A walk to the Reserve

WWF Reserve, Saline di Trapani

To reach the Salina reserve from where my mother lives, taking the most direct route, took me about an hour, including a few stops to capture images, to cover the nearly 5 km journey on foot. I left early so as to cover as much distance as I could before the temperature rose, which it did well into the 30s celcius by the time I got there. I must have been out to punish myself for some reason.

Salt pans or, more accurately, evaporation ponds and irrigation channel

The purpose of my outing was to capture some images of the now disused evaporation ponds that form the reserve, to visit the WWF centre and, hopefully, to see some bird life including Greater Flamingos. I was out of luck with the flamingos that will arrive later in the summer but also with the WWF centre which was closed. On reflection I have never seen the place open but I have seen reports from those who have visited.

WWF information board

  1. The roadside edge of the salt ponds have tall reeds that obscure the view. There are a couple of breaks in the reeds, including a simple wooden “hide” at one corner of a pond, so I was able to get good views of a few birds.

WWF sitting area and “hide”

I am not usually lucky enough to get close to birds in the wild but they were kind to me and allowed me to get some reasonable shots of Little Terns, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and egrets. In addition to the bird pics I bagged a few of the salt pans and the old windmills that were used in the past to pump water from the pans. I could hear reed warblers of some kind but didn’t see these elusive birds.

Avocet (image to be replaced from camera later this month)

On the way back I saw a kestrel, a few moorhens and a family of mallard. A couple of years ago I saw Spoonbills, Shelduck, Greater Flamingos and some shorebirds.

Overall it was a productive outing, though really hot on the way back. I was disappointed that the WWF centre was closed but perhaps on a future visit I will have a chance to talk to the staff about the habitat.

Salt production is still a significant industry in Trapani using modern methods of production. In addition to the ponds near the reserve there is large production areas at between Trapani and Marsala.

How to get there

I do not recommend walking unless you are very keen to get exercise.

By car, take the SP21 road from Trapani to Marsala. It passes the WWF centre where there is on-road parking on the side road outside the centre (not on the main highway).

Google Map view

There are no buses on this route.

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Walking photo tour of Trapani

The images and text in this post provide a summary of the walking tour that I conducted last month. Greater detail may appear in specific subject articles at a later date.

In view of the really hot weather that Trapani had been “enjoying” the walking tour started at 08:30 so as to complete it before the heat of the sun got too uncomfortable.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

The tour began at the statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II which sits in the square of the same name. We spent a few minutes taking photos of the statue (composition, rule of thirds, golden ratio) before crossing via Fardella, now closed to traffic, to the fountain of Triton.

Triton fountain

The fountain features two large horses in the middle of the water feature that is centred on a bronze figure of Triton (a Greek god of the sea, son of Poseidon).

Here we spent 15 minutes taking creative shots (selective depth of field, aperture control) from various points of view of the fountain before crossing via Spalti to the gardens of Villa Margherita.

A shaded boundary inside the Villa Margherita gardens

Although referred to as a “villa” the Villa Margherita is a public garden that was established in honour of Queen Margherita. It is bounded by broad tree-lined paths with colourful flowers in the central areas.

Bougainvillea, palms and exotic trees in flower in Villa Margherita

There are statues of a variety of famous people dotted around the gardens and a nice water feature at the top end. We spent 30 minutes here (histograms, manual controls).

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Moving on, we then walked to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, named after the site of a major battle in the Venetian area that ended the Austro-Hungarian empire and contributed to the end of WWI. Around the square are a number of government buildings including the Post Office (under renovation but still operating).

Post Office interior with art deco decoration

The inside of the post office is well worth looking at. It has an art deco style in good condition (contrast, available light). The outside of the building has been partly covered for the last two years but the process of renovating this 90 year-old building seems inordinately slow, though to be fair the work has to be done to last many more years.

Just beyond the Piazza is the start of via Garibaldi.

Via Garibaldi

Via Garibaldi, named after Giuseppe Garibaldi who was instrumental in the unification of Italy and subsequent creation of the Kingdom of Italy, is part of the old town of Trapani. It is closed to traffic other than delivery vehicles. Along the road are a number of historic buildings and churches though the narrowness of via Garibaldi means it is not entirely photogenic.

Bar Il Salotto, via Garibaldi

At the end of via Garibaldi, more specifically at the bar Il Salotto, we took a short rest to have a cooling and healthy pomegranate juice while discussing progress so far and what was to come.

Fish Market Square

Around the corner from the bar is the old fish market square, now used for cultural events.

