Since Palermo

Hi All,
Wow, it has been quite an interesting few days here in Sicily. We left Palermo on Wed. morning, and visited the Cathedral and Cloister at Monreal. Just as beautiful as I remembered it, and it also rained ! We managed to enjoy ourselves figuring out the bible scenes despite our poor religious educations, and headed out to the west. The rain increased and driving became difficult, but we continued on. Eventually we reached the Greek temple of Segesta, but since the weather was crummy, the ground muddy and the view of the Temple from the road and parking lot was awfully good, Steve opted to not stop and walk around. I have been there, so it was not a problem for me. We then proceeded to Erice, arriving around 3pm. The town was wet, cold and pretty much deserted except for a small group of Japanese tourists and one older German man whose wife was lost, or who was lost from her. We encountered him several times and felt sorry, but there was not much that  we could do. The view was totally fogged out, it was like looking at fluffy grey cotton balls. So, after a cup of tea and a piece of apple torte, we headed down the mountain to Trapani which was not plagued by fog.
Trapani, like most cities in Italy, has a old center surrounded by a lot of ugly modern stuff. We thought that we might like to stay in the old part of the town, so we headed there. We followed our noses and a little bit of the map, and found our way to the old, really old streets of ancient Trapani. No great old hotels that we could find, but eventually we realized that there was a place listed in the Michelin, and stopped there. As we were walking in, so were a group of soldiers, perhaps 15 men in all, in military uniforms of NATO. Turns out they were pilots assigned temporarily to a base between Trapani and Marsala. About 1\2 of them seemed to be Americans , the rest from other countries of Europe. Interesting to chat a bit with them.
That night  we walked into the old town to a wonderful small restaurant recommended by the hotel desk manager, and had fish based dinner and a local wine. We were quite happy with ourselves.
The next morning was gorgeous, blue skies, perfect temp. We went in search of the fish market along the port at Trapani and found it. I took lots of photos of fish vendors and fish. Some of the men enjoyed having their photo taken and really hammed it up. I enjoyed making the connections with them, as well as seeing the varieties of fish, and the boats used to catch it.
Next we headed down the coast road toward Marsala, looking at the salt ponds, windmills used to pump water out of the ponds to allow the salt to dry, and at all the mounds of salt. We saw a sign for a boat, and took the small road in that direction. We had stumbled onto the access to one of the most amazing historical sites in Sicily, Mozia. It is a small island, 10 min. offshore by boat, which was a Phoenician colony, predating the Greeks. It  had a man made harbor, a necropolis and lots of houses. The island is still undergoing excavation and finds are still being made. There is a really amazing statue of a charioteer from about 400BC that was uncovered in 1979. The place was being visited also by a group of college students on a classics semester in Rome who were touring sites in Sicily for the week. I enjoyed talking with a few of them and with some of the teachers.
We took the boat back and were in Marsala shortly.The surprise was how lovely it is, compared with Trapani. Marsala has a palm lined waterfront, ancient walls and gates, and a great gourmet shop where we bought some snacks, thank heaven,as it turned out.
We had no reservations for the night, since we did not know how far we would get, so we kept looking around in each town we drove through, and the weather kept getting worse. By the time we arrived in Sciacca, one of  the places we thought we might stay, the rain was  worse. After a cup of tea that I insisted on since I was cold and tired, we heading to Agrigento. The rain and wind kept increasing, and the driving got harder and harder. Steve was amazingly calm and we just kept on towards Agrigento, and hoped to find a hotel there since it is such a tourist mecca. Finally we reached the city, and decided to look for a hotel in the older city rather than in the tourist area nearer to the ruins. It was dark by now, and the rain was making it very hard to see signs. We drove around and around and finally concluded that there are no nice hotels up there. Even finding the right road to the Valley of the Temples was hard in the dark and rain.
We knew from the Michelien that there was a Jolly brand hotel there, and decided to go for it, but we could not find it! I recognized a restaurant from my earlier visit, and thought to go in and ask. We needed to turn around to go there, and pulled into a well lit driveway just a bit uphill  to turn around. As soon as we got the car in position to go back out to the street, the metal sliding gate closed on us. We were trapped in the courtyard of a well lit, but empty office building. We rang bells, we shouted, but there was not a soul around. The door had no control to open it from the inside.Eventually I remembered that I had a cell phone, and called the Jolly Hotel, since they were presumably close by and would know where we were and could call the building owners, or the police. After several calls to the hotel, it became clear that they were not able to help. We were wondering if we would spend the night sleeping in the car in the rain!
We remembered then that the Hertz contract listed a number for emergency road service, with a separate number for English! We called and explained our unusual but serious problem to a nice lady named Evelyn. She said that she would contact the Agrigento police and tell them what our problem was, I asked her to call  us back. We waited for about 30 min, wondering if anything would happen since we did not hear from Evelyn. Then a Caribinieri car arrived with lights flashing! We were so happy to see them! A few seconds later, another car arrived with a man who had the key to open the gate and we were free at last! The police escorted us to the Jolly Hotel where we checked in , wet and bedraggled and hungry at about 9:30pm. I decided not to identify myself as the hysterical woman who had been calling them, I chose anonymity.
I do not recommend the Jolly Hotel in Agrigento unless you are a travel group, dinner was mediocre and expensive and the staff surly. The bed was hard, but at least we were not still in the car.
We saw the temples mostly from the road , as it was pouring rain and windy and walking around the site was not appealing. The next step was to get ourselves to either Caltagirone or Piazza Armerina. As we headed up the road, and the weather was  worse and worse and the fog was nearly totally obscuring the road, we chose the nearer city and ended up in Caltagirone. It was raining so hard that the streets were flooding. We got to the museum, and were the only visitors. At one point the power went out and we wondered what to do next? Our need was to be dry for a while more than most anything else. One amazing piece there was a Greek pot from 300 or so BC that showed a potter making a pot on a wheel pushed by a boy. I had no idea such an image exists!
We left the museum and went in search of a particular ceramist shop I had seen in my last visit, Sr. Alessi. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a typical Sicilian restaurent with a great anti pasto self serve bar, great eggplant!
After lunch we blew around the town, and finally found what I was looking for. I bought some plates, large ones and small ones, and felt satisfied, if wet. We looked again for a place to stay, through the dense fog, driving rain  and high winds. As luck would have it, a wonderful hotel exists on the outskirts of Caltagirone, with a friendly staff and few guests. We would have paid almost anything at that point for a nice room and to not have to drive any where else!
This morning the wind had died down as had the rain and we headed to Ragusa, intending to stay the night. We found the old town nearly shut down, between the cold and the rain, and being out of season, it was pretty depressing. A nice lady in  a candy shop suggested Modica, and that is where we are now. After a lovely lunch of unusual pasta with a wild boar sauce and ricotta, we found a new small hotel, just 7 rooms, in an old palazzo. We got the last 2 rooms and I am using their free internet access. For the last few nights, the hotels all had broken computers for the public, so it has been impossible to send email.
I know this is really long, but now you know our adventures, and I have a record for myself  for later.
My fingers are tired, and I want to try out my beautiful bed for a nap before dinner!
love,Karen

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Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 6:17 am  Leave a Comment  

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