Thursday, March 31, 2005


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NOTE: I lived in Sicily for three years, compliments of the U.S. Navy. They were some of the greatest years of my life as I'm sure these pictures will show. These are but a tip of the iceburg...

Dinner one evening as seen from my balcony, Motta St. Anastasia, Sicily.

The town of Motta St. Anastasia, built atop a molton palisade beneath the shadow of Mt. Etna, seen smoking in the background. This would be my home for three years.

The road to Motta, Sicily.

Fruit sold on the side of the road.

Lemons growing in my backyard.

Oranges growing in my backyard.

Sicilian roof tiles.

Flag-throwers at a Motta Middle-Age fair.

Fire-eater at one of the island's many festivals.

"Geep" (mixed herds of goats and sheep) graze on a hillside outside Motta St. Anastasia.

When I was told that I would be living at the base of Mt. Etna, Europe's most active volcano, I had no idea that I would be treated to nightly displays of exploding lava and coursing rivers of magma.

Mt. Etna releases a smoke ring!

Someone didn't pay attention to the whole "Europe's most active volcano" thing.

Mt. Etna rises above the clouds.

One of hundreds of Nazi pill-boxes that still dot the island to defend against the American and British invasions of WWII.

Mounted on a basalt rock, this Norman fortress lends its name to the town of Aci Castello.

The Aci Trezza rocks as seen from the Aci Castelo fortress. These are the rocks which, according to Homer, were hurled into the sea after the fleeing Ulysses by the blinded cyclops, Polyphemus.

Built on a bluff above the Ionian Sea, Toarmina is Sicily's most famous tourist resort city. Note the Greek theatre.

An island home outside Taormina, rumored to once belong to Sofia Loren. I used it as a snorkling base.

Lovers chat beneath the shadow of a grove of Taormina trees.

A typical Sicilian decorated horse and cart.

Ceramics shop in Caltagirone, Sicily.

Built in 1608 to link the Cathedral with the town center, these 142 tiled steps are one of Caltagirone's most impressive attractions.

A peice of church statuary in Caltagirone, Sicily.

Cefalu's beautiful Norman Cathedral dates back to the 12th century.

The largest necropolis in Sicily, Pantalica's thousands of rock cut tombs, dwellings, and temples (look closely) are a product of the Medieval locals hiding from Arab invaders.

The Cathedral in Palermo, Sicily's capital city.

With better preserved Greek temples than Greece itself, Agrigento's Valley of temples (this one is the Temple of Concord) dates back to the 5th century.

A house-front in Syracuse, Sicily.

The Duomo of Syracuse, a Christian church built atop an ancient Greek temple, the massive pillers of which are integrated into the outer north wall.

Syracuse's town center, Sicily.

Detail at the church of St. John, beneath which are the catacombs where St. Paul spoke on his missionary journey through Syracuse.

Ancient Christian art still adorns the walls of Syracuse's catacombs.

The entrance to the Ear of Dionysius, a quarry carved entirely by slave labor. The pick axe marks still scar the walls. The tyrant Dionysius used to put his most dangerous prisoners here, because the acoustics inside the quarry allowed him to hear their every whisper.

Sicilian sunset.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These pictures are wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing! How about some pictures from your mom's wedding?

Love, Deletha

3:48 AM  
Blogger Monica Morales said...

Hi Brandon!

You never stop to amaze me!!! This set of pictures are realy beautiful!!!

It's always a pleasure to visit your blog

Greetings from Tijuana Mexico

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WONDERFUL, you are a great photographer!! :)

Luana (of Sicily)

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Brandon, that was not a Nazi pillbox. That was TSC where we worked!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice web site. When in Motta St. Anastasia, did you ever see a world war 2 cemetary there?



9:32 AM  
Blogger David Buchanan said...

I also lived in Motta for a couple of years 76-78. Nothing has ever equaled the impact of that on my life. The fruit in America looks like old dried up junk compare to what you pick right off the trees and vines over there. It's impossible to explain to my wife how I turned Sicilian and had to re-turn American. It still hasn't happened. The pictures are great.

5:29 AM  
Blogger fabiana said...

Sono stata questo anno in Motta Sta Anastasia, e non si può credere quanto bello è.Mai dimenticherò questi immagini. È il mio posto nel mondo. Grazie per le foto

11:52 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...


Lei è benvenuto. Dividiamo la stessa magia!


12:57 PM  
Anonymous Kirk said...

My name is Kirk...I too got to spend some time in Sicily courtesy of the US government (not navy)...thank you for posting these pictures, they bring back good memories (sitting on an apartment balcony, drinking Birra Morretti and watching lava fountain out of Etna), I know this is an old blog, but I hope you will run across this sometime...CIAO!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Glad I could share the love Kirk! And glad someone loved it as much as I did!

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was so wonderful finding your amazing pictures of Sicily. My ex and I were in Sigonella from 86-89, two of our sons were born in Naples, Italy. Would you mind if I copied a couple of your photos to my facebook page?


10:02 PM  
Blogger TheSwabbie said...

I was stationed in Sigonella from Feb 1978 to July 1980. I was an RM assigned to TSC/ASCOMM at NAF-II. I lived in Motta for the entire time since the old barracks had been condemned and were being torn down to build new. It was AWESOME duty! I traveled all over Europe AND all over the Island too. I loved the Valley of the Temples, the Catacombs of Palermo, the Roman ruins in the heart of catania... the collesium is half covered by Via Etnea... I'll never forget it. My best friend was Tony (Gaetano) Chiramonte. He had a sister named Maria Pia who worked at the Pharmacy on the main drag. I miss those times for sure, it was great to experience such a wonderful culture. My house (villa) had a huge vineyard that I overwatched for my landlord. I paid $50.00 a month rent! Thanks for the pictures - Bring back WONDERFUL memories.