The square is bounded on two sides by a colonnade atop the sea wall with the sea behind. It features a bronze statue of Venus/Aphrodite near the road.

We left the square, taking the narrow path of via Mura di Tramontana West, along the top if the sea wall. From here we had views of part of the old town fortification towards the Bastione Conca and the beach below it.

Bastione Conca, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

After visiting the Bastion we took the steps down from via Mura di Tramontana and along the road before entering viale delle Sirene (Avenue of the Sirens) and back onto the Mura di Tramontana.

Beach view, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

View of Torre di Ligny from Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

Yellow-legged Gull

Torre de Ligny

We left Torre de Ligny, heading back towards town on Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the Rua Grande, built in the 13th century) passing the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) towards the famous astronomical clock tower on via Torrearsa.

Porta Oscura

Porta Oscura, the dark gate, is one of the four historic entrances to the old town. Above and adjacent to the gate is the clock tower.

Torre del Orologio

The astronomical clock, built in 1596, is one of the oldest of its kind and still functions.

We were now on via Torrearsa.

Via Torrearsa

At one end of via Torrearsa is the fish market square that we had passed earlier, and were now returning to, while at the other end is the port. This makes the road, with its shops, bars, restaurants and points of interest, a busy place for tourists especially those on cruise liners that frequent Trapani.

Fontana de Saturno

While walking along via Torrearsa we stopped at the Saturn Fountain that was built to commemorate the opening of the aqueduct built in 1342.

We then made our way back to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to conclude the walking photo tour.

Apart from learning a little bit about Trapani, participants on the tour receive practical instruction on camera usage including:

Starting: Camera basics – body, lens and sensors

Seeing: Composition and objective

Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes

Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO

Lighting: Daylight and artificial light

Histograms: what they tell you

A Taste of Trapanese History

Entrance to the Pepoli Museum (facing out towards the gardens of the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani)

In my teens, while visiting relatives in Rome, I was given a choice of spending a day visiting the Vatican etc or going to the beach. I chose beach! I guess, as a younger man, I always preferred sun and sand to old relics though I now like art galleries and museums more than beaches. Or as my daughters might say “You like old relics because you are one!”

In spite of having spent many weeks or months in Sicily over the past 10 years I had never visited a museum on the island. Last week, while returning from a photo project, I passed through the gardens adjacent to the Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum, took a few pictures and decided that I should return.

Considering the history of the region I am surprised that there aren’t more museums in Trapani. I suppose it’s because the majority of tourists come here for the sun, sea and sand as I would have done years ago.

The Pepoli museum covers a wide range of aspects of Trapani’s history and I was happy to see a group of young school children with their teachers apparently conducting a history lesson there.

View from the gate of the museum, separating from the Sanctuary gardens, towards the entrance to the museum.

The entrance to the Museum is behind the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani, one of the principal churches in the town, and is reached by passing through the gardens that seem to attract a daily quota of both pensioners that enjoy the coolness and tranquility of the setting and young children, whose laughter as they play under the watchful eye of their mothers in the shade of the trees, echos off the front of the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary viewed from within the gardens

A gate separates the museum from the gardens, with a pair of white stone column heads positioned as if to welcome visitors. A wide path leads between an area littered with ancient masonry and a large anchor on one side, and a bust of Sr Agostino Pepoli on the other.

One of a pair of white stone column heads outside the museum gate

Once inside the shaded entrance of the Museum one can see the cloisters that borders the museum garden.

Cloisters with garden

I paid €6.00 to enter the museum and was given a brochure in English. I believe they offer French and German versions too (in addition to Italian, of course).

Brochure and entrance ticket

Museum staff are on hand as one enters the building and throughout the museum in various rooms to ensure you follow the appropriate flow of the exhibition areas. Anyone with questions or seeking clarification on any aspect can of course approach the staff who are happy to provide the benefit of their knowledge.

One of the first exhibition areas in the museum is that of religious artefacts

Ceramic tiles depicting the town of Trapani

Garden with the bell tower of the Sanctuary above and behind the museum walls

A number of stone decorations on loose display under the cloisters

View of the cloisters and shaded part of the garden

What to see

Paintings of historical figures linked to Trapani

Paintings and sculptures of religious subjects

Example of clothes and jewellery of the Baroque era

Painted wall and floor tiles

Roman and Greek pottery, metal and glassware dating back over 2,500 years

Fascinating finely detailed carvings and dioramas of historic scenes eg views of life, of nativity, and horrific images of the Massacre of the Innocents.

