The mountains around Palermo are really beautiful. Behind us is one long ridge, about 2500 feet at its highest point. Behind the airport is a single peak about 1000 ft. high. Chuck Schwartz and I have at one time or another covered almost every notable nook and cranny in these mountains. It is unbelievable to see the efforts the people have made to cultivate every little acre of land, even on the steepest, rockiest slopes. Most of the slopes are terraced and on many, small individual terraces have been made for individual trees, usually olive or lemon.
The country people are extremely pleasant and friendly and industrious as compared with those in the city. This is on the whole true of other parts of the world. In the city we are continually besieged by people asking for money, candy or cigarettes. In the country the people offer us what little fruit they have growing, even before we have given them anything, and they don’t expect anything. They are extremely grateful for a single cigarette or piece of candy.
There is one small community nestled on the other side of the ridge whose only route to Palermo is up, over and down a very steep trail, many miles long and climbing to a height of about 2000 feet. All members of the family, young and old, make this trip in and back again as a routine matter. Chuck and I really thought we were hearty mountain climbers and we were puffing and sweating profusely on our way up and we stopped for a rest. While resting there a little old lady carrying a shopping bag of tangerines came wandering up the trail and passed us merrily by with a “Buon journo” without a drop of perspiration on her brow. That was really quite a blow to our ego. What’s more, she insisted that we have a few tangerines which she had taken all the trouble to carry up the mountain. We tried to refuse, but she wouldn’t listen.
Watch for René’s next letter on