4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I was stationed at Sigonella from 88 to 90 and lived in "Motta" at the bottom of the hill. My house had a great garden and olive trees. The old guy that I rented from would harvest the olives and I would drive him to the olive press. It was a great experience.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous steve said...

thanks again for the wonderful trip down memory lane. While stationed @ NAS Sigonella and living in Motta St. Anastasia and where my daughter was born,80-82 I didn't really appreciate what I was experiencing at that time. Steve

3:30 PM  
Blogger lanny said...

i also lived on motta thanks to the us navy i love the people there ,i plan to visit again in august i want my husband to see the big festival of saint anastasia . do you know when this ?

10:25 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Lanny, I just checked with friends in Motta and they said it takes place the 25th of August this year (2011).

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I just to Sig. and are looking for places to live in area. We keep hearing "dont" live in Motta.
Any advice you have for us? It seems like it would be a great place (close to base, Catania, south beach...).
We are considering the 40 min. drive to Aci's, but not sure it would be worth the commute each day.....
Have you heard from friends (that still live here) has it changed a lot since you lived there?
Thank you and your pictures are amazing...cant wait to explore!!

12:03 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I liked living in Motta. Yes, it is close (meaning you'll have to deal with a lot more Americans than some of the other towns), but it also means you're close (meaning short commutes and proximity to everything you want and need while still enjoying an authentic "on the economy" experience). South Beach and Aci were popular with friends, so you'll just have to decide which you value most and go from there--but for me, I never regretted being in Motta. I doubt much has changed in the towns since I was there, but I know the bases are almost unrecognizable--in a good way--lots of additions and improvements. Have fun! Those three years in Sig were the best of my life. I adored it on every level!

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information!! We are going to live it up over here as well :)

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Jimmie (Campbell) Ellis said...

Thank you so MUCH for these wonderful pictures! I was stationed at Sigonella from January 1980 until October 1981 and just LOVED it! Of course, I wasn't there the whole time, was sent TAD to Souda Bay for months at a time. Lived in a lovely villa in Villaggio Gabbiano Azzurro about ten miles from base but a 30-40 minute commute: WELL WORTH IT! It was a truly life-changing experience! Simply super!
Jimmie C. (Campbell)Ellis

12:41 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

My favorite part of this blog post, logged six plus years ago, is that it continues to be found by those of us in the Navy who lived or are getting ready to live there. And everyone just gushes about their experiences there. It truly was a magical time--among the very best years of my life.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful pictures. We too lived in Motta, via Napoli. Our daughter was born there and was 3 when we retired from the Navy. We developed a wonderful relationship with our landlords, now our Italian family, and was able to return this past December 2010. Not much has changed in the town of Motta St. Anastasia, but you are right the base is almost unrecognizable (in a positive way). Magical, wonderful, unbelievable are just a few words to describe our time spent there. For those of you who are based there now, or just have the opportunity to visit. WELL WORTH IT!!! Ciao

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like everyone else here - I LOVE your site about Sicily. Great pictures of places I've been and seen, but did not take pictures of the simple things that are the essence of Sicily such as oranges, lemons, olives, Etna, roof tiles, fruit stands along the road.... and on and on....
Thank you for the captivating pictures and your memories.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon, great photos! I was in Sigonella in '84 and now I get to have all new experiences while stationed here again! Your pictures remind me of how important it is to cherish each day and truly embrace the moment. Thanks

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon, wonderful imagery of some of my favourite haunts when I was based there in 83/84. Lived in MOTTA and Nicolosi during tour. Thanks for the I always say..'we'll always have Taormina'....Adrian (UK)

4:35 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I posted these years ago and I love that people are still coming across them. Clearly, Sicily made quite an impression on all of us!

12:11 AM  
Blogger pat lothridge said...

Of getting to live all over the world, the one place I dream of going back to visit is Sicily. Husband stationed at NAV2 Sigonella from 1971-1975. We lived in Belpasso when we first got there, but then moved to Motta. We loved it there. Us wivws didn't have to work, but we did some just to fill our days. I worked at the golf shack some, the exchange and baby sitted for Commander Williams. Also babysitted for NARC Ray Larabee and his wife. We traveled all over Sicily and Italy. When I first got there it was 9 days before I saw Mt Etna. Then when it rained you lost power. Well it rained the first 9 days. One morning I got up, and looked out the window, and there it was. Snow on top of it, and smoke comming out. It took me a year to get use to it. But I did, and cried when I had to leave. State people don't know what a party is until you have had on in Sicily. One regret I have is not taking enough pictures. I should have took pictures all day long. I left alot of good friends there. American & Sicilian. I'm glad we never lived on base. You learned more living off base. Now I'll go day dream about Sicily.
Thanks for listening. Pat McElyea Lothridge

11:28 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I recall when I first arrived, I assumed "Europe's largest, most active volcano" meant it smoked from time to time. My first night it looked as if someone was blowing up huge orange fireworks from the summit. I knew then it was going to be a great tour!

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures, they took me on a wonderful trip down memory lane. I was station at PSD Sigonella from 89-91.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Sookie said...

I live in Sicily for three years 1975 -1978. It was magical as a kid. Your photos are familiar ... It is not easy to find military photos of Sigonella.

9:36 PM  

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