How to get there

via Conte Agostino Pepoli, 180

By bus, taxi or car, but there is only street parking

Open:

weekdays 9 am – 1 pm and 3 pm – 7.30 pm Sundays and holidays from 9 am to 12.30 pm

SUMMER TIME (JULY AND AUGUST):

weekdays: Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5.30pm

Sunday and public holidays: from 9.00 to 12.30

This is a great place to see so much history in one place. A visit to this museum is highly recommended.

Favignana

Favignana port with the tuna cannery on the far side and the Norman fortress of Santa Caterina

Located at the toe of Italy Sicily is an island that has smaller islands under its administrative responsibility. The nearest of these, the Aegadian Islands (Italian: Isole Egadi; Sicilian: Isuli Egadi), are a group of three small mountainous islands and two smaller rocky outcrops in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily near the cities of Trapani and Marsala.

The five Egadi islands

Favignana, the largest island, is 16 kilometres (10 miles) southwest of Trapani while Levanzo lies 13 kilometres west and Marettimo lies farthest away at 24 kilometres west of Trapani. The two minor islands, Formica and Maraone, lie between Levanzo and Sicily. The administration of the archipelago falls under the comune of Favignana in the Province of Trapani.

Liberty Lines ticket office at Trapani port

To reach the three larger islands you have to take a ferry from Trapani port. I made the mistake of booking online through an agency (for some reason I couldn’t access the ferry company’s site) and was obliged to re-buy a ticket at the port. More on this in a separate post – it’s another example of what can go wrong with online reservations that seem to be a regular feature for me this year.

The hydrofoil takes 30 minutes to Levanzo and another 10 minutes to Favignana. Not listening carefully to the announcements I got off at Levanzo but, realising my error, reboarded.

Fishing boats at Favignana marina

Once docked at Favignana, I walked up the slight rise along the edge of the marina that was littered with small wooden fishing boats.

Aside from tourism, Favignana’s principle industry is tuna fishing. There is a cannery where visitors can see the process of preparation, cooking and canning of products that are exported.

At the top I followed the road to the right towards and round the landmark Palazzo Florio where I took a couple of photos, and then along via Florio to Piazza Europa.

Palazzo Florio

Piazza Florio is triangular in shape with the Municipality building facing in from the wider end, a statue of Ignazio Florio in the centre, and a variety of ice-cream parlours bordering the square. Ignazio Florio was an entrepreneur and politician who owned the Egadi islands and established tuna fisheries on Favignana and Formica.

Statue of Ignazio Florio in front of the Municipality building in Piazza Europa

To be honest, I found the lack of restaurant options a bit frustrating. For anyone actually staying on the island for more than a couple of days I imagine this could prove irritating.

From there I walked along via Vitorio Emanuele to Piazza Matrice. Facing the piazza is the church of the Immaculate Conception (Chiesa Madre Maria SS Immacolata), a nice church that is ornately decorated in white and cream tones inside.

Inside the Maria Santissima church

I had lunch at Tunafish City, a casual food bar whose speciality was a tuna sandwich. Fresh tuna, grilled and served on a bun with tomato. I had a glass of prosecco to acompany the food.

Tuna sandwich at Tunafish City

I walked around, exploring a few lanes (always good fun in the hope of finding unexpected stuff) before taking a route back to the marina where I found the tourist “train”. The driver was waiting for the incoming ferry so after about 20 minutes we were on our way.

The route took us into the countryside where the driver gave a running commentary about the island, the views and the indigenous plants.

Derelict garden outside Favignana town

On return to the marina I walked back to Bar del Corso, in a corner of piazza Europa, for coffee and a pistachio cassatina that looked nicer than it tasted. The coffee was good though.

Bar del Corso which serves a variety of ice creams as well as pastries and snacks

Pistachio Cassatina

This was less than a half-day excursion. I had taken the 11:30 ferry to Favignana and the 16:45 ferry back to Trapani.

At one stage during my visit I thought about catching an earlier ferry back but had decided instead to take the train tour. So, on balance a half-day was enough for me.

Anyone wishing to visit the cannery or Santa Caterina fort would need a whole day.

How to get there

Hydrofoil ferry from Trapani to Favgnana. Round trip fare is about €20 per person.

Tickets are available on the day from Trapani port though in summer its best to book in advance.

Here we go round the Mulberry bush

Ripe mulberry fruit in a punnet

“Here we go round the Mulberry bush”

These are the words that start an old nursery rhyme that is believed to be about 150 years old, though its origins are subject to speculation. The same tune and some words are used in similar rhymes eg “Here we go gathering nuts in May” and “The wheels on the bus go round and round”. But back to the subject if mulberry fruit.

