Thursday, May 11, 2006

from Campofelice di Rocella: others who come here (or not)

(Thursday post, all caught up now!)

1. on the trail

We have been lucky. With the exception of the very first hike, we have had all the trails all to ourselves. It is quite possible that this is thanks to May travel. Or maybe it’s because we are the only ones who still cling to Hiking in Sicily, copyright 1998, while everyone else has moved on to something better, or at least more updated, something that has not yet reached the shelves of Madison’s Borders Bookshop.

Yesterday, though, we had company. It was a remote trail through a forest preservation area, high up among the more jagged peaks of the region.

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Getting there was hard enough. Only forty kilometers from our farmhouse, but what a forty! It took two hours to drive over to the starting point. True, there was a stop at a village for a capucci’o.

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a pause in Isnello

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as I work the car down the tight space, others take a more relaxed approach to the day

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first capucci'o break of the day

And it took many sweaty minutes to navigate the car out of the narrow alleys leading in and out of the village center. Still, we reached our hiking destination by 3 pm. Not bad for those known to start late and get lost, all in the space of one day.

It was a brilliant day – perfect for a climb up rocky paths, bordered by every shade of green. This particular area has hundreds of species of plant, some found only in here, extinct in all other parts of the globe (note fir trees below).

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Eventually, we did meet up with clouds. But not for long. We climbed above their level and forgot about them.

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The same cannot be said for the German couple. We came upon them early in the hike. We could not shake them.

Wanting the solitude and quiet of an empty trail, we gave them space. We paused for ten minutes. Up ahead, they paused for ten minutes. We stopped to pick the little caterpillars off our clothes. They paused to pick the little caterpillars off their clothes. I took photos. She took clothes on and off – it took the same number of seconds.

We would have passed them, but every once in a while they would get that brisk German step going, signaling in every way “we are unbeatable.” We tend to be more leisurely about things.

They were the only other souls on the mountain. We cannot complain about their presence anymore than they can about ours. But I do have a suggestion for future hikers on mountain trails: keep your voices down. Sound travels.

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a photo pause at the top

At least we did not get lost on this day. We knew we had it right each time. The Germans paved the way, with the help of their sturdy leather shoes and very detailed maps. Not for them, Hiking through Sicily, copyright 1998.

2. in the restaurant

In the evening we went to our “other” village restaurant, Portico Antico. Signora Cristina (from our farm) described the place as big, noisy, family oriented, full of locals, but with exceptionally fresh and honest (or words to that effect) food.

All predictions were exactly correct. In the background, the TV was on. And so the meal was against the backdrop of some rescue movie with, Ed tells me, Sylvester Stallone, dubbed over in Italian. I, myself, could not really tell. Amazingly, all patrons were arranged around tables in such a way that the men faced the screen and the women – any place but the screen. [Five minutes into the meal I threatened to take away Ed’s glasses if he continued to direct his eyes toward the set.]

Patrons included a mamma with her two teen daughters, a couple with their one year old, a woman with her frail great grandmother, and an assortment of men and women variously related to each other.

It was the kind of place where if you ask about the fish of the day, the cook comes out to show you what he picked up this morning.

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The restaurant completely won me over. But then, I am, in general, quite smitten with this little corner of the world. The village of Campofelice di Rocella is close to the mountains, the sea and fewer than a dozen kilometers up above the trendy coastal Cefalu, the town that has my Internet Point and perhaps more importantly, looks like this on the drive down to it:

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Campofelice di Rocella is a laid back, unpretentious kind of place. Not many visitors seek it out. According to our server, no Americans ever set foot in her country restaurant. Such a mistake. True, no one speaks English here, but how could that possibly matter? I no longer take my ancient little dictionary anywhere. Sicilians are brilliant in getting their point across. And each explanation, each encounter ends with a handshake and a smile.

You come hungry, you leave happy and satisfied. Again, well cared for. It was our last Sicilian meal. Tomorrow we head north again. But I’m hooked on Sicily. I’ll be back, certo.

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fresh and honest


  1. Lo! Beauty that I do'th behold
    n'er close to heart shall thee I enfold
    when'st with proffers so bold
    I bear'th but pastry and n'er burnished Gold~
    the lonely donut man (LDM)

  2. Beautiful. Sitting here reading your post while eating a mere bowl of oatmeal, I feel deprived. Thanks for sharing.


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