Happy Friday, Everyone!
I couldn't be more excited for the weekend. Getting back in to a normal post-vacation routine is hard! My mind is still on lounging by the pool and seeing pretty new sights everyday like we did in Sicily.
Sicily was incredible. There is so much diversity on the island for things to see and do. We didn't do any research on it beforehand since we chose our hotel based on the fact that it looked to be in the middle of nowhere. We wanted to have a week of doing nothing but being lazy and not straying too far. Well...that didn't exactly happen.
It started with the two hour drive to our hotel in Ragusa from the airport in Catania. We were starving so we stopped in Syracuse for lunch and ended up coming across the most amazing swimming platform ever. We still hadn't eaten lunch and we were anxious to get to the hotel so I made a mental note of the swimming spot and moved on. The deviations from Operation Do Nothing had officially begun.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, Relais Parco Cavalonga, it was like a dream. The sun was setting and there were beautiful olive trees and stone walls surrounding the property. It was perfect. We spent the next day doing what we had set out to do and relaxed, read, swam, ate, and napped. The deviation started when we looked at the pamphlets provided by the hotel for nearby destinations and attractions. We had vaguely heard of Agrigento where there are ancient temple ruins and the receptionist recommended Scala dei Turchi in the same area. Seeing that it was only 160KM away we thought we could go up there the next morning and be back at the hotel just after lunch. Man, were we wrong! The distance sounded quick enough but what we didn't realize was that a) the road was one single lane throughout b) it was shared with the world's slowest trucks and c) it went through four main port towns with one having worse traffic than LA at rush hour. Long story short, we saw some incredible stuff at the temples and the beach but poor Joe drove for nearly six hours when we had only expected a max of three round-trip.
Feeling beat from walking in the heat and driving so much, we agreed to only seek out to local spots from the hotel if we were going to leave it at all. Turns out that there was more to the sleepy countryside than met the eye. Our hotel receptionist told us about a nearby castle open to the public, Castello Donnafugata (more on this later), and Ragusa Ibla, an old town built on limestone hills and its narrow canyons. Driving into Ragusa Ibla at night was something I will never forget. The road was extremely curvy so out of nowhere we suddenly saw a wall of lit up homes popping out of the pitch-black mountain that went deep into the canyon floor (one of those "WHOA!" moments for sure). From the outside it looked like all there was were homes built into the mountainside but when we went into the town we found a buzzing nightlife scene where locals and tourists were one in the same dining on outdoor patios and eating gelato on the street. It was such a beautiful evening.
Two days and a suntan later, it was time to leave Sicily for a final weekend in Madrid. Remembering the swimming platform we saw in Syracuse on the first day, I convinced Joe to make a stop there before getting to the airport. There was just no way that I wasn't going to enjoy that gem of a spot, even if for a brief moment. We got there with only half an hour to swim around but it was totally worth it. It was purely local, the water was perfectly cool, and it was free to access. Joe, after driving more than he really wanted to, admitted that he was glad we stopped there too.
That was pretty much the way our week in Sicily went: we did more driving and active stuff than we had expected but were simultaneously happy and thankful for every little thing we experienced. However, our next R&R vacation may literally have to be on a deserted island with no sight-seeing temptations. I'm totally okay with that though.