The mulberry bush, genus Morus, is well-known both for its fruit, similar in appearance, but not related, to blackberries, and for its leaves that are used for feeding the larva of silk worm moths. Its leaves are also used for making nutritional supplements.

Leaf of the mulberry bush

Nutritionally mulberries are high in vitamin C and a significant source of iron.

High in vitamin C

Significantly rich iron content (14% of daily requirement per serving)

Sources: US Dept of Agriculture via Wikipedia

Ripe mulberry on the tree

This bush is located in the garden where my mother lives. There were just two fruits on the tree, one appears to have been eaten by birds, the other by me!

The fruit varies in flavour, depending on maturity, from acidic to mild. They are ideally suited to eating with yogurt on breakfast cereal. I usually eat fresh or dried fruit with oatmeal each morning.

Cassata

Traditional Sicilian painted wagon

Before having a siesta after lunch last week I came across something on Face Book that a friend had posted.

http://www.custonaciweb.it/i-dolci-piu-buoni-del-mondo-sono-siciliani-ad-affermarlo-e-il-new-york-times/

It’s an article that appeared on the village webpage of Custonaci, a small town outside Erice. The article references a piece published at the end of last year in the Los Angeles Times about the best pastries in the world being made in Sicily.

While in general I would agree, as soon as I saw the article I was struck by deja vu. To finish off our lunch of roast chicken and panelle we had …. one of the very same pastries featured above.

Cassatina Sicilianathe classic mini Sicilian cassata

The ones we bought were from a local pasticceria in Erice, while not the best that I have eaten they were a nice way to finish our meal.

Cassatina is a small cake, that’s how I think it’s best to describe it. The nearest thing in UK supermarkets are the famous Mr Kipling French Fancies – small sponge cakes that are covered in icing.

Selection of Mr Kipling French Fancies

Personally, I like the Kipling cakes though do not feel the sane sense of satisfaction after eating them that I get from cassatina’s.

The Sicilian cassatina, if well made, has that level of satisfaction that only comes with freshly made cakes made with great ingredients and the passion of a good pastry chef.

The traditional cassatine are made with a sponge base soaked in fruit juice (or alcohol, eg marsala), with a layer of ricotta cheese and candied fruit, topped with a thin covering of marzipan. Delicious and possible to make at home (though I will write about this at a later date).

Erice to Erice – the cable car

Funivia – upper station

There are days when the queue to embark the cable car to upper Erice is so full of tourists that you feel like giving up the idea of travelling on it. But the cable car system is on a loop, each car carrying up to 8 passengers, so the queues move quickly.

Although referred to as Funivia Trapani-Erice the lower station is located in the Casa Santa neighbourhood of Erice – or Lower Erice as I refer to it. (I wrote a three-part article about Erice some time ago: first part here)

It costs €9 for the round trip to the top and back. Journey time each way is about 10 minutes. The cable car station at the top is on via delle Pinete across the road from the car park.

Trapani Gate

Up the hill, on the opposite side of the road, is Porta Trapani (Trapani Gate) one of the two arched entrances to the medieval town.

Madre Chiesa

From here you can explore the sights of old Erice, including the Norman castle, the cathedral, numerous churches and chapels, the gardens and the Spanish quarter.

Small chapel near the Cathedral

One of many lanes to explore

How to get there

Taxi, bus (need to check but bus number 23 may take you all the way) or by car.

If you are on a cruise then the cruise line can arrange transport and Funivia tickets (package cost is, I believe, €40). The advantage of arranging this on the cruise boat is that it won’t leave without you!

If you enjoy walking it takes about 45 minutes at a reasonably brisk pace:

To reach the Funivia station from the port of Trapani one heads inland on via Mazzini, past Trapani railway station,

Gardens on the platform, Trapani railway station

turn right onto via Fardella which later becomes corso Mattarella and later still, crossing into Erice, becomes via Manzoni.

Via Fardella, Trapani

Near the end of via Manzoni turn left onto via Cosenza at Cafe delle Rose, where I usually stop for a coffee or glass of wine, or to pop into Ciuri-Ciuri on the other corner for excellent ice cream and cakes. Alternatively, carry on for a couple more street, turning onto via Capua. If taking via Capua, the Funivia station is about three block on the right hand side. If taking via Cosenza, continue along the road for a couple of blocks then turn right onto via Avellino and the Funivia is dead ahead.

