All of this is by way of saying getting from Venice to Siracusa Sicily was a long slog. A water taxi to the airport, a delayed flight to Rome, a delayed flight to Catania, a 30 minute taxi ride to Siracusa and a jerk of a hotel manager on arrival. Basta!
The desk clerk though is a sweetie and a drink and a bite to eat helped immensely. The first morning we wandered out into Ortygia, the oldest and most charming part of the city, early enough to enjoy it before the tour groups arrived.
Later we are sitting on stone benches (thin cushions provided) in the ancient Greek theater waiting for a production of Sophocles Electra in Italian. Go figure. We weren't sure what to expect but it was incredible! Great acting and a full Greek choir in red robes. A truly super experience!
Repeated wandering around Ortygia, a visit to the large and somewhat dilapidated archeological museum, and several reasonably good meals later, we were ready to leave, not enormously impressed so far with our Sicilian experience.
The next morning we walked around the corner to the car rental office where I asked jokingly whether they had an automatic shift vehicle.
When I booked the car through AutoEurope I was told it was virtually impossible to get an automatic in Sicily and if we could they price would triple. So I borrowed a stick shift car from a friend and renewed my 30 year lapsed acquaintance with the standard gearshift. I felt reasonably secure with it and Gene had expressed a preference de for me to drive, so I was ready to bite the bullet, putting out of my mind winding roads, sheer drop offs and Sicilian drivers. Well, somewhat out of my mind. Or was it I that was out of my mind?
I did a double take when the agent said that he was giving me an automatic shift for the same price. Apparently an American had rented it, turned it in the day before, and this Good Samaritan agent had assumed we would want it so he held it for us til the morning! I was overjoyed and relieved. It's pretty big and I can't figure out how to turn off the radio without also eliminating the GPS, but va bene.
I've never used a GPS before and have little trust in it but Gene assures me it's working perfectly and the fact that he can't navigate his way to the grocery store will not be an issue. So far so good.
Our next stop was Noto, only 45 minutes away but I fell in love with the hotel when I found it online and decided it would be our base for driving around the area. The 7 Rooms Villadorata is part of one of the most important palazzos in town and has been done up beautifully by the woman who owns it. Our room is about 15 feet x 20 feet, 20 foot ceilings, two floor to ceiling French doors opening onto a balcony, cool tile floors, a great huge shower, breakfasts served on the roof terrace overlooking the countryside...need I go on? Need I ever leave the building?
Well maybe, but leaving it isn't all that satisfying. I have a confession to make. We aren't particularly enamored of Sicily. At all. Everyone we've ever talked to about it raved and we watched a lot of the Italian police series Commissario Montalbano and were seduced by the overhead shots of the landscape. Why would we expect to be....bored? But we are. Too many churches in Venice maybe.
Yesterday we bit the bullet and rearranged our trip, dropping a vineyard resort and a week in Palermo and getting out of Dodge. We're flying to Paris a week early, after a visit to the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento. How did we ever think a week in Palermo could beat an extra week in Paris?
N.B. You might notice the absence of photos on this post. For some reason my iPad is rebelling and I can't get it to show the photos I've been taking with the iPhone. The cloud is not cooperating. I'll figure it out and post photos somehow. Meanwhile, check my Instagram account: shellioreck.