Monday, January 07, 2008

Overnight Escape to Sciacca

This weekend Les and I decided we needed a quick getaway before life really returns to normal. His holiday work schedule ends this week and I start another MBA class tomorrow. We decided to cover some new ground west of Agrigento. We left around 1pm on Sunday and headed west.

Agrigento's Valle Dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) is one of my favorite places in Sicily. The Doric temples overlooking the Mediterranean coast are spectacular. We pulled off the road to snap a few pictures. I brought my tripod and telephoto and put them to good use.

Tempio di Hera (Temple of Hera)

Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concord)

Tempio di Hera (Temple of Hera)

After enjoying the view of the temples we continued west towards Eraclea Minoa. We had hoped to visit an archaeological sight containing the ruins of a theater, but even though we were there within the hours listed in our Lonely Planet book, it was closed.

We headed down to the Eraclea Minoa's beach town to look around. For the most part it was a ghost town. I'm guessing it is a lively place during the summer but most homes were locked up and gardens overgrown. As we were glancing down side streets we noticed quite a few cars at Lido Garibaldi. We decided to check it out and found a great beach! The cars belonged to the handful of locals (who live there year-round) enjoying the bar and the view. We grabbed a coffee and then headed outside to enjoy the sea.

Sunset on Lido Garibaldi and the Mediterranean Sea

Lido Garibaldi

I could have stayed an enjoyed the peaceful sound of the waves at Lido Garibaldi for hours, but since the sun was dipping low in the sky we decided to continue on to Sciacca - our destination for the evening.

As we made our way into Sciacca we started looking for the hotels listed in our Lonely Planet book. The first one, the least expensive, looked either very run down or closed so we moved on without stopping. The second option led us out of town and into the countryside. After a few wrong turns (and disagreements with the Garmin) we found Villa Palocla, a charming country hotel and ristorante. As we approached the entrance we weren't sure if they would be open. It was very quiet. Lucky for us we caught the receptionist just before she was about to lock up and secured a room for the evening.

As Les was taking our backpacks upstairs I poked my head into the office and asked where the ristorante was. Unfortunately, being low season, the ristorante was closed. The receptionist gave us a brochure for the city and said there were many places to eat in town. I had been looking forward to relaxing for the evening and being within walking distance of dinner, but we were in for more exploration.

After a short rest we made our way into the centro of Sciacca. I guess the rest of the town also thought that spending the evening in the centro was a grand idea and it took us almost an hour to find a place to park. By then we had definitely worked up an appetite.

As we walked through the centro we saw many shops and bars but no restaurants. Finally we saw a sign pointing down an alley for an Osteria and decided to check it out. We were peeking in the door and were noticed by one of the owners. In our stumbling Italian we asked to see a menu. Their specialty was fish, and being that is not Les' favorite we decided to move on.

As we turned to leave the gentleman asked us what we were looking for and we explained that Les doesn't like fish. He asked if he liked meat, sausage, etc. and offered to put a plate together for him. He wanted our business so bad and was so happy to accommodate us we decided to stay. I'm so glad we did!

I enjoyed a salad and a fillet of swordfish and Les had meatballs, sausage and potatoes, all covered with a delicious tomato sauce. Both meals were excellent but I think I liked Les' a bit better - the tomato sauce was outstanding. After dinner we decided to stick around for dessert. We asked for dolce and were brought fresh pastries (still hot) that were filled with sweet ricotta cheese and fried, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, absolutely delicious!!!

If you are ever in Sciacca we highly recommend Angelo's and Guiseppe's (brothers) hospitality at the Osteria Cappellino on Vicolo Cappellino, 24.

Happy and full we found our way back to the car and returned to the hotel for a good night of sleep.

We set the alarm this morning for 7am (not something I usually like to do on vacation) and decided to try and be on our way by 9am. Around 8am we went downstairs for breakfast and, once we found where it was served, were in awe. Even though we were the only guests that morning they had laid out fresh cornetti (croissants, still warm), fresh fruit (some off of the trees outside), fresh squeezed orange juice, and yogurt. On top of all that they also prepared cappuccinos for us when we came downstairs! Everything was delicious!

Full and happy we paid our bill and headed back into Sciacca. I wanted to explore the town in the daylight and hopefully get a few good pictures.

Our room's view from Villa Palocla

Looking the other way out of our room at Villa Palocla

Our room's beautifully painted ceiling

Chiesa del Carmine, Sciacca

Interior of Chiesa di San Domenico, Sciacca

Les was starting to get bored of going in and out of churches so after our 1 hour parking was up we moved on. We intended to go to Castello Incantato, but the Lonely Planet book didn't give directions to it (after an interesting write-up) and we didn't see any signs. Oh well, the next destination was Caltabellotta, a city high on a hill with ruins of a Norman Castle at the top.

As we wound our way through country roads the elevation increased as did the fog and mist. By the time we reached the parking area for the castle we couldn't see much of anything. We really weren't even sure where the castle was.

We started walking and found a park with open gates. We looked up at the rocks and thought maybe those were our ruins, so we started walking up steep, moss covered, wet steps.

Remains of the Castle - about 1/2 way up our climb

We finally made it to the top, huffing and puffing. I can blame the altitude, right? I'm glad I went all the way to the top but there wasn't much to see with all of the fog. We could hear voices, car horns, etc so we knew that civilization wasn't far but we couldn't see anything through the fog.

The walk down was a bit easier but still treacherous because of the mossy, wet, stone steps.

Can you find Les? That is how foggy it was.

A bench in the mist

We made our way out of the fog and down the hill toward Eraclea Minoa. We had planned to have lunch there but unfortunately the restaurant was closed. At that point we were starving and quickly made our way to the next town in hopes of finding food. We stumbled into a trattoria and enjoyed spaghetti carbonara and some bread.

After lunch the clock was showing signs of approaching mid-afternoon. Time to head towards home. On our way home we had some bad luck with an Esso station.

WARNING: Gas coupons aren't good at EVERY Esso station! Apparently, the Esso's in the Agrigento province are owned by another company and they won't accept gas coupons. We found this out AFTER putting 50L of fuel in our car and even after Les had a long debate with them we ended up putting €68 of fuel on our credit card. OUCH! (For those of you back in the states that comes out to just over $100 for not even a full tank of gas).

Overall we had a great trip, despite the Esso problem. Sciacca and the surrounding coastline is beautiful and I'd love to go back again.


Sheena said...

What a nice getaway, except for the gas issue of course. I love the pics of Agrigento, that's my favorite place here so far. I've wanted to take some pictures from further away too, but never found a good place to park. Yours came out really nice. I love the foggy pictures too, I love the mood of the fog around the bench. Awesome picture. :) Glad you guys had fun!

Angela said...

I'm glad you like the pictures. I've gotten a lot of compliments on the bench in the mist photo. It is Les' favorite too.

Marco said...

I found you through Alfonso's blog. I hope to able to return to my favorite island in the world someday soon. What were the rates at the place in Sciacca? We have been 4 times, but not since 2000. Thanks Euro. You blog and photography are first rate!

Angela said...

Hi Marco, The rate for a double room (in off season) at the Villa Palocla was 115 Euro and included a delicious breakfast.

Thanks for the compliments of my photos!