Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday, June 9th, Monreale and the Hill Country


We had originally thought of staying in Monreale for three days. Using it as a base for regional travel, our extraordinarily successful first two days has us now planning on ending the third day in Trapani, after a hydro-jet trip to an island off the coast for a tour of a cave with stone drawings that rivals the best in the world.

Then we'll head south and east for a couple of days, and then head for the east coast and the Mt Etna area. We're making such good time seeing what we are interested in, we're thinking of taking the ferry to Genoa on the last day here. We may also take the ferry across the Messina strait to the mainland, and drive back up to Rome across the southern end of the boot.

Pat said I could include some of her journal today, so I'm jumping at the chance.

But first, for a look at the photos taken today, click on: Hill Country Drive and Cefalu


Another beautiful day in Italy. Probably 80, but with some steady ocean breeze. We didn't want to drive through Palermo to get to Cefalu - the direct route along the coast - so we planned a route going south (up the hill) through some high passes then north (back down the hill) before picking up the autostrade for the last 20 miles long the coast route. We spent a glorious three hours wending through some upper plains - we saw great escarpments, roc formations and gentle valleys. The roads were generously wide by Sicily town standards and well-paved, and with very few cars. We did have some adventures. Greta the Garmin GPS got a little turned around in the many winding streets - but there was always a roundabout way if we missed a turn.

We left at 9:30am and arrived at Cefalu at 1:30pm (a 60 mile drive by the direct route), but the drive was worth every minute. Once we found parking, it was a nice walk to the old town - medieval town on a sandy cove. We walked the main street to the Piazza del Duomo, and decided to eat al fresco at the Duomo Restaurant. The guys ordered suppa de cozze, I got the smoked 3-fish (salmon, sword-fish, and one other). Well, the mussels came as a huge platter - maybe 36 in a tomato, garlic, and tarragon sauce. They were the tastiest, most succulent and tender mussels any of us had ever had. The next course was good pastas all around, but couldn't compare with the transcendance of the mussels.

After a leisurely meal, we climbed the steps of the Duomo, another Romanesque Church built about 60 years before Monreale, and about half the size - but also with stunning gold mosaic work around the alter. It was lighter and brighter and et up for a wedding. The air was redolent with white lillies and red roses all over the alter. We continued on through the town, not over-crowded with tourists, and no tour groups we could discern. At the end of the town, we turned onto the sandy beach, and walked the esplanade - pretty well full of bathers back to our car. We stopped to pick up picnic material for dinner tonight.
We leave early in the am tomorrow to reach Trapani to catch a hydrofoil to an offshore island to see Lescaux-like neolithic cave drawings.

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