Sicily

The ABC Tour

Mike has always joked that he is on the ABC Tour. That stands for, Another Blessed Cathedral. In many ways he is right. We have visited the main cathedral or church in every city we have traveled too. However, there are reasons other than my just wanting to light candles.

Many of the cathedrals or church’s we have entered have been around for hundreds of years, some going back as far as the 13th Century. Many of these places of worship were sponsored by the wealthiest patrons of their time so no expense was spared in the decoration or the carvings that can be found inside their walls. These are not modern buildings with stucco drywalls and simple stained glass windows or paint by number paintings. Many of the places we have toured have sculptures and deities leaping from the walls, chiseled in their glory to make them feel like they are alive; they have medieval stained glass windows that tell a story or gives praise to the people who helped to protect the church; they are filled with wooden ceilings and golden altars and even in some cases scientific advancements.

 

This stained glass window in the Church of Perth, Scotland shows the legendary Black Watch regiment,  Scotland's elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This stained glass window in the Church of Perth, Scotland shows the legendary Black Watch regiment, Scotland’s elite military group whose history stretches back almost three centuries. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In other words many of the churches and Cathedrals we have entered are really works of art unto themselves and they should be photographed and visited. I prefer visiting a city’s main Cathedral sometimes more than its main museum.

 

This is the ceiling in the Church of St. Francis in Sibenik, Croatia which dates back to the 13th Century.  The ceiling is made of wood and the paintings date from 1674.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the ceiling in the Church of St. Francis in Sibenik, Croatia which dates back to the 13th Century. The ceiling is made of wood and the paintings date from 1674. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike was raised Protestant, I was raised Roman Catholic. Mike wasn’t overly what you would call religious when we met so when I first told him that I wanted to visit the main Cathedral or Church in every city we visited he thought it was some sort of pilgrimage thing or something. Then he learned that I didn’t care if the church was Roman Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian or a Mosque; church’s and religious houses of worship are really testaments to great art.

This mosque is located in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It was the first time either of us had entered a Mosque and it was beautiful in its décor and simplicity.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mosque is located in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the first time either of us had entered a Mosque and it was beautiful in its décor and simplicity. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Sometimes the artwork begins well before you enter the church.  This is one of the doors that enter The Vatican in Rome, Italy.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Sometimes the artwork begins well before you enter the church. This is one of the doors that enter The Vatican in Rome, Italy. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The main altar in the Cathedral in Taxco, Mexico is covered in gold leaf and sculptures.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The main altar in the Cathedral in Taxco, Mexico is covered in gold leaf and sculptures. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

At famous Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland (of Da Vinci Code fame) the sculptures are part of the façade and leap out at you as you get close to the entrance of the chapel.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

At famous Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland (of Da Vinci Code fame) the sculptures are part of the façade and leap out at you as you get close to the entrance of the chapel. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Gold leaf fills this church, not just the main altar, in Monreale, Sicily.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Gold leaf fills this church, not just the main altar, in Monreale, Sicily. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Sometimes the main church's are used for ceremonies.  Changing of the guard happens in the Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina because the remains of Argentina's most loved general resides here; General José de San Martín.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Sometimes the main church’s are used for ceremonies. Changing of the guard happens in the Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina because the remains of Argentina’s most loved general resides here; General José de San Martín. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

After traveling for over three years and entering well over 100 church’s or Cathedrals he now has come to enjoy exploring them as much as I. In fact when we get to a new city one of the first places he pinpoints on a map is the nearest church and/or Cathedral. Maybe he can be a convert after all…

 

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Happy St. Joseph’s Day

Or, Let’s Show Them How to do a Feast Day Right

When I was growing up March 19th was always a big deal.   I never understood however why it wasn’t a day off from school since it required hours of work to get ready for the food feast that was coming but my Mom took care of most of the cooking when I was younger so I just had to show up at the dinner table.

March 19th is the day Sicilians celebrate the Feast Day of St. Joseph and how better to do this than with a St. Joseph’s Table.  Because March 19th happens during lent this is a meatless feast but some of the best foods are prepared this day; baked and breaded eggplant, stuffed zucchini, egg with asparagus frittata, stuffed artichokes, fava bean soup, and bread, lots of special and sometimes sweet breads to eat with your meal.

Mostly it’s the desserts we can’t wait for.  Sfingi’s filled with custard, fravioli’s filled with honey sweetened rigotta, pignolatta’s smothered in honey, and more.  Not only did I learn to love them all I learned to make them all as well.  Pure heaven.

Pignolatta; small balls of dough fried and then smothered in honey. Yum!  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Pignolatta; small balls of dough fried and then smothered in honey. Yum! © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

A little background perhaps is needed.  St.   Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus Christ.  His feast day, and birthday, is March 19th.  St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers; he is the universal protector of the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of Canada – China and Mexico.  March 19th is also celebrated as Father’s Day in countries such as Poland, Spain and Italy – and in some countries St. Joseph’s Day is a National Holiday.

During the Middle Ages there was a drought in Sicily and the people feared a famine would come.  They prayed to St. Joseph to intercede on their behalf and stop the famine.  They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter.

Breaded and baked eggplant.  One of my favorite dishes.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Breaded and baked eggplant. One of my favorite dishes. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Most times our ‘table’ was the sight of no less than 50 people coming over to feast together.  Since I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and I had a very large Italian American family base we always had a lot of people over to celebrate this day with us and it was one of those special days I always looked forward to.

The funny part was that I was told growing up that Sicilians were the only group who celebrated this day with a feast.   Now as I travel the world I have come to learn that this is not the case and many cultures and other ethnic groups celebrate this feast day as well.  For instance, here in Spain the famous Cathedral Sagrada Familia was actually first designed and created as a tribute to St. Joseph.  It evolved during Anton Gaudi’s time to become more than this but the original plans were based as a tribute to Jesus’s earthly father.

As time has gone on my parents have moved away from Buffalo and my folks go to a St. Joseph’s Table held every year at a local church in downtown Los Angeles.  The table is packed with people who come to participate in an Italian feast, some who know what day it is and others who just know that the Italian church is having an awesome dinner and they want to eat well this day.

I love to travel.  What I love more is having common ground with people.  I also love sharing my knowledge with others where I know what makes March 19th so special.  I have been able to tell our hosts here in Spain about St. Joseph’s Day in the US and they are surprised that such a tradition exists; it is something they were not aware of; that Italian Americans celebrate this day as they do. They were impressed.

Sfingi - dumplings that are usually filled with cream and dusted with powdered sugar.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Sfingi – dumplings that are usually filled with cream and dusted with powdered sugar. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It’s like I’ve always said; sit different people from different cultures around a dining room table and the differences between us seem to disappear.  We really have more in common with each other than people realize.  Now if only our world leaders would sit around a dining room table and talk; maybe the world wouldn’t be filled with so much distrust and hate.  At least that’s my prayer, and hope, for the New Year on this March 19th.  That and may your tables be filled with good and plentiful food all year.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Side Note: St. Joseph’s Day is also the day when the swallows traditionally return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.

Croatia

It Feels Like Home…and Yet…

As we leave Croatia and look forward to our move to Spain I take a minute or two to reflect on the Croatia I came to know, and love.

The Good

From the first I felt at home here.  From the first greeting; the first meal; the first excursion, I felt at home.  Croatia and its people are very familiar to me and I’d never been here before.

My family comes from Sicily and when I told everyone here how familiar everything seemed to me using this as a reference there were some who were offended.  I meant no offense.  I had stumbled upon an old feeling of historic resentment between Croatia and Italy because of centuries of domination under Italian rule.  I am extremely proud of my heritage and to me comparing these two countries meant that what I found here in Croatia was good people with good hearts; great food with flavor and presence; beautiful scenery and a grand history.  These are all things that I hold dear and finding them here was a nice surprise and a pleasure.  I chose to live in Croatia before I lived in Sicily so that alone should speak volumes.

The Bad

Sometimes living in a country as we do for extended periods of time we learn way more about a country than just a casual visitor.  Take Croatia for instance.  We have learned that some people spend a lot of time in being jealous of their neighbors who are doing well.  Businesses where locals try to get ahead and do well are looked upon with suspicion.  Local government is not a purveyor of growth but most jobs are gotten by who pays for the privilege of having that job.  Then when they get into that job they do nothing to build or foster growth for all the citizens but to line their own pockets with money.  This leads to an environment of every man for themselves instead of team building.  We have seen this type of political environment in third world countries and it is never good to keep the masses as the poorest of the poor because when they rise up against you, you have no solid footing to stand upon.  Croatia needs leadership in all areas where the people have a say and a government that works for them, not in spite of them.  They need teamwork and cooperation between agencies and companies not jealousy and suspicion.

