First, some overall thoughts:
- Sicily is BIG. We barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to go back and see things we missed.
- Sicily reminds me of my earliest trips to Italy, when it truly felt different from home: few tourists, little English, no giant chain stores, and you could get right up close to anything that seemed interesting. I loved it.
Day 7: Palermo
Waking late after our midnight arrival and feeling peckish after last night’s feast of sandwich, chips and minibar, our first order of business is to find somewhere for lunch. The desk manager at Hotel No Frills makes a reservation at one that specializes in typical Sicilian food and it’s in the direction we want to walk, so off we go.
It’s Sunday, so everything is closed except restaurants and gelateria (gotta love a country where desserts are a priority). Families are enjoying the mild sunny weather as they stroll through piazzas and wide boulevards and we make our way to Piazza Verdi, where we’ll attend the opera tonight.
Anticipating that we’ll want a snack before the performance, we make a reservation at the Teatro Massimo’s restaurant and continue to the famous Quattro Canti, also admiring the elaborate fountain in Piazza Pretoria and the churches just behind it.
After lunch, we stop for gelato, leisurely wander back to the hotel to change for the opera… and discover that the performance is at 5:30 p.m! ACK! No wonder the guy taking our dinner reservation for 6:00 looked at us so strangely!!! It’s already 5:00 so we throw on dressier clothes and zip back to the theatre, where we see yet another silly opera: Andrea Lecouvreur.
The plot is a mash-up of French farce, Oscar Wilde, and high drama involving many people who are suffering from unrequited love. Although there are subtitles in English, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on. Mostly I am wondering why the pudgy middle-aged stage manager doesn’t hook up with the middle-aged countess, instead of everyone pining for someone hopelessly unattainable.
The nice couple sharing our box are from Poland and are traveling on to Noto, which sounds beautiful so we add it to our to-do list.
Day 8: To Agrigento
We pick up our rental car at Hertz, along with a printed sheet of dire warnings about crime in the countryside, a GPS we call Betty (for reasons lost in the mist of time, our GPS is always “Betty”), and drive to the condo near Agrigento which will be our home for the next few days.
Betty is doing pretty well with directions until we get closer and realize that our destination, Villagio Mosé, isn’t in her repertoire. Luckily we have GoogleMaps and a general idea of where we’re going. After butchering most of the street names — Betty’s Italian is even worse than my own and Porto Empedocle comes out “Hokely Dokely” — we find our condo, which is off Via degli Asteroidi (Asteroid Street? Huh?)
Sabrina, the manager, is very helpful and gives us some local maps, pointing out where to find the produce market and grocery store. Unfortunately, we discover that most roads do not actually have street signs because who needs them when only locals live here?!
Never mind. A few wrong turns later we find the market and load up on produce using our sophisticated language skills of pointing, holding up the appropriate number of fingers, and sticking to nouns. We repeat the whole process at the grocery store, where we stock up on essentials like milk, coffee, burratta, Sicilian wine (insolio and grillo are delicious whites; nero d’avola becomes our house red), swordfish and pasta for future dinners.
We begin with the astonishing Valle dei Templi (valley of the temples) — a stretch of remarkably preserved ruins that is one of those “you have to see it” kind of sights. The temples are huge, majestic and incredibly beautiful. Walking the mile or so from one to another where people walked so many centuries ago, you can feel the grandeur and history of this magnificent former jewel of the Grecian empire.
We’ve worked up an appetite and stop for lunch back in Villagio M before exploring Agrigento.
Day 10: Out and About
Our laundry is drying outside in the sun, and we drive off for another day trip.
First we navigate interminable “roundy-rounds” (roundabouts), which adds a lot of time because Betty keeps telling us to take exits which are invariably closed for construction. (One town we pass is called Craparo; this pretty much sums it up.)
We eventually arrive in Racalmuto where Dear Husband is interested in seeing a little theatre he’s read about. The people who look after it seem amazed that anyone is visiting (sadly, there are no more performances because there’s no more funding) but they are excited to show us around, once we communicate (sort of) that DH is a university professor who teaches stage and film design.
Then, it’s on to Caltanisetta to check out another beautiful theatre (closed, dammit!), eat a wonderful lunch at Ristorante 900, look around the main square, and stop for pastry to bring back for dinner. The Sicilians have quite a sweet tooth and the cookies are insanely good.