The mid-morning sun casts its rays upon the busy piazza as you sit at the round table outside the restaurant trying to recall yesterday's events. Was it all a dream? You can only recall bits and pieces of the tour in a secret facility and the transportation device. One minute you were on the cruise ship then the next in an elevator? What happened from then to this morning? This morning was typical enough, typical for the cruise at least. You woke up this morning in a daze then Tasha announced to everyone breakfast would be served in the Oltramari piazza. It was as if you had never left the 19th century, Sicilian destination. But you had to have left this time period because you can recall your tour guides dressed in modern clothes. You shake your head. Maybe it was all a dream. You sip on your Italian coffee and watch some of the children from the cruise play. Its a beautiful day and you love watching the residents of 19th century Oltramari go about their daily routines.
Suddenly a familiar woman rushes down the piazza towards your group. Dalton rises from his table and signals from the group to come together. Your tour is about to begin.
Photo: A view of Taormina. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.
Good to see so many have returned. Noisy last night in the piazza—an altercation between some of the soldiers and deserters, I understand. I hope none of you had trouble sleeping. You, sir, better sit down in the park over there, you look a little tired. We’ll pick you up at the end of the tour.
Well, on we go.
You’ll remember the other day we talked about the Duomo and statue and all those churchy things. Now it’s time for shopping.
All around the piazza are Oltramari’s finest shops—the embalmer next to the Duomo, my family’s apothecary shop on the other side—good for tonics of all sorts—the shoemaker here (you’ll remember him from NO MORE BROTHERS), the baker over there, the butcher, the dry goods store, the sweet shop and Boffo’s Café (again, had a big role in NO MORE BROTHERS) and don’t forget Oltramari’s finest milliner. Their corsets use the best baleen stiffeners, and at a special price. After the tour, you’ll have time to shop, no doubt.
So, to continue. Turn around.
Directly across from the Duomo is the Municipal Building. It houses the local subprefect and commissioner, the archives, the police, the carabinieri, the local courts, lawyers, judges, AND last and least, our know-nothing inspector, Colonna who, unfortunately, appears in both DEATH OF A SERPENT and NO MORE BROTHERS. In the basement is the jail, a despicable keep built by those nasty Bourbons. Not worth a visit—no one comes out alive.
Before we migrated to New York, my family lived in that villa in back of the public gardens. It was built by my more affluent ancestors. See it? The one with the light rose ochre façade peeking through the palms, the viridian shutters, wrought iron gates, bougainvillea climbing the wall, chestnut tree in front. Lovely, the gardens, especially when Carmela tended them. Our stable’s in the back where we keep the mules, the family carriage, and the trap I use for visiting. Of course, now that I’m immortal, I flit here and there whenever I want.
Down the road from the Municipal Building are the straw market, the black smith, the public stables. Above us is the promenade. From its height when the light is clear, we can see all the way to Mt. Etna or peer down to the fishing village below.
Directly behind the Duomo is Via Serpentina. It winds down to the sea through rough neighborhoods with windowless hovels and narrow alleyways that shoot this way and that, crossing and double-crossing, ending abruptly in dusty piazzas with dry fountains. A perfect place for intrigue.
You’re bored, I can tell. I was going to show you the arena and Rosa’s villa, wind up at Boffo’s for a caffè, but that’s for another day. Questions?
Our destination today was written by author, Susan Anderson. After attending Marywood High School for Girls and St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Susan received a B.A. in English Literature from Marquette University.
Susan is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime. She's taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Traveled. Grew up on the north side of Chicago, but lived most of her adult life in the east. So, like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she's seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. She's seen worlds blow apart and life turn inside out in less time than it takes to type this sentence. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she write.
DEATH OF A SERPENT, the first in the Serafina Florio series, published January 2012. It began as a painting of the Lower East Side and wound up as a mystery story. She just published NO MORE BROTHERS, a novella, the second in the Serafina Florio series and is working on the third Serafina book, DEATH IN BAGHERIA. In between writing, revising and editing she reviews books and blogs.
Her website can be found at http://susanrussoanderson.com
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