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Published: September 9th 2018
Happy birthday David!
8:30 departure this morning as we had quite a bit of driving today. Our first section, as he headed to the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of Villa Romana del Casale, took around 2 hours. Michele used this opportunity, when he has us as a captured audience, to give us really interesting facts and stories about Sicily or the next site we are heading to.
Villa Romana del Casale is located in Piazza Armenia and is a large and elaborate Roman villa that was constructed in the first quarter of the 4th century AD on the remains of an older villa. The whole structure was covered by a landslide and floods and was abandoned in the 12th century AD, and remained this way for the next 700 years. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world. They believe the area we were able to visit and see is only a quarter of the entire villa - there hasn't been enough funds to enable them to excavate more at this stage. What we were able to see was very impressive. The mosaics and pavement exceed over 300 square
metres and there are also many frescoes visible on some of the interior walls. Our local guide, Sergio, walked us through this amazing place, explaining what they believe each room was used for. There are thermal baths which our guide called the 1800 year old 6 star holiday resort. From what they can tell, the villa was owned by an Imperial Roman family. We walked through (well, actually above) a gymnasium, various bedrooms, entertainment and living quarters, and even a kindergarten. The gymnasium was decorated with all female athletes - wearing bikinis! Seenow the Italians say they invented the bikini. The final room, which is a huge hall, has had the roof and walls reconstructed with timber, just to show how grand they believe this room was. The mosaics throughout are simply stunning and it must have taken many, many years of painstaking work to do. It is so good that it has all been so well preserved and hopefully one day they will be able to complete the whole excavation.
Our next stop was the town of Módica. Apparently this town is famous for scenes that are in the TV series Inspector Montalbano but this didn't mean anything
to me. Never mind because the town is stunning anyway! It is another town that has been built on top of a mountainside, so we were able to stop and take some photos from across the valley. Then it was onto a private villa in the town, where we were to be treated to a high tea. This villa was originally built and owned by Cartier (of the jewellery fame). We were given a tour of the garden and the surrounds although many in our group were attacked by mosquitoes! Luckily they don't seem to both with me. We then went inside for our afternoon tea, which was really lovely. I tried the apple cake and can report back to say it was delicious. I had this with a tropical orange juice. Everyone enjoyed being able to check out the furnishings of the villa and the artwork on the walls.
It was time to leave and we drove to the town of Ibla. If we thought Modica was special, Ibla took the whole experience up a notch! Once again we had the dramatic hairpin bends drive up to this mountaintop town but wow, was it worth it. This town
would have to be one of the cleanest towns we have visited - Michele said this is due to the sense of communtiy in this town, they take pride in making sure it looks beautiful. Smart move as I would highly recommend a stay in this town in Ragusa. Our accommodation tonight used to be a convent for the Cappuchini monks in the 16th century. The 40 rooms they had have now been converted into this 20 room boutique hotel and it is simply delightful. It is surrounded by a public garden and even has its own, impressive church attached. Michele advised that you could spend the whole day in this town just looking at churches, they have so many! After checking in we met the group downstairs. Michele was going to walk us to the main cathedral in town, and show us some of the places along the way we might like to have dinner at. Then, for anyone who was interested, he would accompany us on a walk that would be a bit more challenging, as we would walk down many stairs then up many to a lookout on the other part of the town. How could I
pass up an opportunity like that! We all enjoyed the walk through the town then a smaller group of us headed off with Michele. I'm so glad I did because the view from the lookout was sensational. We stayed up there for a while, a son the sun was slowly setting and this changed the colours of the buildings we were viewing. Just breathtaking. We wandered back to the hotel, all feeling fantastic about our achievement.
We got back to the hotel around 8pm but needed to have a shower before heading out to dinner. We had seen a couple of others from our group on our way back, and they were eating at a restaurant they said was great, so we booked a table for 9pm. Sue, Paul and I came downstairs and grabbed Jacque and we headed to the restaurant, only to get there (10 mins early by the way) to find the lady had given our table away. We chatted to the other couple from our group, who had finished eating, and they said they would give us their table once they finished their wine. So we wandered looking at the shops until it was free.
It took a while before they took our orders and then we noticed another couple from our group had only just received their meals, so knew the service was not going to be quick. Sure enough, we didn't get our food until after 10pm and were just finishing it around 11. Paul and I both felt this meant we deserved to go and try one of the towns famous cannoli's so we paid our bill and headed off. The Sicilian's use ricotta cheese in their cannoli and then they dip it into fresh pitachio - oh my, it was delicious but so, so rich! I could not eat mine - I just ate the ricotta from the end so I could have the pistachios haha. By the time i got to bed, my stomach was still too full so it took quite a while to get to sleep. First world problems!
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