A long-booked holiday with our Swiss family & friends (Diego, Christine, Tim, Annie & Janet) became a parental honeymoon following the marriage of our beloved Tommy to his gorgeous Anna. Can’t start this blog without reference to the great day – and of course some pics. The humanist ceremony took place in a woodland glade at High Billinghurst farm in Surrey; the sun shone and the cotton wool clouds scudded across the sky in a light breeze.
We wound our way down the hill through a field and sat on benches; Lauren, Anna’s friend officiated, and we showered them with homemade rose petal confetti before grabbing a glass of fizz and wending our way back to more drinks and the wedding ‘breakfast’. Dancing went on well into the night…a perfect day: we are brimful with happiness
And so a day after the festivities we find ourselves in Palermo. Here is the team on the first night, colour-coordinated with aperol spritz.
We have been watching Mafia only kills in summer recently (CH 4) so were ready to be pleasantly surprised by Palermo. We find it bustling, cosmopolitan (market stalls run by Indians, some shops by Chinese and a vibrant African market) and overrun by horrible electric scooters in pedestrian areas. As in the movies, neighbours parry words between balconies festooned with washing, baskets are dropped and groceries loaded; there’s a man walking with a cat on his shoulder and two dogs – and all this surrounded by decaying palazzos and restored churches, peppered with graffiti.
Our party gathers on the first evening – Diego, Christine, Annie and Tim, and Janet – all Champery friends. After a good sleep in the Suite Quaroni (recommend), we head off to the airport again to collect our Renault Trafic minibus which is to navigate us on our tour for the next nine days. Soon we are bowling along, crisscrossing the island, to have a seaside picnic. As we discover Sicilians do not have lay-bys and so picnicking is a tricky affair (see images below)! We end up perching on a sea wall tearing up bread, ham, olives and cheese, and ending with fresh apricots and cherries.
First stop is Agrigento, home to a collection of 6th century BC Greek temples, all perched strategically on a ridge and glowing in the afternoon sunshine. Magnificent. But before that we have a nightmare negotiating tiny narrow streets to find our B&B, the idiosyncratic Terazze di Montelusa, the family home of a cat-loving host (like the Prince in The Leopard he is descended from French refugees from the Napoleonic wars), stuffed with inherited antiques, ancestral photos and blessed with terraces affording views over the terracotta tiles of the town.
The following morning we visit the gem of a museum with artefacts from the sites. Quite extraordinary in terms of preservation and diversity.
And so to Piazza Armerina and the Agrotourismo Trigona, the delightful summerhouse of the town’s richest family (the eagle crest is everywhere), where we sit down to tables laden with antipasti, house wine, surrounded by cats and kittens. Sadly one wee one had been abandoned by its mother and, despite my best attempts at feeding it with a syringe, was dead in the morning. But new life replaces old and three kittens were born the same night…
In the afternoons we lie by the pool or on our beds with the smell of chocolate cake and supper wafting upwards…
It is also the place where we begin to feel ill – Janet first, then me, Ross and the others with varying symptoms of the dreaded C – sore throats, coughs, fever, sneezing, headache etc. etc. I venture into town to replace my favourite perfume which shattered in the Agrigento museum loo (so frustrating, almost full)) and equip myself with throat spray, cough medicine and more paracetamol, all purchased in German from a helpful pharmacist, who spoke no English. It did result in my buying some dental cement instead of floss though! We have a lovely apero by the cathedral (Diego and Christine above), again bathed in evening sunshine, under the eye of the Trigona eagle crest adorning their town house.
However there is no point in testing as we are all in it (the van!) together so we press onwards… see Sicily Part 2 for the rest of our trip!