Taormina, Sicily

View from Gondola


Our last day in Sicily was spent at Taormina. We took a bus there from Catania, which dropped us off in the town at the top of the coastal cliffs which border the coast. From here, we took a gondola down the mountain to the beaches. We spent the morning on the beach, laying on the warm colorful stones creating its floor.



After a good amount of beach, we took the gondola back up to the center of down, full of shops, people and food. . . a perfect ending to our visit to Sicily.



Mount Etna, Sicily

Eastern (Catania) Coast

Lava "Beach"

 Today’s adventure: a hiking tour of Mount Etna and the surrounding coastal towns. We started along the Catania coast, near Aci Castello, a charming little fishing town. Here, we saw the nearest stretch of coastline to Mount Etna, largely composed of lava rock. 


  We got in the Nissan Pathfinder and headed up the mountain. It was a bumpy and thrilling ride, between patches of trees and brush, and over jagged piles of lava rock. Once high enough on the mountain, we got out and hiked. . . and hiked. . . and hiked. 


Volcanic Cave

A visit to a stream. . . sort of remote from the peaks of Mount Etna, but one that was formed as a result of volcanic activity; its boundaries are made of beautifully eroded volcanic stone.

Volcanic Stream

More Catania and Siracusa

Inside the Duomo

Duomo Sketch

  With a couple hours to kill after missing our morning train to Siracusa, we headed back to the Duomo and went inside. This 18th century monument with its dramatic position in Piazza del Duomo offers modest relief upon entry inside. Though elegant and ornamenal, there is an inherent intimacy in its cracked tile floors and small column bays. The layering of vertical planes eased the enormous magnificence of the space; there were tiers of experience. 



 Afte stepping out of the Duomo, the smell of fish and chatter of people (mostly men), attracted us around the corner. Sure enough, we had found the fish market (pescheria). It seemed like a choreographed show, with fishes being thrown and people moving about methodically. It was a spectacular display of color and motion.


And, to Siracusa. . .

Archaeological Park

Our first stop was the Archaeological Park, located on Mount Temenite. Here, we saw ruins recalling ancient Greek and Roman domination, as well as spiritual remains, in the form of caves, tombs and monuments.


Onto Ortygia Island, off of the main city, and with its own city grid. . .

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

Among the numerous ancient ruins in Siracusa, the Doric Temple of Apollo was the most marvelous. Framed by Ortygia’s medieval residences and stores, it is a seeming void, which nonetheless demands attention. This is perhaps because it is easy to see what was. It is intact enough to be able to mentally recreate the structure; its prominence has not been lost.


Finally, a walk along the coast of Ortygia. . .

Ortygia Shore

And back to Catania.

To Sicily

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Catania at dinner-time. Tired, but eager to see the city, we strolled down Via Etnea and through the beautifully rustic streets of Catania.

The combination of run-down and well-kept buildings created a perfectly well-rounded city; it told the story of invasion and reconstruction over time.

The interaction among people helped to convey this story. Certainly equipped with a “tougher” mentality than I had seen in Italy so far, there was a refreshing honesty in the way these people refused to act “polite”; they are who they are.

Piazza Conversation


 The ethnic diversity which comprises the city further adds to this piecemeal environment. There was no longer an “Italian” type, but people that looked African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian, and every possible combination.


Before heading back to our hotel, we spent some time in Piazza del Duomo, home to Catania’s Cattedrale di Sant’ Agata (Duomo), where composer Bellini is buried.  The other focal point of the piazza is “u liotru”, an elephant carved from, paired with an Egyptian obelisk, a gathering place for local families.

Duomo, Lit Up

U Liotru

Final Review

GROUP NAME: gruppo bocce      

GROUP PROJECT: SIENA10 minding the wall PROJECTS      

GROUP MEMBERS: Cara Constantino, Jill DeBari, Jennifer Mortensen, Joseph Roque      

ASSIGNMENT: Porta Giustizia final review      

 A primary task was revising the Siena map to accurately portray our territory. As an area of the city seemingly considered a “void,” it has not been given the same precision as other, more central and traveled neighborhoods of Siena have in its representation on the map. We corrected that.      

