Susan's sketchbook log: Sicily & Malta


Madonna at the gas station behow the Sanctuary of TindariS. Maria della Autostrada

From Taormina, it was on to Palermo. We took the route along the coast with spectacular views. I found out that the Straits of Messina, the water stretching between Messina on the northeast tip of Sicily and the toe of Italy's boot is where Scylla and Charybdis waited for Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey. Wow. We also passed the Aeolian Islands -- Stromboli et al -- a couple of them shaped like perfect little volcanic cones.

Stopped for a break below the sanctuary of Our Lady of Tindari, a Black Madonna and pilgrimage site (left).

Local legend tells that a lagoon was created after a pilgrim who came to see the Madonna refused to pray to the Madonna because she was black. The woman accidentally dropped her baby into the ocean and the Madonna made the land rise to save the baby. The sands of Marinello have taken shape of the profile of the Madonna.

Meanwhile, down at the Q8 service station, there was a more traditional Madonna at the edge of the parking lot for those on a more 21st century pilgrimage that didn't stray from the highway.

Thinking back on her after some experience with taxi drivers in Palermo, I reckon that there can not be too many roadside Madonnas to pray to.

Along the autostrada -- in fact everywhere -- are huge prickly pears and agaves, which in mid-September look as if they haven't seen water in a couple of centuries. The prickly pear fruit turn up in the market as "fichi d'India" or Indian figs. Must come as a surprise to visitors from Delhi.


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