I had become obsessed with the search for a lavanderia, but days of searching turned up nothing. Some of the dry-cleaning establishments will accept bags of laundry for washing, but they price by the piece- two euros for a shirt, four euros for a sheet, one euro for a washcloth...good grief, at home I can BUY a washcloth for less than a euro! With almost every sheet and towel on the boat dirty and Janet arriving in less than 24 hours, I was desperate enough to pay the price, but it was Sunday and everything was closed. Furthermore, our water tanks were almost dry. We decided to resolve the problem by spending a night at the Marina Levante, where the price of 70 euros included use of a washing machine. It was a tiny washer/wringer model that drained into the sink- just a step up from the one Mom used to have at the Cape- but I figured I could cope. No one mentioned that the spinner had conked out, so you can well imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth onboard Aisling when Rick returned from the laundry room with a sodden mess of soapy sheets. Things looked even worse when it started to rain just as I finally got everything rinsed and wrung out. Luckily, rain doesn't last long in Sicily in summer and by Sunday evening we had everything dry and the boat shipshape.
In spite of having travelled for more than 24 hours to get from Ottawa to Sicily, Janet was as energetic as always when I met her at the hotel Chiavi di San Francesco early Monday morning. We visited the fish market and vegetables stalls to shop for dinner, then walked through the pedestrian area of old Trapani, talking nonstop as we caught up on each others' news. We dropped in to the cathedral (where the Madonna of Trapani seemed blissfully unaware of all the fuss that had been made about her in the past week) and then visited the Chiesi del Purgatorio, which houses the "Misteri" that are carried in Trapani's Good Friday procession. The twenty misteris depict scenes from the Passion of Christ and the lifelike wooden figures are works of art. Each grouping is displayed with a placard indicating the guild that accompanies it in the procession- shoemakers, fishermen, shopkeepers, interior decorators-it seems that most of the population of Trapani takes part in the procession. It must be an impressive sight for the few stragglers that remain as spectators. (Just kidding, it's a big deal and people come from all over the world to see it.)
By mid-day, we were underway for Favignana, with the wind cooperating by providing perfect sailing conditions. We anchored on the east side of Punta Longa in 25' of patchy sand and weed and spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing. In the evening we cooked a swordfish dinner onboard and celebrated Janet's arrival with a bottle of Barolo that Rick had bought at the grocery store in Palermo. Barolo with swordfish? It was great! Rick and I may be putting ourselves at risk of mercury poisoning from the amount of swordfish we've eaten in the past three weeks, but it's so delicious that we could eat it every night.
The next day, we set our sights on Selinunte, where we hoped to anchor off the beach. We set off in a 15-20 knot breeze from the north, but after a few hours the wind died and we were back to motor-sailing. Just as Rick went below for a nap, we noticed thunder clouds and flashes of lightening over the hills at Selinunte. It seemed to be moving our way and Janet (who is a much better sailor than I) suggested that it might be wise to take in the jib. We got it furled in the nick of time- within minutes the wind was whipping up scary-looking horses' tails from the downdrafts, the wind instrument was showing gusts of over 30 knots and the wind clocked about 90 degrees. It only lasted for minutes, but anchoring on the exposed shore near Selinunte no longer seemed like a good idea, so we decide to continue on to the marina in Sciacca.
It's impossible to imagine ever receiving a warmer welcome than we were given at the Circolo Nautico Corolla in Sciacca. The club is managed by volunteers and Vincenzo, the Vice Presidente, had cups of espresso and sparkling water on the table in front of us before we had even checked in. Apparently, the 30 euro marina fee also included a bottle of wine- would we prefer red, rose or white? After getting settled at the dock, we made the steep walk up the hill to the town. Near the harbour, the streets of Sciacca look a bit bleak, but the town centre is very pleasant, with many beautiful old buildings. We joined the local "passagiata" (evening stroll) along the promenade above the sea and had pizza and pasta in a little caf� with a fantastic view. Our route on the walk home was more scenic, and we found a set of elaborately tiled stairs that led back to the port. Sciacca is known for its artisanal ceramic work and we assumed that the unique designs on the risers were created by local artists.
