This post combines Messina and Palermo on Sicily, and Cagliari, Sardinia.
A few days before Sicily, quite by chance in the ship's library, I find a collection of New York Times photos. One particularly disturbing shot shows the aftermath of a 1986 Mafia murder in Sicily.
Some visitors, influenced by too many viewings of the Godfather, doubtless arrive expecting a so-called 'man of honour' collecting pizzo or protection money on every corner. The Mafia has come under pressure, but a recent BBC report suggests that pizzo is still part of Sicilian life.
Moments after stepping off Maasdam in Messina, I am asked, not for pizzo, but to inspect a proud owner's restored Fiat 500, the Cinquecento, launched in 1957.
This encourages me to look for comparative shots of other Messina Fiats, although they turn out to be less immaculate.
Aside from a pickup, I want one of those retro Fiats. I also want a scooter.
Realizing I am not likely to have a pickup, Fiat or scooter, I sulkily find a cafe and survey the patrons.
An aside: D.H. Lawrence’s Constance Chatterley (L'Amante Di Lady Chatterley) was supposedly inspired by an Englishwoman living near Messina. The lady and a Sicilian farmer are said to have employed olive groves to cavort in the nude. Lawrence & Frieda were on Sicily from 1920 to 1922 and the woman may actually have been Frieda having an affair with a mule driver named Peppino. While in Messina, I see no nude cavorting or mule drivers. Neither do I meet anyone called Peppino.
However, in Palermo, I do see activities associated with Italian and Sicilian life, football and a demonstration. Outside a school, an impromptu kick of the ball and there's a girl. Not long ago, you would never have seen that in such a traditional society.
Nearby, a protest outside local government offices.
It appears to have something to do with an American base (I'm still trying to decipher a handout). Although riot police sit in buses a few metres away, the demonstration seems to be good-natured and officers have time for a smoke and check of their personal mobiles.
My main task is Palermo is the puppet museum. Sicily has a history of puppet-making and performances. As so often, I am the only person, which seems a pity as the displays are fascinating.
Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops, may have been 'Sicilian'.
From the 1920s, preserved in wood, are Laurel & Hardy and Greta Garbo.
More sightseeing: the 19th Century Teatro Massimo, steps used for the scene in Godfather 3 in which Don Corleone's daughter is shot.
So, I've simply reinforced the Mafia stereotype.
Cagliari, Sardinia, and an early morning square to myself.
A scooter-borne fish seller.
Before I leave Italy, a last Fiat 500, this for tours and illustrating the postwar car's enormous appeal.
For those particularly interested in Cagliari, below is a link to my previous visit in 2010. The post starts with Trapani in Sicily, which I very much liked, and ends with Cagliari: