Monday, May 30, 2005

Trog Blog

Sperlinga is THE most unique place I have visited in Sicily. Believe it or not, some Sicilians are still living there in caves! And at least one is for sale, so YOU, TOO, could buy yourself a cave to live in! Some are fancier than others, with chimneys, electricity, screen doors, water reservoirs, and flower boxes, but they truly are just caves hewn into the incredible sandstone cliff that begins on the main street of Sperlinga and ends with a Norman castle over 1500 feet up that was built about the year 1000. In between the two is a picturesque little Sicilian town with its standard churches, bars, clotheslines on balconies, and tiny ancient men sitting like rows of ducks on park benches.

The castle, which is cited as one of the Top Ten in Sicily, is impressive enough, not only for its height and sheer cliff front, but for its labyrinth interior that was exacavated into the rock below--everything from stables to a chapel to grain storage to the "Door of Death," a trick hole in the top floor through which an unsuspecting victim, maybe an early version of telemarketer, would fall through to certain death . . .

As interesting as all of that was and the spectacular sweeping views from the parapets, it was the CAVES that fascinated me. I have never seen so many, much less real "livable" caves! Some make a municipal museum of sorts, with traditional furnishings in them. Others are used for storage. One had doves in it! Most fascinating, though, was the fact that many are still privately owned and inhabited! Electricity has been provided to all of them (but no water or plumbing), so WHO would live in a cave? Really old Sicilians? Leftover hippies? Troglodytes? The museum rooms that we could visit were pretty basic--sandstone floor, walls, and ceiling.

And another fascinating thing . . . they had furniture made out of fennel! What looked and felt like bamboo is really fennel, a celery-like plant that grows wild (and LARGE) in Sicily. Apparently they dry the giant mutant stalks and use them just like bamboo to fashion stools, chairs, and tables. I sat on one and it was quite sturdy.

A famous book about Sicily The Stone Boudoir has a section about these caves. The author was invited to stay in one, and she describes the experience. Click on the title for a live link to this page.

Back to the original inhabitants, the trogolodytes . . . who were they? The definition of troglodyte is simply "someone who dwells in a cave." Not much is known about them, although most historians think they were members of the ancient Sican tribe, or Sicani, who lived in these caves in Sperlinga a really, really long time ago, like 1000 BC!

I think someone should capitalize on all of this and make a hotel out of the caves . . . The Trog Inn, complete with fennel furniture . . . . doesn't it sound great? Who wouldn't want to pay big bucks to stay there? It would easily rival the so-called Ice Hotel in the Arctic Circle . . . .

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At May 31, 2005 10:56 PM, Blogger lauralita said...

That sounds a lot like the caves in France; I visited some near the Loire Valley. They cut out the stone to use for building palaces and chateaux, then were left with large caves. Some are used to grow mushrooms, some to store wine, some to breed silkworms, and of course, some people still live in them. They're pretty neat; you should check them out when you get a chance. :)


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