Syracuse was the aim. Straight off the plane, we picked up the car (a Toyota Agra, tiny 1lt red, um! Not much power there but it will have to suffice). It took a few minutes to adjust to driving on the right. More traumatic was the realisation that Sicilian drivers had no understanding of road rules, staying on their side of the road seemed an alien concept. Still, we managed to negotiate the labyrinth of airport slip roads out onto the Autostrada. Fifty kms to Syracuse.
We didn’t stop long! Syracuse proved a nightmare for naïve UK drivers! Narrow lanes, confusing bridges, satnav hissy inducing one way systems. And what are the conventions for parking your car? Where can you do it? Where do you pay?
We found a quayside car park and took a ticket. Ortygia, ancient Syracuse, was a rabbit warren of small medieval side streets. Narrow alleyways with tall three and four story housing either side, we were soon lost. Our misery was compounded when we discovered the ticket was for one hour only!
We only just made it back and took the joint decision that maybe, on reflection, stepping off a plane and driving immediately into an ancient city was probably ambitious!
Pollo di Mazza, our first agriturismo was out on a flat country plain surrounded by fields but hidden by trees and palms. Built of honey coloured limestone that was crumbling with age, the rooms were simple and clean with oak furnishings of a deep dark rich brown. A wooden beam roof with simple murals painted on walls made it very romantic, so I’m told. Terracotta tiled floors were cool on the feet. The outdoor swimming pool was divine and we had it to ourselves.
Later, as the sun started to sink and the temperature dropped to a bearable 28C, we went off in search of food. A five kilometre drive to the coast led to a small beachside bar. Sat on a small cliff top wooden bar patio surrounded by local Italian family and friends, teenagers played table football animatedly but with good humour. The low limestone cliffs stretching either side were layered giving easy access to the water. Large rocks over centuries had collapsed into the crystal clear azure seas. Italians lounged on towels sunbathing in the early evening sun. Our diet cokes on ice slipped down nicely as we admired the views; the peninsula to the north dotted with individual terracotta roofed houses.
Back on our little terrace we peeled fresh oranges bought from a local roadside fruit stall we found and mixed them with divine kiwi fruits and a pack of TUC biscuits. I know how to treat a girl to a good night out!