Night falls in the village of Porto Palo, steps from the ocean on Sicily’s southwest coast. We got here just in time. Not sure we’d have found the Da Vittorio B&B and restaurant in the dark, and we would have missed the orange and olive groves along the narrow road. Our rooms are large but spare , a letdown after our lovely hotel rooms of the past week compliments of the Italian Trade Commission.
The short Italian senora and husband Vittorio don’t speak English but we’re getting along fine. We had such a big lunch that we barely got through dinner, the reason we came here! It’s also on the way to Agrigento, ruins of Greek temples we’re heading to tomorrow. While the rest of our group has returned to Canada, we’ve stayed for two extra days to wander and bask in the warm sunshine.
Dinner was exceptional, though it took us awhile to figure out what to eat with so much to choose from. We settled on an antipasto platter for three, which included paper-thin slices of red tuna dressed with olive oil, small and incredibly red raw shrimp, a local specialty, thin-sliced and meltingly tender octopus with black truffle shaved on top and fried sardines filled with a breadcrumb-something-or-other “Sicilian” stuffing. All really yum.
I chose fresh grilled swordfish as a main course, which filled the plate. Cinda had Vittorio’s special spaghetti with a little tomato sauce, clams, mussels, not much else yet we agreed it was exceptional. Not sure why … I may have to ask him about it in the morning if I can scrape together enough Italian.
We ended up with a Jeep Cherokee for our two-day jaunt, Sandro’s old favourite though it’s changed considerably. I just hope it’s better on gas than it used to be!!! The GPS was included, which makes things soooo much easier.
We drove first to Trapani to see the fish market. Everything glistened, straight off the boat. Then into town to see the cathedral and wander the pedestrian shopping streets. Most stores were closed, good thing since my euros are dwindling.
Returned to the car to find a 42 euro ticket for not paying for our parking spot. There were no machines or signs close by and I didn’t even think about it. Don, our designated driver, brushed it off, but I was rather alarmed since I’ll be paying a third of the bill when it comes in. I hope the rental company doesn’t add on extra costs!
Off to Marsala for lunch and to drink Marsala. The landscape was fairly flat, and the area near the shore is divided into rectangular ponds used to make salt during the summer. As we drove into the city we passed a tiny 20-seat restaurant with a chalkboard menu outside that sounded good. We walked back (after I checked with a policeman that the parking space we chose was indeed free!) and sat for hours over a few generous bowls of pasta with a plate of grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers as an appetizer. Had my first pasta a la Norma — penne coated with a thick rich tomato sauce topped with fried strips of peeled eggplant and grated ricotta salata (salted).
After lunch the young owner offered us a glass of Marsala, a “young” one from 1985. Sweet and golden. He said Spanish sherry may be better known, but he thinks Sicily’s fortified wine is better! Saw a few ads for it, and drove by a couple of walled-in factories, but no tasting room or other sign in the elegant town — could the streets be marble? — that it’s home to the famous wine.
Such a lovely little city, even with everything closed! Ornate churches and religious buildings abound. By then it was after 3, so we had to move to get to the B&B an hour away. Tomorrow we’re planning to pop by the famous Planeta winery (we had a bottle of their easy-drinking white Segreta wine for dinner) then on to Agrigento. We’ll probably take the same road back to Palermo rather than climb mountains, and find a hotel near the airport for our 8 am flight Monday. The B&B owners said they’d help us figure out a place to stay in the morning, hooray! I checked online tonight but it’s way too stressful — 22 people are looking at this hotel! Only 2 rooms left! Sold out! Book now! Ugh, don’t know how people do it.
Better get some sleep, though after so many 2 a.m. nights, 12:30 seems too early! I’m sure the rest of the group slept all the way home. Air France proved to have a fabulous biz class on the way here, and we’ll sample KLM from Amsterdam. I know, spoiled rotten we be, as well as sun-tanned!