|The hotel where we stayed which was once a tuna factory|
After a short respite at home, Sicily beckoned.
When you think of Sicily, especially if you are a “fan” of the Godfather movies or if you watched the recent phenomena on HBO--The Sopranos--you may equate Sicily and the capital city--Palermo--with the Mafia, and it’s true that Sicily has a long and not so pretty record of Mafia involvement, partially owing (I think) to its poor economy over the years and the desperation of the people to survive.
Or, perhaps, when you think of Sicily you think of the fancy resort-like cities of Taormina on the eastern side where thousands of visitors flock for the sun and shopping and food.
But the “rascal cat” and I wanted to see another side of Sicily. We’d heard that Sicily was also the home of ancient villages and caves and medieval towns and bell towers and salt roads and windmills. (No, we didn’t expect to veer off course and somehow land in Holland.)
We decided to spend our first few nights outside of Palermo in a hotel located in a former tuna factory in Piazza Bonagia. Yes, you heard me correctly. We’re talking about a factory that dated back to the 1600‘s, located on the water, of course.
|View of the water from the rooftop|
Better than that, John Marie, a tuna fisherman for many years, was going to explain how tuna fishing worked and how the fishermen who caught the fish--even up to now--use the oh so ancient technniques of his ancestors.
|John Marie, a tuna fisherman wearing stripes, explaining the ancient ways|
I was excited because I knew that fishermen in other countries used ultra-modern techniques, but not the Sicilians. They’ve stuck to their old ways and using an intricate system of nets and levels, they’ve managed to not only lure but trap and then kill the tuna, enough tuna for them to sell and make a living off of.
John Marie, who only spoke a Sicilian dialect of Italian, explained the process through an interpreter.
|An old anchor from a tuna boat|
During May and June the fishermen use dense nets to capture the bluefin tuna in a process called “mattanza” which means “to kill.” The key to the process being successful is organization and technique. A series of nets are lowered into the ocean. The tuna are captured in successive nets which are reduced in size and raised to the surface. The fish are speared and killed. This technique requires the effort of many fishermen working cooperatively together.
|One of the boats used in tuna fishing|
The fish struggle for survival, but they are no match for the fishermen’s spears. That’s the reason why the word “mattanza” also means “massacre.”
And where was Chuck during this entire lecture? Squirreled away in my smart bag, but listening intently. Anything concerning food, especially fish, has his rapt attention. Quickly, he got the concept that the place we were staying in USED TO BE A TUNA FACTORY.
Key operative word--USED TO BE.
Now, however, he was enthralled with the notion of how the nets caught the fish. While the other people ascended the narrow stairs to the rooftop to see the view of the water, we stayed behind because Chuck insisted on seeing the nets more closely.
|John Marie on the rooftop, answering questions|
He hopped out when the coast was clear and sniffed the nets.
And then it happened.
Without warning, he jumped up and into the nets themselves.
|A "model" to illustrate the intricate nets used to capture the tuna and CHUCK|
Whatever possessed him to do that?
Immediately, his weight pulled the netting inward and he was completely encased inside, trapped.
He panicked, of course, and began flailing around.
If you know anything about cats, they like their paws on solid ground. The more he tried to get his paws down on the net, the more it swayed this way and that, and the more he struggled, and then he began to whimper.
Of course, we tried to come to the rescue, but he was in such a panicked state that he wouldn’t be still for even a moment, and it became impossible to extricate him from the net.
To make it worse, any minute people were going to begin coming back down from the rooftop.
“We need organization and technique,” I whispered.
Bob nodded. “You grab the net and open it up. I’ll grab the cat.”
I grabbed the net.
He grabbed the cat.
Chuck was rescued.
In the nick of time.
Ten seconds later everyone began descending the stairs from the rooftop, and that was our clue to go up on the roof--just to readjust ourselves. The view was magnificent.
|The view of our hotel from the roof|
And if you’re wondering if the nets were damaged during the incident--no--those nets are incredibly strong. It’s conceivable Chuck could have been caught in them forever!
The poor kid--a Sicilian style tuna fish!
To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com
Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available in paperback and ebook formats at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.