My author says that Oltramari is an imaginary town on the northern coast of Sicily near Palermo. Imaginary? Don’t listen to her. All my mysteries take place in and around Oltramari, Sicily, a city you won’t find on any map.
My ancestors settled here centuries ago, so I know all about Oltramari and I’m going to take you on a tour.
At first, I’ll do the talking. You can ask questions later. Whatever you do, don’t click. Sit down if you’re tired. That’s right, on those stone benches over there, flanking the public gardens. No room? Well, ask those tattered soldiers over there to sit up. Snoring and lounging about, they think they can sleep away the centuries with their rusted Garibaldi rifles and faded red shirts. And Don Tigro’s thugs, they’re worse, up to no good. Sweep them aside and sit.
So. We’re in the center of town. This is our biggest square, the piazza del Duomo. On weekdays, vendor’s carts fill the center of the piazza where we’re standing, but today it’s quiet. See that plume of smoke in the distance? Close to dinner time and someone’s cooking. I smell roast pork.
That’s our cathedral, the Duomo. Every Italian town has one, but ours is special with its baroque façade and copper doors and bell tower. The climactic scenes of DEATH OF A SERPENT began in that Duomo right over there where the madam disguised herself as a nun. (But a rose by any other name …)
Designed by somebody or other, the cathedral. If Giorgio were alive, he’d tell you the architect’s name, but I was too busy birthing babies and ferreting out the truth to pay much attention to painters or priests.
The fountain in the center was built by those gorgeous Romans. Resplendent, our world, when sunlight falls on its cascading sprays, no? And this hollow-eyed statue here, he’s the suppliant St. Dominic. Or maybe he’s St. Benedict, who knows? What’s important is that he lost one of his hands during Garibaldi’s campaign, making the resulting hole a perfect place for secreting messages and the like. Figures into the plot of my third novel, DEATH IN BAGHERIA releasing late this fall.
Tomorrow when we meet again, I’ll show you the rest of the piazza and we’ll wind up at Boffo’s Café.
Photo: A view of Taormina. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr) Creative Commons.