Croatia has a lot to offer the world and the world is beginning to come here.  What is not happening however is that the many are not receiving the benefits of these visitors; the few are.  What those at the top fail to acknowledge, as they pocket more and more money, is that everyone in Croatia at one time or another comes into contact with a tourist.  And if they treat those tourists badly; if they give Croatia a bad reputation, then no one here is going to make any money.  Make all the people of Croatia benefit from the influx of tourism coming here and then Croatia will flourish.  Will there be a leader among the generations who will lead this change in Croatia or will the status quo hold?  I hope it changes, for everyone’s benefit.

I will be watching.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Authors Note: I have created a short video of the highlights of our time in Sibenik, Country, Croatia.  The people in Sibenik opened their hearts to us and we will forever be grateful.  I had also wanted to create a video using the traditional music of Croatia known as Klapa.  Recently a young group of musicians known as Klapa Adriaticum performed a selection of songs at a post Christmas gathering on the waterfront in Sibenik.  I approached their manager and with his permission created my video with their music.  I hope you will enjoy it.

We wish to make special mention of the following people who made our time in Sibenik and Croatia so wonderful.  We will miss you all.

Nina Belamarić our landlady and friend. She took care of me when I got sick and in general was our best source for information on Sibenik. Thank you, thank you.

Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourism Agency; another new friend who made sure that we saw and experienced more of this area than most tourists.  We are happy she entered our lives.  We will stay in touch.

Biljana Lambasa, owner of Personal Insider; another new friend who engineered some great travel experiences for us coming all the way from Zagreb to do so. Thank you Biljana.

And to our friends Lea Brezar and Manuela Tunjić from Dhar Media; we would never have Discovered Croatia without you and we will be forever grateful. Hugs to you both.

Family, Family Everywhere

Or Fancy Meeting You Here

When I first met my husband Mike in 2005 I jokingly told him that I have family everywhere.  You see I am Italian and I do come from an incredibly large family.  I always thought everyone grew up with that many cousins.

The first generation of my family to be born here were my grandparents.  My great-grandparents were from Sicily.  They had 10 children.  Those 10 turned around and gave them 24 grand-children, and you see where this is going.

My first Thanksgiving with Mike I had 45 people for dinner.  He had to fly in from Seattle to my home in Las Vegas four days before Thanksgiving to help me cook all the food and the pies.  He was overwhelmed but this was just how I grew up.

Before we headed for Argentina in 2011 I had found out that, low and behold, I really did have family everywhere.  There are about 100 family members living in cities throughout Argentina and I connected via facebook with my cousin Claudia in Cordoba.  She speaks pretty good English.

We chatted back and forth and we gave her our itinerary for our time in Argentina and what cities we would be in and what dates.  Then I lost contact with her and didn’t hear back.

Mike and I left on our four month exploration of Latin America in June of that year.  When we made it to Argentina I simply sent Claudia one last message letting here know that we were in the country and again what our dates were and where we were going.

At 6:00am one beautiful day while we were getting ready to explore the city of Mendoza, Argentina the front desk called our room and told me that I had company.  Being it was 6:00am and I was in a foreign country I thought the front bellman had gone daft.  After asking me again if I was Florence Ricchiazzi Lince he confirmed that I indeed did have company.  Walking to the lobby the morning fog lifted and the only person I could even fathom was waiting for me was Claudia.  And there she was, in the lobby, with her husband and three of her children!  After seeing my note that we were in town they had driven over 6 hours to get from their home in Cordoba to Mendoza to spend the day with us. It was the first time we had ever met but we talked and talked and talked the day away.  What an incredibly warm and sweet family.  We had breakfast together and then spent the day at the Mendoza Zoo.  The kids had a wonderful time and by the end of the day they were calling Mike Uncle.  Our day in Mendoza, with family, is still one of the memories we cherish most from our many travels.

Me and my cousin Claudia. Can you tell we are related?

Me and my cousin Claudia. Can you tell we are related?

By the end of the day he was Uncle Mike!

By the end of the day he was Uncle Mike!

A family reunion in Argentina

A family reunion in Argentina

Mike no longer doubts me when I say I have family everywhere.  He just smiles and shakes his head and waits for the next 6:00am call.

Florence Lince

http://www.6monthers.com