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September 23rd 2019
Published: September 24th 2019
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Ragusa ChurchRagusa ChurchRagusa Church

There were quite a few
If you’re planning a health retreat, Italy shouldn’t be at the top of your list. They just live far too well here. That is what we have found on the first few days of our Sicilian escape. There is the food and wine … and well … I guess it’s mainly the food and wine. But who cares about waist lines when there is gelati, pizza and vino?

From Malta we caught a flight to Catania. Just 40 minutes they said. I’ve never caught such a short flight. It left on time and I was confident that I’d be swimming in our pool that evening. Well, no, the hire car company put an end to that. Two hours of delay because we had to wait in line and negotiate about insurance and excesses because they wanted to fleece us for every euro we had made sure that we were not anywhere near Ragusa at the time we had told our hosts we would be there. Still, I thought this wouldn’t matter much. Wrong! We followed the directions to our destination and only found a disused train station and not a soul in cooee. Just some angry dogs that I was
Ragusa GardensRagusa GardensRagusa Gardens

With a church in the background
glad couldn’t get through the gate of their yard. The people had waited at the location long enough and left, giving up on us. A few WhatsApp calls later and a bit of frantic driving up and down a thin winding road and eventually we met the right person in the right place. Our accommodation turned out to be a highlight of a very good part of our trip. We stayed about 5 minutes out of a beautiful hilltop town called Ragusa. We had a 4-bedroom villa with swimming pool, pool table and everything we needed for our stay in this picturesque valley. Also, there was a great restaurant just a few minutes’ walk down the road where we ate twice. The short distance by car from the town of Ragusa is far enough to ensure that virtually no tourists can get there. Most stay in town and only if you have a car can you find a gem like “la Capinera”. The food was amazing, from mezze to seafood to pizza to chocolate desserts, the service was fantastic and the building felt like it belonged to an era when horse and cart was the most advanced mode of transport.
Overlooking our valleyOverlooking our valleyOverlooking our valley

Our villa was in the valley behind. From the edge of the gardens you could see where we stayed.
This is a place where locals come to dine and maybe also Italian holidaymakers. So, it made us feel like we were really being part of Italy, not just the tourist hotspots. The advantage of having a car!

Ragusa itself is a beautiful town to visit. Tucked away in the south east corner of the island it is perched atop a hill with 18th century buildings and an open alley of piazzas and gardens running through the historic centre of town. We spent a good half day enjoying the setting, the cathedrals and history before Leanne and Craig went shopping for … whatever it is that Leanne and Craig shop for and I went shopping to stock the pantry. As the cook at home, I relished the opportunity to use the local produce to cook up a simple yet tasty chicken dinner and we had no trouble finding an appropriate wine to match to our meal. Nero d’Avola is a full-bodied local variety that we have taken a fancy to.

As well as Ragusa, we spent time in Syracuse and Noto exploring the region and taking full advantage of our wheels. You’ve probably heard that driving in Italy is a precarious occupation. And you’ve heard right. There are plenty of wanna-be F1 drivers out there and road rules and indicators seem to be applied optionally. Mind reading is a worthwhile skill when you’re behind the wheel. Syracuse was once a Greek outpost and has a few reminders of its origins. There are also more recent (but still very old) fortifications, piazzas and buildings. Most places of interest are on an island called Ortigia and can only be accessed by two small bridges connecting it to the mainland. Then Noto was another hilltop town like Ragusa, but it was set out on a grid street plan with more impressive buildings (many in the baroque style).

We left Ragusa early in the morning yesterday and drove to Agrigento. Along the way we saw lots of towns that don’t make the tourist map. There is an undesirable part of Sicily too. We drove straight through them as we wanted to see the Ancient Greek ruins in the middle section of the south coast of the island. They didn’t disappoint. Not as big as Athens and not as white. They must have been made from a different type rock. (And also,
Country lane near RagusaCountry lane near RagusaCountry lane near Ragusa

The main roads are crazy to drive on, let alone walk. But these roads are safe and calm.
I noticed a few Roman arches in the main temple. I think this was an addition made in Byzantine times.) But, none the less very impressive, especially given their chosen construction site. The temples were built along a rugged ridgeline that was enhanced with a wall for extra defence against attackers. Very good thinking. I don’t know what the plan was if anyone attacked from the other side, but with temples as big as these, the gods would have done something to protect them I’m sure.

One more place of interest saw Scala dei Turchi. I think the photos below explain what we saw there. It is only a short drive from Agrigento and it was on the way to our final destination for the day, Bonagia, in the north West corner of Sicily. And that is where we will remain for a few days now.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Our Sicilian hilltop retreatOur Sicilian hilltop retreat
Our Sicilian hilltop retreat

Where we kicked back after a long day of sight seeing.
Appetizer - La CapineraAppetizer - La Capinera
Appetizer - La Capinera

Such a good restaurant. We are there twice
Wine bar - NotoWine bar - Noto
Wine bar - Noto

We watched the end of the Singapore Grand Prix.

The guy tried to extort 5 Euro from us after he put the silly bird on our heads. We gave him 1. I think he was lucky.

It looked great from the winding highway as we drove past. No place to stop for a photo. So, we just wound the window down.
Agrigento - Temple of JunoAgrigento - Temple of Juno
Agrigento - Temple of Juno

We got a shuttle to one end of the Valley of temples and walked back to our car. This saved some walking in the hot Sicilian sun.
Temple of ConcordiaTemple of Concordia
Temple of Concordia

The most impressive of the ruins
Construction techniquesConstruction techniques
Construction techniques

The recreated some of the equipment used to move the heavy rocks into position.
Scala dei TurchiScala dei Turchi
Scala dei Turchi

It looks like a staircase down into the sea

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