Friday, October 30, 2009

Relaxing in unspoilt Selinunte...

It's not just the magnificent ruins that make a trip to Selinunte worthwhile and memorable. The glorious beach, marina and naturally unspoilt ambience are increasingly rare gems.

A sweep of pristine golden sand, a welcoming bar, lack of crowds and an inviting azure sea are the perfect combination for an afternoon of relaxation, after climbing and exploring the vast site of the Temples.

If you want to provide your own lunch, there's a brilliant and friendly little grocery selling the freshest fruit and veg, alongside chilled drinks and other snacks. You can't miss it as you walk down the hill, beachwards, from the ruins.

The large, comfortable beachside bar will keep you well nourished when you prefer to be catered for. They'll even refresh your beer if a fly dares to take a dip inside your glass.

Should you decide to go further afield for lunch, La Conchiglia has a terrace with exquisite sea views, super-fresh seafood and fish - ideally partnered by a wonderfully refreshing, light and delicious house white. Service is warm, friendly and efficiently laid-back.

If you visit on a Saturday in late September, you might be lucky enough to chance upon one of the town's annual celebrations featuring local sardines or pane nero and tomatoes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ancient Unmissable Selinunte...

If you're ever in the vicinity of Selinunte, don't miss-out on a visit to the magnificent site of the largest archaeological ruins in Europe. Built by the Carthaginians, the temples are known only by initials and range from the impressive, relatively-recent reconstruction, to those that remain just as they fell.

One of the rare beauties of the site is that you are able to explore as and where you wish, without barriers or out-of-bounds limits.

If you're feeling fit, enjoy your explorations on foot but bear in mind the vast scale of the site and the high gradient you'll climb. At most times of the year, you'll also need to ensure you have sufficient sun protection due to the open exposure and strength of the bounteous Sicilian sun.

For those with less than desirable fitness levels, all aspects of the wondrous site can still be enjoyed, by taking a seat on one of the 'chauffeured' snaking tourist buggies that will provide access to all areas.

Another way to visit is to book a guided tour (many languages available), or to use the recorded version. Or, just explore and take-in the bounty, at your own pace and leisure. Allow a good couple of hours; if you need a rest during your exploration there are quite plentiful benches with a selection of wondrous panoramic views throughout the site.

The loo, located towards the highest point of the site is not only impressively clean but also must qualify for the facility with one of the world's most magnificent outlooks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wonders of Erice - the great and the small...

The perfect way to get the full perspective on the splendours of magnificent, mediaevel Erice is to buy the one day pass - for five euros - that will allow you access to all the churches and the museum.

I instantly fell for the beautiful, ancient church floor ceramics and thought how divine they would look replicated in my ideal home...

Climbing onwards and upwards, through the town, we reached the pinnacle - above the clouds - and gasped at the awe-inspiring views and serene beauty of the Torri Pepoli (the breathtaking 4 star hotel you see in the photo...)

After reveling in the glorious views, we descended the tranquil cobbled streets to continue our church visits. I couldn't help but smile at the middle-aged cherubs adorning the beautiful image of Madonna and Child.

Further inside, I discovered the exquisite fragment - in impeccable condition - of gold-embroidered 17th century cloth.

We were too busy wandering and enjoying to stop for lunch but we finally took a reviving refreshment break for a delicious caffe and spuntino; I couldn't resist one of the local speciality dolce - an exquisite dark-chocolate encased, almond-shaped, maraschino and almond paste delectably sweet treat. Unmissable but so squisito that it escaped my camera's view...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The quiet pleasures of Castelvetrano

Picture the scene, early October, the sun is shining infusing the town with a perfectly temperate 30 degrees. You've just enjoyed a deliciously healthy lunch of the freshest grilled local fish preceded by a colourful antipasti platter.

Contented and comfortably replete, you chance upon a delightful garden square with a refreshingly soothing fountain cascading in the centre. For company there are the local wise men, of a certain age, whiling away a happy hour with a post-prandial smoke and a chat. This was my last afternoon in Sicily earlier this month, partly spent in this pretty and tranquil garden in the centre of unspoilt Castelvetrano.

Leaving the pretty square I headed further up into the town, enjoying the sleepy streets, admiring the gentle green curves of the duomo ahead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I've been away...

... in case you hadn't noticed! Happy to be back... with apologies to all my lovely blogisphere friends for my lengthy disappearance! A lot has been happening; I won't subject you to the full saga but I have to tell you about my lovely trip to Sicily. Davvero bellissima!

My first real holiday in two-and-a-half years (no violin required); well worth waiting for and, perhaps, all the better after such a long time without a break that lasted more than a mere couple of days.

In late September, I flew into capital Palermo; it all started in friendly-style when the curly-headed, bronzed policeman at Passport Control welcomed me, asking where I was staying and for how long, the purpose of my visit and... "do you have a boyfriend?" (in italiano). It made me smile, especially as I didn't feel at my most beautiful-best after a scant one-and-a-half hours sleep, prior to a ridiculously early flight.

The beautiful drive to the hotel broadened my smile and kept me wide-awake as I took-in and admired the gorgeous panoramic scenery: verdant hills, a backdrop of mountains, views down to a calm azure sea, pretty pale-ochre villages and dramatic hill-top ruins.

The photo above shows one of the most dramatic and unmissable sights: the mediaevel, stone-built elevated town of Erice.

I'll be back to regale you with some more, very soon... promise!