Where is McDonalds when you need it?

The rain stopped overnight and we awoke to a brilliant blue sky and blazing sunshine. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and took a brief walk by the beach. 20140228-195545.jpgThen it was time to check out, hop in the Fiesta and hit the road. Interestingly, there is an excavated ruin in the parking garage of the hotel. They really are everywhere. 20140228-195647.jpgWe travelled on the Autostade for about 200 miles to the east coast of Sicily – the Ionian Sea. About halfway there, we stopped at the hill town of Enna. Italy’s highest provincial Capitol, Enna presents a dramatic sight, perched at 931 m high atop a precipitous mountain. 20140228-195748.jpg Contrary to the hill towns we visited previously in Tuscany, Enna is home to 28,000 people, a university and a thriving modern town. The views from all edges of the town are breathtaking! 20140228-195832.jpg Enna has another amazing cemetary – resembles a housing area, with crypts of multiple stories. 20140228-195921.jpgShortly after leaving Enna, we stopped for a quick lunch at our favorite roadside establishment on our previous Italy trip – Autogrill!! While not of the mammoth proportions of some of our favorite locations, Harvey confirmed the cappuccino was excellent. We missed our Autogrill pals, Kristin & Justine! 20140228-200012.jpgSally took us on a circuitous route to our hotel, down narrow lanes in the centre of Acireale. We are certain there was a more direct route to the Ibis Styles Hotel and will check that out before venturing out in the car.

Harv was feeling a bit under the weather when we arrived so he had a nap while I blogged and did some CSTM website updates. When he woke up, we went for a walk to a neighbouring ‘shopping centre’. Not finding anything that looked quick to eat there, we had the hotel kitchen whip up a sandwich and settled in for the night.

Harv is now watching his new favorite TV show – it’s about two cops (he is calling them Starsky & Hutch) and is entirely in Italian – but he seems to know what is going on and is enjoying it. Thank goodness for my iPad!

Tomorrow is the carnival celebration! We saw some floats on our Sally journey through town and they looked amazing.

Cheers,

B&H

When it rains, it pours

Cefalu was founded on a steep promontory along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The town has retained its medieval appearance set against the backdrop of La Rocca (the Rock). 20140228-172936.jpgAfter breakfast at the hotel, we set out to explore the town. We strolled along the beach, where some hearty elderly Italian men were taking a dip in the chilly sea waters (of course, in their speedos). Harvey took a moment to draw Kristin’s trademark happy face! 🙂 20140228-173054.jpgAs we walked through the old town streets, we came upon the famous Lavatoio, a stone fountain known as U’Ciumi. This area was used for washing clothes until as recently as a few years ago. 20140228-173216.jpg Porta Marina is the only remaining city gate of the four that once afforded access to the town. A fun thing to watch were many school children (middle school to high school age) who were dashing around the old town on a type of scavenger hunt. It was also interesting to see the great debate among the workmen and by-standers on some minor work being done to a sign on the jetty wall. 20140228-173329.jpg We continued along the seafront, which led us past the fisherman’s marina and around La Rocca. 20140228-173427.jpg As we neared the end of our circle, we encountered La Rocca cemetery, a large walled complex. It was a wonderful find. The size and grandeur of these family crypts was amazing and my camera was busy. 20140228-173534.jpgWe made our way back to the Piazza Duomo, which was filled with the visiting students having their lunch. We had wanted to see the interior of the cathedral, but unfortunately didn’t hit the right times (shortened in the off- season). 20140228-173647.jpg Cefalu has a number of other churches dating from the 17th century including Chiesa del Purgatorio with its Baroque exterior door decorations. 20140228-173752.jpgAfter our long walk, it was time for a late lunch. We enjoyed sandwiches sitting along the seawall. We took a break in the day, hanging out at the hotel doing some blogging and photo organization. Harv also stopped in for brochures at the Fiat dealer, as apparently he can read car brochures in any language! The internet connection in our room ranged from poor to non- existent so I had to spend quite a bit of time at this comfortable spot in the hallway. 20140228-174027.jpg Around 6 pm, we headed out for a walk – to our surprise, it was pouring rain! So back for our rain jackets and umbrellas and off we went. The passeggiata was somewhat deterred by the rain, although a few hearty soles were out, including costumed children. After about an hour of walking in the rain, we had enough and decided to return to the hotel. On our way in, we noticed a pizzaria directly across the street, with the very Italian name of White Horse Pizzaria. We decided that would be our dinner spot if the rain continued. It did, so around 8 pm, we dashed across the street and joined many of the locals for dinner.

