Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The first post from Italy! We left for the tour the day after graduation, so I stayed up all night to say my goodbyes (☹) and enjoy my last night on campus. Hopefully, we got all of our screw-ups out of the way early; we had our 3AM bus to SFO for our 6:30 flight ordered for the wrong day… Consequently we the bus arrived at 5:10 and we got to SFO at 6:10 for our flight! After rushing through check-in and security and then running to the gate, Delta was nice enough to hold the flight for the 40 of us so we all made it. Whew.

From SFO we flew to JFK and then to Rome (FCO), but our journey wasn’t done yet. In Rome we switched to AliItalia for a flight to Palermo, Sicily. AliItalia refused to let us check big instruments, so the me and the other tuba player had to actually carry our instruments onto the plane and put them in seats, something I’ve done with my tuba in a gigbag, but not in a hardcase. Fortunately, the flight was empty because Tuba Zimmerman took up my seat and his! Below is my fellow tubist, Danny.

From Palermo we drove an hour and a half to Trapani on the West coast, a pretty little down where we had about 30 minutes to kill before boarding the ferry.

From Trapani we took a 40-minute ferry ride out to Favignana, the largest of the Egadi Islands, and home to about 4000 people. After a brief greeting from the mayor, we headed to the hotel, had a truly Italian dinner (4 course, 3 hours) and then finally crashed out after 30+ hours of traveling. Below is Favignana and our hotel.

Wednesday morning, we went and picked up the bikes that the city rented us for our time on the island, and one of the bassoon players and I headed to the nearby dive village to see if we could go diving. Things went well, and at 11 o’clock we headed out to a nearby island for a 45-minute, 60 feet deep dive. After having a little trouble with my ears, we settled down to 60 feet and took a look around. We saw some eels, lobsters, small branching coral, and scorpion fish. I guess I’ve been spoiled diving in Hawaii and Australia, but it was still awesome to get a chance to dive the Mediterranean. Our dive site is just off the island in the left below:

After the dive, I took a 45-minute bike ride to the far side of the island and then was back in time for rehearsal at 4. Below is looking back from the far side of Favignana up to the fortress

Thursday we rehearsed in the morning, and then a group of us took the ferry to the nearby island of Levanso, a much smaller more rugged island. We were hoping to go see the cave containing 17,000-year old cave paintings, but after seeing the 20-euro price tag, we decided to just walk around and swim. The island certainly was spectacular, and I liked it even better than Favignana because of its relative isolation. That night we performed for the community of Favignana, in the local tuna cannery, built in the 1800’s when tuna were abundant in the Mediterranean. One of our songs, composed by our conductor Giancarlo Aquilanti, actually featured some of the folksongs that the tuna fisherman sang on Favignana. Definitely one of the coolest venues I’ve played in. And the welcome we received from the town was really spectacular. The venue:

Friday morning, we were up early to retrace our steps back to Rome: ferry to bus to plane to a bus out of Rome to the small medieval village, Bevagnana. Here’s Levanso:

After a few days in Sicily, I can see the importance of the afternoon siesta. And although, the mob apparently controls everything here, you would have no idea. One last interesting note: the first day, I noticed fighter jets flying over heading south. I eventually found out that these were NATO planes headed for Libya, which is only about 200 miles away! The planes are based in Trapani in Western Sicily. Without reflecting too much on Libya, it was really strange to see these planes cruising over and knowing that they were on their way to bomb Libya.

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