Cassatelle alla Trapanese

Cassatelle di ricotta alla Trapanese

You can almost see the calories in this great local dessert from Trapani. Known in the Sicilian dialect as Cassateddi it isn’t so much the calorie count but rather the weight of the ricotta that leaves you feeling you may have over-eaten these delicious half-moon shaped treats. One is usually enough, two cassatelle makes you feel that a bit of exercise may be a good idea to burn the excess energy consumed.

We bought a few cassetelle from a local pasticceria (pastry shop) in Erice, though they are easy to make at home. In my opinion the icing sugar coating was overdone – I prefer a light dusting.

Cassetelle are best fresh since, as with cannoli, the moisture in the ricotta makes the pastry soggy after a time. A damp cannolo is not nice but a cassetelle that is less than fresh is still ok.

Cassetelle with ricotta and chocolate chip filling

Ingredients (non-vegan**):

Pastry:
250 gm plain flour
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
40 gm caster sugar
80 ml white wine
water

a light vegetable oil should be used for frying the cassatelle 

Filling:
300 g ricotta (well drained)**
3 tbsp caster or icing sugar 
1 lemon (finely grated zest)

A few pieces of candied lemon/orange peel or chocolate chips (I like no more than half a dozen small bits per cassetelle, and prefer the fruit to chocolate chip)

Icing sugar for dusting before serving.

** To make a vegan version, try using or making a cashew nut ricotta. I haven’t tried this yet but am confident the cassatelle flavour will be enjoyable.

Preparation

Mix the ricotta, sugar and candied peel in a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge until the pastry is ready.

To make the pastry, mix the flour and sugar then add the wine. Continue stirring the mixture while adding water until the dough is firm (neither hard nor too soft). Place in the fridge for an hour.

Roll out the pastry until it is 2-3 mm thick (about 1/10th of an inch). Use a cookie cutter to make circles of 8 to 10 cm diameter.

Add a couple of spoonfuls of filling to each piece of pastry, slightly off-centre, then fold and seal the edges.

Fry until golden brown on both sides.

Remove excess oil from the cassetelle by draining on paper kitchen towels. Cover lightly with icing sugar and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 117kcal
Carbohydrates: 15gm
Sugar: 5g 
Protein: 3gm
Fat: 4gm
Saturated Fat: 2gm
Cholesterol: 10mg
Vitamin A: 1.9%
Vitamin C: 0.1%
Sodium: 21mg
Potassium: 34mg 
Calcium: 4.7% 
Iron: 3.7%

* NB – the nutritional values will vary with actual ingredients used – treat as a rough guide

A Sicilian Caper!

Caper bush (Capperis spinosa), also known as Flinders Rose

Capers are well known as a pickled condiment. It is the flower buds that are harvested and pickled though, after flowering, the fruit or berries can also be harvested for pickling.

The bush, with its long stems, is a perennial plant that is found throughout the Mediterranean region and in my mother’s garden in Erice.

Flower buds and leaves on the Caper Bush

In addition to the culinary use of the buds and berries the leaves can also be pickled and used in salads.

The delicate flowers of the Caper Bush

The plant is said to have several medicinal benefits including remedies for diabetes, fungal infections, chest congestion, intestinal worms , and skin disease caused by a form of leishmaniasis.

Slender, young seed pods

Capers are used in many Sicilian dishes and salads, while the leaves are more often seen in Cypriot food.

Nutrition

While rich in some nutritional aspects pickled capers have a high sodium content.

Macro-nutrients

Micro-nutrients

Sources: US Dept of Agriculture via Wikipedia

All about image

AS17-03233 copy

Venice in the rain

Bags packed and ready to fly. First port of call will be Lisbon where the weather is expected to be as warm as it is in Brazil so I will be out and about capturing images of food and sights to add to my collections.

As well as selling images through my principal agent, Alamy, I sell direct to clients and can take advance orders for specific images before I travel. I have just signed up to a new (for me) web-based photographic agency, FotoWoo, which I find potentially useful for picking up semi-commissioned work. It seems to work like an agency I used to use (Photographers Direct) that provided me with a few leads in years gone by but better. FotoWoo makes use of a request and supply system that is easily accessible via desktop or mobile apps. I think it has potential since it offers buyers the ability to obtain images from a variety of photographers. It makes us competitive too which is not a bad thing!

You may ask: How do I search for an image online? Google obviously helps but image agencies, unless you know a photographer, are the best bet.

In addition to the two agencies that I sell through, I also make use of other competitive sites through which to attract business: Freelancer and Upwork among others.

If in doubt, ask me! I will happily answer questions and more happily sell photos – they don’t have to be expensive!