In the morning, Vincenzo made arrangements for a rental car to be delivered to us in the early afternoon, then invited us to drive into the town with him. He took us on a tour that included the old town walls and gate, the Chiesa di Santa Margherita and the "Termale"- the spa that makes Sciacca a destination for many elderly Italians. Vincenzo left us at a small caf� where Janet's bus ticket to the airport could be purchased. We got information on the schedule and then sat in the shade outside, drinking cappuchinos drizzled with an intricate chocolate design. On our way back to the port, we passed a stall where fresh sea urchins were being served and a small child was happily gobbling them up as fast as her father could scrape the meat from the shells.
We had time for an espresso with Vincenzo while we waited for the rental car to arrive- our conversation proceeding at a snail's pace as Vincenzo patiently consulted the Italian/English dictionary each time we encountered a translation problem. At 1.30, we were finally on the road. We stopped briefly at the beautiful beach at Eraclia Minoa, where the noise of the cicadas was almost deafening, but decided to drive on to Scala dei Turchie for our swim. A huge white rock formation makes this beach a spectacular sight, so it was difficult to drag ourselves away. The mud that collects on the rocks in this area is said to have magical rejuvenating qualities, so Janet and I decided to slap some on our faces and bodies. It didn't seem to remove ten years from our faces as promised, but it left our skin feeling amazingly silky.
It was late afternoon when we reached the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento- a World Heritage site with five Doric temples in varying states of preservation. The angle of the sun seemed to emphasize the colour of the temples against the sky, and the two wedding parties who were having photos taken there while we toured will probably have some amazing shots in their albums. We sneaked a few photos of them too- you don't often see a groom wearing a white satin suit back in Canada! Unfortunately we missed the 7 p.m. cut-off time for entering the western end of the site, but we were back in Sciacca on time to have a fantastic dinner at the Trattoria Vela. The "fish menu", priced at 25 euros a person, included 14 courses, plus wine! There was no printed menu or list of dishes, we just waited to see what would arrive and hoped we could keep up. It was a great way to try some local specialties- including sea urchins, which are much tastier than they look, and deep fried cylinders of fish eggs, which aren't. Rick kept detailed notes on the courses for your reading pleasure....raw sea urchins, steamed mussels, deep fried calamari, octopus and seafood salad, fried small shrimp, meatballs in fresh tomato sauce, thinly-sliced swordfish in oil and garlic, deep fried ouva de spatella (fish eggs), pasta Gallinella in a tuna ragout sauce, casarecce pasta in a mixed whitefish and vegetable sauce, grilled tria (a small red-skinned fish) lemon granita with fruit and almond mousse with chocolate sauce. This would have been followed by a local liqueur and coffee, but we were too full to attempt it. All of the courses were brought to the table separately on large plates. It was a mountain of food, but very yummy!! Italians know how to cook and how to eat.
The next day we spent some time on a local beach, then Vincenzo drove Janet to the bus stop to catch her 4 p.m. bus to the Palermo airport. From there she had a long journey to Basel and we were relived to hear that she arrived on schedule for her Thursday meeting. Rick and I spent another day in Sciacca, but mainly stayed onboard getting the boat ready- although I did find time to try the lemon granita at the Bar Roma and finally understood why Vincenzo kept insisting that we try it. When we said our goodbyes to Vincenzo, he presented us with a club burgee, a key ring, and a piece of paper with his address, which he made us promise to pass on to Janet. Our stay in Sciacca and mini-holiday with Janet had been the perfect ending to our summer of sailing. Now we're off to Marina Cap Monastir and Africa, where we will prepare Aisling for her lonely winter
09/01/2008, Sciacca, Sicily
One of many reasons to visit the south coast of Sicily!
Maybe we don't look ten years younger, but we definitely feel ten years younger!