We are finally to the place that was the whole inspiration for our trip – where Frank’s parents grew up. We will be here for two and a half months, exploring this beautiful island and connecting with family.
Agrigento Beach House
Our first stop is Agrigento, which is on the southern side of Sicily and only a few miles from where Frank’s parents grew up. It is also the home to the Valley of the Temples, what some say are the best preserved Greek temples outside of Greece. You can see them from the highway, but we will tour them later this week.
We rented a beach house on VRBO. The owners sent us directions, which we followed along the autostrada – and then – there was a quick right and all of a sudden, we were in another world. A very narrow dirt road, where two horses galloped by, those amazing Greek temples in the distance, and no signs. We gamely inched forward and made the next left, as instructed, only to encounter an overpass that looked like it would take us to an even more remote world.
The overpass ended at a gate, and we didn’t know what to do. We called the owner, who said we were in the right place, and all of a sudden, the gate opened. We drove forward to another gate. It opened automatically, too. And we found ourselves in an incredible compound right on the water. Movie stars could stay here, it is so private.
The family was super nice – the mom, grandmom, and two kids were there. They had stocked the ‘fridge with local cheese, canolli, and limoncello. They even drove us around to show us the local markets. Wow – Sicily is very friendly.
And Of Course Adventure
We pictured driving into the nearest little town and having a leisurely, fancy dinner to celebrate our first night here. But there always must be a little adventure. Ours came when we tried to lock the rental car, and all the windows rolled down. After a few more attempts, we realized this was a pattern. Every time we hit “lock” on the remote key, we would hear a click and all seemed well. But then a few minutes later, all the windows would roll down. Oh no! We have heard a few scary stories about Sicily and how bold thieves will actually steal purses right out of moving cars. What do you think they would do to a car sitting around with all its windows down? Not good. We pulled out the manual – of course, it is in Italian. We called Hertz, who seemed as puzzled as we were – although there may have been a little detail lost in translation. (After some Googling, apparently this is a common problem on this model of Volvo.)
Our Car – notice windows all down.
In the meantime, we were starving in our compound by the sea. So Frank and I made a bold plan to go to the market. One of us would dash in, while the other would be the look-out to for our unlocked car (so the windows would stay up). We took turns grabbing groceries and then running back to check out the car. I’m sure we looked like crazy people. With the marketing finished, we decided to just order a pizza to go. We turned down a beachfront avenue that we knew had restaurants, but learned that it apparently closes to cars on Saturday nights so people can take a stroll. There was no way out, so we had to keep going for six long blocks – apologizing to bikers, babies in strollers, and elderly couples walking arm in arm in our path. Finally, we picked up our pizza and headed home.
Back on the autostrada, back under the little overpass, back down the dirt road and through the gate. We collapsed on the terrace overlooking the water, opened a bottle of wine, and ate our (now cold) pizza. It tasted delicious.
Update: After trying to explain this quirky problem on the phone, we are heading back to Palermo Hertz. Good news is that Frank has already connected with his cousin, Enza, who lives nearby. We will be going there for lunch this week. Things are looking up.