of a 7th century Byzantine fortification and it’s a perfect spot for a fort as you can see. It’s black, built from lava. I’d always imagined castles to be white but the best construction material round this way is delivered by Mt Etna.
I was looking forward to the Castle’s museum, which has archaeological remains dating back to prehistoric times but, sadly, a sign said Chiuso. Closed! I keep forgetting that many places of interest are closed on Mondays.
So I spent the afternoon on the terrazzo of the tiny appartamento, nursing a bottle of Moscato and gazing over the sea-o.
The next morning I organised a trip on a little boat from Aci Trezza, a couple of kilometres further north along the coast, so I could get close to the isole Ciclopi. The Castello will have to wait for another day.
Boats are everywhere, it’s a fishing village after all.
Some of these little boats, dinghies, are works of art. I fought myself from breaking out into song …
Venite all’agile barchetta mia, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Aci Trezza is packed to the gills in Summer but it was quiet when I was visiting. Beautifully quiet. With plenty of locals who interrogated me, in the manner I came to expect of Sicilians, with frank and open curiosity. What was I doing? Why was I there? And I had a whole ristorante all to myself.
It was an upmarket restaurant to be sure, this sleepy little town is ready to cater for the Summer crowds. I’ve only eaten at places like this a couple of times, they tend to have a sameness that I suppose is only natural today, but I like to eat in smaller, old fashioned, Sicilian-style family trattorie. Little places with no menus and without imported beer.
It was at Aci Trezza that I first tasted swordfish. I’d seen a lot of it around and it somehow never appealed to me, but watching a large slice of swordfish steak grilling over a fire in the open air certainly does wonders for the appetite. It’s a meaty sort of fish and needs only a touch of oil and lemon.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for swordfish, il pesce spada or in Sicilian, u pisci spada.