11 Unforgettable Days in SicilyAuthor: Kim G.
Date of Trip: October 2006
My husband and I recently spent 11 days in Sicily. Over the years, we spoke off and on about Sicily as a vacation destination. And although we have been to Italy 4 times in the past, somehow Sicily has always seemed to be too far away and too unknown to us. In 2006, my husband, whose maternal ancestors came from Termini Imerese, Sicily, gave in to my continual challenge and agreed to go back and research his roots.
I threw myself feverishly into the reading of the Trip Reports and Forums in Fodor, Frommer's, Trip Advisor, Le Routard, Internaute Voyage. We viewed Rick Steve's DVDs on Italy and Sicily. Per chance in the Summer 2006, I read superlative reviews about Home from Home in Bolognetta (Region of Palermo) in Trip Advisor posted by Americans who mentioned that they were reunited with long-lost relatives in the region thanks to the efforts of the B&B owners. In a matter of seconds, I sent a reservation inquiry to Kathy Curran, the owner of the Home from Home.
From the first contact, Kathy led us in her able hands to our goal of reunification with a large branch of my husband's family tree in Termini Imerese. Toto, her husband, met us at the Palermo airport and drove us to their home where we spent 5 unforgettable days in the company of the two uniquely warm individuals who turned from strangers to dear friends in a matter of minutes. Kathy gives new meaning to the hospitality business. She welcomes her guests in the style and dedication of a top-notch hotel. Everything one can possibly need is at one's fingertips in the clean and well-decorated double room with a wonderful mattress and private adjoining bathroom. She is truly a mind reader when it comes to the needs and desires of her guests. Kathy's philosophy converts this B&B into an expert travel agency and cultural seminar on her adopted Sicilia.
Before leaving Boston we looked hard for a good driving map of Sicily, but did not like what was available. We mentioned it to Kathy and abracadabra! She and Toto have bought a dozen of booklets of the most helpful maps of Sicily for their guests just in case. A stay here is more like a visit to one's relative's house for a special holiday. Breakfast offerings are varied and plentiful and presented with pride and personal care. Both she and Toto are eager to please their guests. Be careful about mentioning any food item because the next morning it will be on the table in front of you. The breakfast area often resounded with laughter.
We walked to the excellent pizza places (The Roxy Bar was our favorite) in the charming town of Bolognetta and drove a very short distance to fancy (but reasonable) restaurants where one can pick and choose the most delectable Sicilian fares. As if that is not enough of a treat, airport pick-up, all-day or half-day guided tours and Italian lessons in the immersion style can be arranged ahead of arrival with Toto. Looking for a discreet, charming, knowledgeable companion to drive you SAFELY around and reveal to you the local artistic and archeological treasures, the complex cultural structures, the unique geography and history of Sicilia? Toto is your answer.
Typically, each day Kathy would pamper us, feed us royally, entertained us with her charming conversation and send us out with her Toto in their car with special maps, and picnic bags to visit Palermo, Cefalu, Termini Imerese, Agrigento and anywhere else our hearts desired. And, while we were out exploring, she would drive to Palermo in extreme heat and even more extreme traffic jams to shop for unique souvenirs from Sicily for us and surprise us at the end of the day! It was my husband's luck of a lifetime that Toto's secret hobbies are his: photography and researching and reuniting long-lost relatives. We returned home to Boston with sweet memories of reunification and pictures of a significant branch of my husband's family tree from Termini Imerese. Toto had found them prior to our arrival.
During our stay, there was a group of certified hang gliders from Austria and Germany who told us this region is the best for hang gliding flights. In reading the B&B guest book, we also learned that hiking enthusiasts and bicyclists come often to this B&B. A few months ago, Bolognetta was an unknown spot on the Sicilian map for us. Today Bolognetta is a name we say with a Sichilian accent, a smile on our face and the fondest memories one can possibly take away from this B&B.
Before we left, Kathy referred us to a trusted friend's B&B, Malacala in the bay of Calabernardo, 35 minutes drive South of Syracusa and only 4 kilometers east of Noto. The two ladies consulted on the phone about what we like for breakfast and our general interests. Kathy also spent a long time on the Internet researching a hotel close to the Catania airport for us so that we can easily catch our 7 a.m. return flight to the US. After many hugs and promises to stay in touch, Kathy and Toto sent us off in our rental car on our drive to the east of Sicily. They called us the same evening at Malacala to be sure that we had arrived safe and sound!