Our antipasti (carpaccio of bresaola, rocket and Parmesan) and our pizza of tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala (which by the way comes from the milk of water buffalo) and Italian salame were delicious and accompanied by a 375 ml. bottle of Corvo rosso (this was a much smarter choice than the 1 litre we ordered last night). 20140228-174127.jpg It was a delightful day in Cefalu!

Cheers,

B&H

Is it Halloween? Christmas? July?

Wednesday was a travel day. We were up quite early to take leave of the Hotel Agora. 20140227-152446.jpgSally behaved today and led us well, over the 700 kms to Cefalu, Sicily. We travelled on the Autostrade, and witnessed Italian road building at its best. The highway made its way past Mount Vesuvius and south through a mountain range. And it literally went through the range. We climbed in altitude but kept quite a straight path as we passed through what must have been hundreds of tunnels and over hundreds of ‘bridges’ ( those being stretches of elevated roadway). On our return journey next week, I plan on counting the number and accumulated length (as they give that information at the beginning of each) of the tunnels and bridges. Stay tuned for that exciting bit of news! 20140227-152941.jpgIt was a brilliantly sunny day with temperatures reaching 20 C at one point. As we neared Reggio Calabria, we passed acres of orange groves, the oranges a vibrant color in the sun.

Sicily is of course an island so we needed to take a ferry from Reggio Calabria to Messini. This added a bit of excitement to the day – especially as all signs were in Italian and a biglietto (ticket) booth was not obvious to purchase a fare, etc. So we followed the other cars and when we got to the front of the boarding line, the fellow just sent me scampering over to the biglietto kiosk. The strait is quite narrow so it was a short, but enjoyable, 30 minute crossing. 20140227-153153.jpgArriving in Cefalu, we located the Artemis Hotel and I ran in while Harv circled the block, there being no obvious place to park. The underground parking garage is reserved for ‘suite guests’ – not the regular room we had reserved. But I charmed the young man at the desk into letting us park there – I’m sure it was my charm, not the fact that it is low season and the majority of the suites are probably empty. 20140227-153405.jpgThe hotel and our room are lovely. After settling in, we headed to the ‘old town’, just a couple of blocks away. I’ll give more details on Cefalu tomorrow.

It was a very pleasant evening and the local people were out for the evening passeggiata, strolling the streets and visiting with their neighbours. Many of the children were in costume, carrying bags of confetti. We believe this has to do with it being carnival season, but must delve into the custom a bit more. 20140227-153635.jpgWe joined the stroll for a while, checking out restaurants, which of course were not open at this early time of 7:30 pm?!? At around 8, we chose a likely looking place that actually already had some other patrons (probably tourists as it was still a bit early for locals). It was an excellent choice. We were quite hungry at this point, having had a panini at 1 pm and just a couple snacking items since that time.

We shared appetizers of bruschetta and an extremely flavourful Carpaccio of mushrooms, tomatoes and rocket with Parmesan gratin. I then enjoyed ‘Risotto ai Frutti di Mare in Cartoccio’ – and it was abundant in Frutti di Mare – shrimp, mussels, clams & squid. Delicious! Harvey meanwhile tackled his Spaghetti alla Vongole – spaghetti and clams enhanced with olive oil, garlic & parsley. It was also superb. Accompanied by the house red wine and followed by complimentary chilled limoncello, it was a great meal! The only odd thing was the background music – Frank Sinatra – nice, but Jingle Bells??? The staff spoke little English so perhaps had no idea…..20140227-153921.jpgWe strolled back to the hotel and called an end to a good day!

Cheers,

B&H