New” Map of Siena:  The numbers on the map correspond with the numbers of the pages below      


In our research and analysis, after struggling to intervene in this territory and solve something, came to the conclusion that this place is beautifully incomplete. Its charm and success lies in its sense of community, small but strong. The people who spend time here understand it for what it is, a piece of Siena void of tourists and noise, but certainly not void of community.  So, instead of figuring out a way to enhance the territory, we decided to credit it. We made a series of splices, which could be read in two directions: 1. the more literal landscape seen as we moved from the center of the city outward to the edges of the territory, and 2. the “path” we took in studying this territory and its relationship to the dense city (drawings, diagrams, etc). So the product can be read from both sides, each telling a different story.      

Each page below features a front and a back:      

  •  FRONT:  left side column, represents a section in watercolor to convey our sense of experience as we moved through the valley towards the wall. 
  • BACK: right side column, holds the diagrams, sketches and maps that gruppo bocce created as we went through the experience of understanding the valley.

1.  Loggia della Mercato      


2.  Passage out to the Campo      


3.  Il Campo and Palazzo Publico      


4.  Via di Porta Giustizia      


5.  Split in the terrain      


6.  Piazza Mercato      


7.  Edge of the valley      


8.  Down the stairs      


9.  Laundry House      


10.  At grade with the Laundry House      


11.  Begining to see the greener side of Siena      


12.  The last of the built enviroment      


13.  Gate to the valley, but not Porta Giustizia      


14.  Walkway lined with kitchen gardens.      


15.  Understanding the valley as a community.      


16.  Completely isolated from the built world of Siena.      


17.  The valley is a place of repose.      


18.  The Wall.  The only remains for Porta Giustizia.      


19.  Beyond the wall.      


We hung these temporal episodic moments over a topography model of the landscape on which we spent so much time, helping to make our story even more complete. The undulations in the landscape is yet another piece that is missing from the maps of Siena, and one that creates an identity for the territory around Porta Giustizia.      

Side 1, Strung 


Side 2, Strung


The space we used to present our stories was lined with wildlife from the territory we studied. This was done not only to portray the importance of agriculture to the area around Porta Giustizia, but also to frame it and give the territory a reverence which we developed for it over our time in Siena. We wanted to show our respect and represent it in a manner in which it likely has never been portrayed, but one it is truly worthy of.      

Setting Up 


View from Behind Plants 



Perhaps the most important part of our project is its transience. After displaying our stories, they can be dismantled and (using the same string which held them in position along the topo) folded into a compact booklet, which we can take with us back to New Jersey. The topography model, like the real, existing landscape, remain in Siena, for others to study and learn from.     


The final component was an offering to the community which has formed in our territory. Using the basic outline of the territory, we made a series of diagrammatic plates, each relaying something we uncovered from studying the territory. We wanted to give these people something that showed that we too understand the value of this area.      

Our Offering 


Some images of our presentation:      

After Distributing the Revised Map 


Preparing the Gift for the Community 

. . . Work . . .




After yesterday’s day off, today was spent catching up on work for our final review. . .tomorrow.


The Crowd

After all of the buildup, the day has finally come. I got to the Campo a few hours early to secure a seat, but more importantly, to get some critical people watching done. The people were, dare I say, more a priority than the race itself for me. There were so many facets: the dichotomy between those in the stands and those in the center of the Campo, the evident and vast difference between the tourists and the locals, the contrada herds waving flags and taking control of their space.

Pre-Race Parade

About an hour and a half before the race, the parade around the “track” began, with contrada and Sienese flags waving. Excitement immediately grew and did not stop escalating. The location of the contradas within the Campo began to become clear, as blankets of color in motion rose up as the contradas’ respective representatives passed.


Finally, the horses came out. Mayhem began. Pride spilled out of the Sienese as the rest of us jumped up on our tippy toes to see the horses, as if they were some exotic creature. They lined up and there was about a half hour of realigning them along the start line, as some “misbehavior” among the horses and jockeys ensued.

Horses Lining Up

The Race

And the race began. It was exhilirating for the all of about a minute for which it lasted. The crowd of people within the Campo turned in seemingly choreographed unison as the horses made their way around us three times. And the winner. . .Tortuca!

Next item on the agenda: mad rush to the Duomo, where the jockey is carried by the winning contrada. We arrived as the crowd was gathering. About 15 minutes later, in came the jockey and the Tortuca contrada and my Palio experience came to an end.

Duomo After the Race

The Aftermath

It is all over; time to clean up.