Sicilian autostradas are well maintained overall and local drivers are assertive but respectful of others' safety. We stopped at the Villa Romana del Casale for a couple of hours to view the world renowned vast and well preserved mosaic compound and continued on toward the east coast. In Avola, the next village to Calabernardo, we got lost a bit and, after inquiring our way in hesitant Italian, two local traffic policemen took pity on us and escorted us for 2 miles onto the SP 34 where we headed safely to the Malacala B&B in Calabernardo.
The glamorous Malacala B&B is located in Calabernardo (Region of Noto). This refined and tastefully decorated gem is located in one of the most idyllic vacation spots in South East Sicily. The secluded and exclusive home is only 100 meters from a pristine coastline. The owners Anti and Pietro are semi-retired professionals from Bologna.
Anti, an accomplished interior designer, graces the 3 bedroom, 3 full bath seaside home with her tasteful and remarkable sense of color and decoration. Pietro indulges his love of gardening in the creation of a stunning cactus garden which brings nature into the main living quarters. Both husband and wife enjoy creating gourmet, healthy Italian cuisine. This couple truly enjoys receiving travelers and welcomes their guests in the grandest style.
The beds were very comfortable, the closets were large, the bath linens were fluffy and plentiful, and the "amenities" were equivalent to those offered in a classy 5 star spa! During our stay, the bed was made each day and the bathroom linens were changed daily. Breakfast was a generous display of healthy and scrumptious home-made sweet and salty items (hot from the oven) made with fresh local produce and herbs. A lavish assortment of fruit, local cheeses, fruit juices, and coffee completed the morning choices. Fresh flower arrangements graced the breakfast table for each couple or party.
Well read, sophisticated, yet easygoing Anti and Pietro are the most engaging and helpful hosts. As a surprise, our son arranged by phone with Anti and Pietro for a home-made dinner for us. This dynamic team of culinary experts created a sumptuous Sicilian feast. Fresh fish carpacio, home-made pasta (Pietro's signature contribution), local ham and cheese wrapped in pork simmered in a wine concoction and served with steamed rice, braised fennel, fresh salad, platter of exquisite local cheeses, home-made coffee flan, and, to tease the palate, different special local wines were served as well as a wonderful liquor to enhance the dessert experience! When not dining with Anti and Pietro and their charming daughter Andrea (home from a university break) we strolled down (two minutes walk from their home) to the local bistro to enjoy a delicious Sicilian meal, sitting outdoors, the sweet breeze keeping us cool, listening to the waves lapping on the rocky coastline and watching the fishermen come home with their catch of the day (which is the highlight of the dinner menu).
A car is necessary to fully enjoy the surrounding area. One can reach a clean and sandy beach located only 5 minutes away. Other places of interest are the famous village of Noto (only a short ride away); the National Reserve of Vendicari; the fascinating foremost tip of the Sicilian island, the sandy Capo delle Correnti where the Ionian Sea meets and collides with the Mediterranean Sea; Ragusa; Modica; Syracusa and the island of Ortygia; and, farther north, the Catania region.
We came to Sicily in hopes of finding some paper trace of my husband's ancestral roots and to see stunning Greco-Roman ruins as well as meet friendly people. Instead, we returned home rich with precious pictures and memories of family reunification, friendships for a lifetime, visions of incredibly beautiful archeological ruins and awe-inspiring duomos and cathedrals. One must stand in the mile long sand bar under a blue sky and a gentle breeze, where the Ionian Sea meets and embraces the Mediterranean Sea to really appreciate why Sicilians are so proud, friendly and eager to welcome travelers. They have so much natural beauty and they want to share with the curious at heart. Better learn some Italian though!! English proficiency is still a rarity here. We had no problem because Kathy is from England and speaks French, Spanish and German. Pietro speaks some English; and we learned Italian very quickly with Anti (who also understands some French) and Toto, who are the most patient and expressive people.
We left Sicily with mixed feelings. We were eager to get home as our journey lasted 3 weeks (including a stop over in Paris) but we felt remiss that newly found relatives and dear friends are left behind. We are resolved to learn Italian seriously so that we can correspond with our Sicilian "dear ones" or rather "Ai nostri cari..."
For those interested, the B&B sites are:
http://www.homefromhome-sicily.com in Bolognetta (Region of Palermo)
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