Scenes from Sicily, Diciassette – Ridge Above Valle de Bove

While I was listening to Italian language lessons before going to Sicily in July, I found myself wondering about the number 17, or in Italian, diciassette. Specifically, I was curious why, at 17, the structure of how you say the number flips, where you say the 10 part first, and then you say the number part. For 11 to 16, you say the 10 part (dieci) and then the number added to ten to make the number you are trying to convey. So, undici for 11; literally, one (uno) + ten (dieci). Then, dodici for 12 (due + dieci). Followed by tredici for 13 (tre + dieci). When you get to 17, you flip it, so that you say the 10 part first, and then the 7.

Why is this interesting? Well, languages similar to Italian do it earlier in the series of numbers, or at least they do it in a different place. Spanish, which is closely related to Italian, makes this change at 16, not 17. French makes the change at 17, the same as Italian, but English, we do it at 13. Portuguese changes at 16, but this could be because of its close proximity to Spanish. Dutch and German, each closely related to English, also makes their changes at 13. None of this seems to affect the major Eastern European languages, like Polish, Czech, and Russian, who simply start at 11 to say the first digit and then the ten’s digit. Perhaps most interesting is that Latin, the parent language to Italian, French, and Spanish, makes the change at 18, going from sedecim (16) to septendecim (17) to duodeviginti (18) to undeviginti (19).

Anyway, this topic was still going through my mind while I made my way down Mount Etna, passing this scene at top of the Valle de Bove among the wispy clouds at about 8,500 feet, far away from any other people, hoping my feet didn’t slip or the hillside didn’t give way and kill me with a 1,500 foot tumble down into the valley floor below. I stopped to snap this shot right when I started to notice living things appearing among the volcanic stones. After such a bleak landscape for several hours, any color was a real treat.

Other pictures from our July 2012 Sicily trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Otto – Two Houses on a Volcano

This photo kinda speaks for itself. Two houses, on the side of a volcano. One of them is a little too close to a recent lava flow, and the other was spared. (Well, somewhat. It looked abandoned, and whoever lived there was probably required to abandon it during the eruption.)

I snapped this image on my way up to Refugio Sapienza, on the first day of my Mount Etna climb. Both of these houses were built in a zone that had been the subject of recent eruptions. The landscape was almost alpine, and I wonder how either housebuilder could have expected anything else but that they would have their house destroyed by the volcano someday.

In the winter, this is a snowy wonderland, and it is probably pretty easy to forget the threat that looms from above. In the summer, with all of the old and new lava around, it is impossible to ignore the inevitable. Or, if you are a house, get out of the way.

More photos of the Mount Etna climb and Sicily trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Due – Near the Top of Mount Etna

After getting off of the plane in Catania, Laura let me use an old water bottle in her car, and we stopped by the beach on the way into town, where a nice Italian guy helped me fill it with seawater, wondering what I was planning to do with it. I didn’t know enough Italian to tell him I wanted to pour it down into a caldera at the top of volcanic Mount Etna.

A little more than 24 hours later, I stood at over 6,000 feet on the side of Mount Etna, having completed a more than 20 mile hike from sea-level, all while acquiring some of the worst blisters and thirst I’ve ever experienced. After crashing as the only guest of a hotel that night, I resumed the climb in the morning, with a little help with a gondola for the next 2,000 feet.

Finally, at about 9,000 feet in elevation but 1,500 short of my goal, I snapped this picture before eventually yielding to my damaged feet and choosing safety over the summit. Before walking down along the ridge of the Valle de Bove, I found a nearby caldera and offered the seawater to the volcano, watching the liquid disappear into the tiny specks of pumice.

You can see the full album of images from our trip here.