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Posts Tagged ‘agrigento’

April 27-28, 2008

My notes for April 27th are extremely sparse, possibly because I had gotten sick again. (I had spent most of my time on the Amalfi Coast suffering from a cold followed by a cough.) My fellow travelers rallied round with an assortment of remedies, and I would find that Advil for Sinus (which I’d never heard of – I don’t watch ads) shortened the transition from cold to cough.

We spent the morning at Agrigento, where remarkably intact Greek temples stood proud on high ground above the sea, even though the site is known as the Valley of the Temples (go figure). No “closed for renovation” problems here. The Greek colonization of Sicily, which started in the 8th century BCE, left a rich legacy, and these temples are as fine as any in Greece proper. The setting is dramatic, and the ruins among the best I’ve seen. I hear it’s even better at night, when the temples are lit. Our local guide, while not as dynamic as Rosa, nonetheless knew his subject well. Not a good person to entrust with the group photo, though – the result was dominated by one of the temples, with the people hard to identify! After a group lunch, featuring disappointing chickpea fritters, we made the long drive to Scopello, a little village in the northwest corner of the triangular island, near the entrance to the Zingaro National Park, where we spent two nights.


After Greek temples, Roman mosaics and lots of Spanish baroque, we were going to have a day in the country, hiking a seven kilometer coast path through the Riserva Nationale della Zingaro. We had beautiful weather for the trek, but, unfortunately, I woke up feeling decidedly off color. What to do? We had four hours to make it from the southern entrance to the northern, where our coach would meet us. Or I could do a very short trek at the southern end and then backtrack to take the coach north. Or I could forget the whole thing. There was no public transport at either end, and although Scopello was only two kms. from the southern entrance, San Vito Lo Capo was 20 kms. from the northern.

Initially I planned to backtrack, but quickly realized I wouldn’t have enough time to reach even the first cove, and that the scenery would be well worth some effort. I had already slathered on sunscreen (I hate the stuff), and with a borrowed bandana to cover my thinning hair I decided to keep going. It’s surprising how far you can get just putting one foot in front of the other. Four hours only gave most of the group, including me, enough time to make the walk and take a short lunch break (our hotel had provided sandwiches). I’d have liked to take it more slowly, and not just because I was sick. I live in North Carolina, where a three hour drive will get me to mile after mile of sandy beaches, but I really prefer my coastline rugged, with cliffs and breaking waves, and this was much more my kind of place.

To my right a dark blue sea met a sky just a few shades lighter. To my left, open, rocky slopes climbed high, home to birds and wildflowers. I could now recognize acanthus, but I still don’t know the name of the big cactus with a spire that looks like a giant asparagus. And at ground level yellow and red and pink decorated the plants where darting lizards took refuge. We weren’t the only visitors, but only a few others were walking the paths or sunbathing in the coves. The coach duly collected us at the northern entrance, and we drove on to San Vito, where Alfio treated us to gelato. (I know that there are many gelato fans, but I’m afraid I’m a heretic – I’m just not that fond of frozen treats.) San Vito’s long sandy beach had even fewer sunbathers than the coves in Zingaro.

We stayed at Albergo La Tavernetta, where I had a room with a small balcony. The second night we ate a group dinner there, and apparently they felt we needed feeding up after our hike, because they served way too much food! Assorted bruschetta were followed by no fewer than three kinds of pasta, including pasta con le sarde (not as good as the Granduca’s). The swordfish, accompanied by French fries and salad, seemed a little dry, but dessert, pineapple and little cakes filled with ricotta, was good. The previous night many of us ate at Il Bagnio, said to have food with Arabian influences. My seafood couscous was more couscous than seafood, and very short on expected spice. I ate cassata for dessert, rich with sugar and candied fruits and also on my list of things to try, but found it too sweet for my taste. I’ll stick with cannoli!

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