18 July 2008


Before we left, I quickly knit up this little capelet with my new wool, thinking it might be useful for cool nights in Sicily (had there been any, it would have been!):

I emailed my friend Gabi the day before we were leaving on our trip, since we were staying with her, and I didn't have her mobile number. I didn't hear from her all day. When we left at 6am the next morning, I still hadn't heard from her, and I was really nervous as I hadn't been in touch with her since we had made our plans. As usual, me leaving things til the last minute. Why hadn't I emailed earlier in the week? I know she has an insane schedule. When we got off the plane, I turned on my mobile quickly and admittedly, surreptitiously, as I hadn't let on to Rog that we might not have a place to stay after all. No texts. Or not from Gabi. Just the "Welcome to Italy" one from t-mobile. Thanks, can we stay with you, then?

Anyway, we had the directions, so we started to drive south from the airport near Palermo. It was this intense landscape, arid, with mountains that look like huge, cresting waves. About halfway there, I finally got a text. Quel relief! Gabi runs an olive grove that her father owns, and there is also a B&B on the estate, and also one closer to the beach (about a 30 minute drive away). They are in the process of updating their webpage, but it's worth checking out if you ever want to go. It's like a little garden of eden, with acres of olive trees, lemon, peach, plum, pear and fig trees, rows upon rows upon rows of veg - tomatos, broccoli, herbs, lettuce, peppers, and so on. When we got there, we got a typical Sicilian meal of pasta with sardines, caponata, and the most amazing lemon sorbet. All delicious. The best part was that even though I hadn't seen G in four years, it actually felt like no time had passed at all since last I'd seen her. I love those kinds of friendships!

We were staying in the cottage, which was much more palatial than the name suggests:

More pictures of where we stayed:

We sat out on the veranda here and had our tea and fruit and yogurt every morning:

Some of Gabi's very cute dogs:

The estate is right near a little town called Castelvetrano, which we didn't explore that much.

Those are snails in the crate on the lower left hand corner.

Sicily feels like nothing has changed since the 1950s. Not that I really know what Italy was like in the 1950s, but it's my impression. We went swimming every day and did very little sight-seeing. There were lots of people about eating gelato and sitting around having coffees. It seemed like there were very few foreigners besides ourselves. We did go to see the ruins at Selinunte - two Greek acropoli, with the ruins of other structures. There was a priest wandering around the ruins, and I think he was part of what made it feel like time had stopped - even though it was evisceratingly hot, he was dressed head to toe in black.

On Saturday night, we went into Palermo. I didn't bring my camera with me, though I wish I had. It was such an organic, messy (in the best possible way) city, I really loved it, and next time I'm there I'll spend a lot more time exploring it. There's so much history layered in and woven together, and the present and future fit deftly into the spaces created by the past. On the way up to Palermo, we were just following Gabi, who was driving Italian-style. i.e. any given two-way road would briefly switch from being two-lane to three-lane as drivers decided to overtake, regardless of whether it was allowed or not, regardless of whether trucks were coming full throttle from the other direction. And, as we didn't know where we were going, we had to keep up with Gabi at all costs. She took us through the small streets of Palermo, streets that looked like they should have no cars on them, or maybe one car at a time at best - yet there were often cars coming and going in opposite directions. And at any time, a pod of motorbikes would suddenly appear and swarm. It was intense.

Finally we parked, off to the side of an immense square. A little boy asked Gabi's nephew if he wanted to play football, which we did, while we waited for a friend to show up.

We went to an opening at lo spasimo, which is the ruins of an old medieval church; it hasn't been fixed and it was never even completed, so there are parts where there is no roof, but it was absolutely beautiful. The exhibit, an installation by Vanessa Beecroft, on the other hand left me cold. It was so gimmicky. Yawn.

We left, and walked through dark streets, and grand buildings in disrepair in the old Moorish part of Palermo. Through another square, and by piles of rubbish, and feral kittens. Gabi's friend told us, as we passed a police station, that the best way to have your motorbike robbed off you, was to park it in front of the police station.

We made our way down a steeply inclined side street. At the bottom, we arrived at another old building which had been fixed up, and was now a trendy little bar, where there was yet another opening. We had a glass of wine, and I lost at arm wrestling to Gabi's 9-year old nephew. He barely even tried!

At around 11pm we were feeling quite exhausted, but it was just time for dinner. Again, we tried all sorts of Sicilian dishes. Well, I tried some of them - there was a sardine and orange salad that I ate, but didn't like too much, and chickpea crisp sort of things that were great. I have to admit, I drew the line at tongue and cartilage. I did try the little mini-cod that came at the end, but I really didn't like it. But I did try it! At least we didn't get taken to the offal restaurant, thankfully.

We started the drive home at around 12:30am. About 15 minutes later, I got a text from G, saying that the boars that they keep on their land had gotten loose, and that we should watch out for them upon our return, i.e. not let them out of the gate when we arrived, and also try not to get gored. When we arrived, we found neither hair nor hide, but they woke Rog up early the next morning with their snuffling.

We did a lot more swimming and drinking coffees and granita. On Tuesday, before we caught our flight that evening, we spent the day in Scopello and at the riservo naturale di Zingaro. Scopello was a cute little town, touristy, but that's ok.

The approach to Zingaro:

Note my tan (R is convinced that I'm part albino or something, and I here offer proof that I'm not!!!):

We went swimming in one of the grottos at Zingaro, and it was amazing. The water was so clean and the waves were big but not scary, it was a great way to end our trip.


Miss Mildred said...

That water looks pretty good! We are in the grips of a heat wave here (again) and a dip in a such beautiful water sure would be nice. It looks like you had a great time.

juicyknits said...

I want to go on holiday as well! That looks great - the water, the mountains and the blue blue sky...

amanda said...

Looks like you had a great time! I'm very envious of your time on the beach. Shame you didn't get any cool enough nights for the capelet but hey, that isn't going to be a problem now you're home is it? :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, amazing! I love your pictures of Sicily and your friend's place seems like an ideal vacation stay. The ruins with the priest reminds me of Rossellini's 'Voyage to Sicily' (great movie, but not very happy). It came out in the 50s. -TK