Subject: Sicily part 5
Day 10 Since we were supposed to leave the hotel before 10 am, my wife refused to fix breakfast for that day and we had the opportunity to try the large buffet breakfast. Lots of cakes, preserves, juices and breads for a good wakeup. We started our really long trip from the north to the south, about 400 km, by taking the same road we followed the week before, but when we hit the coastal road we turned right instead of left to visit the Cave di Cusa. This is a free archeological park on the quarry where Greeks excavated the stones used in building the town of Selinunte, one of the most important historical sites of southern Sicily. It looks like the work was suddenly stopped and then the site abandoned, because you can see, scattered around, many unfinished parts of giant pillars; deep cuts on the rocks show the process, made using bronze axes and wooden wedges, to separate roughly finished parts from the quarry sides. Selinunte archeological area was not far; it's very large but the temples are mostly ruined and you need to rebuild them with your fantasy. This, and the blazing midday sun, was the reason why, when we got there, my wife and my children refused leaving the air-conditioned car and walking another treeless hill. I thought for a moment to go alone, but then I bowed to the majority and left. Next stop was, just out of Sciacca, the Castello Incantato (Enchanted Castle). It's neither a real castle nor a Disneylike attraction, but the garden of a little house where sculptor Bentivegna carved hundreds of stones with different faces, now lining the paths criscrossing the hill among olive trees. He was a strange and unhappy person, living alone and digging his stones out of deep caves, and the faces show mysterious and sad features. Even if it was lunch break, the keeper came out of his house and kindly took us in. By the way he had a little commerce set there, selling mineral water and small souvenirs. We hit the main road again, aching for a restaurant or at least a bite of bread and a glass of water, but no joy. We searched some little towns just off the road without luck, so we drove on to Agrigento and stopped at a cafe for a slice of pizza, sandwiches and the compulsory pastries and ice creams. The road on the southern coast became worse, running up and down the hills far from the sea, a lot of sharp bends and heavy traffic. I stopped for fuel at Gela, one of the ugliest towns I've seen, with its lived-in unfinished houses, oil refineries and garbage on the streets; our goal was no more than 30 kms away on a very narrow local road. The resort Kastalia at Scoglitti is spread over a hill with its holiday houses. White walls and tan tiles, every apartment has a terrace or a patio and a lush garden. The resort has a giant swimming pool, several bars and restaurants, a cheering equipe of boys and girls for sports and entertainment. While it's clean and well kept and the prices are honest, it's a bit downscale; we had breakfast once at the restaurant in a room with decor straight out of the sixties, cheap plastic cutlery and throw-away cups. This is rather strange for an Italian 3-star hotel. Anyway we were given a nice apartment with a great view on the hills towards the sea; it had two bedrooms and large kitchen, with a welcome gift of wine, mineral water and fruits. We spent the evening on the balcony and we went to bed early. There was music playing in the background, coming from the pool area, but only at midnight we realized our apartment was straight in front of loudspeakers of the dance arena. This lasted till 1.15 am, when we were finally able to drift to sleep. The day after we had planned a relaxing day at the pool, but before that we asked the reception about the noise incident, being assured it was just because of Saturday night. The day passed uneventfully under the warm sun and in the cool water, we had pizza at a nearby restaurant and got ready to sleep. Can you imagine how we felt when the music started as loud as the evening before? It was like being on a disco floor, my daughter started crying she couldn't sleep, my wife was cursing everything and everybody (me included, I guess), and I was thinking about going to dance instead of pretending to sleep. Then, like in Cinderella's tale, at 1.15 am sharp the music stopped. I went to sleep, but my last thought was to go back to the reception in the morning and ask for a change of apartment, otherwise I'd have been ready to leave for real. Day 12 The receptionist was very understanding but unable to act without the owner's decision and asked us to come back in the afternoon. Meanwhile we went to Noto, a town very famous because it was entirely rebuilt in Baroque style after an earthquake in 1693. We were a bit tired, but the road was really demanding, narrow and winding with heavy trucks going at 25 mph in front of us. We got there at last and the town was almost deserted under the one pm sun. The mansions along the main street have beautiful iron works on balconies which are often suspended over elaborate carvings of animals and people. The cathedral was hidden behing metals scaffolding and totally under restoration after winter 1996, when half of its dome came down. The only open restaurant was Il Barocco which, according to the stickers on the door, had earned a lot of rewards from restaurant guides. It is indeed located in the cellar of an old palace, but the seafood spaghetti was just average. When we got out we were just in time for opening time of Palazzo Nicolaci, badly needing restoration inside but a wonderful view from the top floor. It was still too hot to walk around a lot and we had to know the final word about the change of apartment, so we left the town and drove back. By that time the heavy traffic was almost gone and we were very happy when the receptionist at the resort gave us a different apartment, ground floor on a nice garden of palms and bougainvilles, far from the dancing music. Our holiday was going on as planned... to be continued