Why We Keep Coming Back

I have to post this out of order because of yesterday’s experience near Agrigento. . .
Today’s adventure explains why we are drawn to Italy. We decided to take the two and one-half hour trip to Agrigento, an amazing archeological site south of us. We got an early start and had a quick espresso and pastry on the road and arrived at the park around 10 a.m. Since we are still early in the tourist season, there were only a few large groups and we were able to enjoy this beautiful World Heritage site without crowds of people or any lines. The weather was perfect for strolling the paths and taking pictures of the temples and other ruins surrounded by olive and almond trees.
We were also lucky to find an active archeological dig going on near the temple of Hera. A graduate student from the University of Pisa was uncovering a skeleton that had become partly visible from some erosion after the recent rains. We were able to talk to her director and find out that she was working in an ancient Christian burial site. A few people were watching and asking questions and the student was gracious in explaining her work, in Italian, of course. But she spoke slowly and I think I understood most of what she said.
After a few hours and a few miles of walking, we were all ready to find lunch. I knew that we were cutting it close because it was already 1:30 and most places stop serving around 2 in Sicily. We drove to a nearby town that had some amazing white cliffs, but none of the restaurants were open. The stores were also closed for the afternoon and almost nobody was on the streets. We saw two men talking in the street, so Bob stopped and had me ask them where we could find some food. They thought about it and discussed it a bit, then one guy, Ignazio, asked us if we wanted fish or meat. I said fish, then I said that it didn’t really matter because we hadn’t eaten since 8 a.m. He told me to wait five minutes and then he would take us where we would eat well. He walked back into a construction site and seemed to be the general contractor of the project.
As we waited, I was afraid that he was going to take us to his home and actually cook something or have his mother feed us. But instead, he had us follow him by car into the next town several miles up the coast. Bob wasn’t worried at all because the fellow was a general contractor and it didn’t hurt that he was driving a Mercedes. We followed him to the town of Porto Empedocle, a fairly large port town. We stopped at Taverna Salmoriglio and he went into the restaurant and found his friend, Alessandro, and told him to take care of us. After our introductions, we said Grazie Mille many times and he said no problem—using one of those wonderful Italian hand gestures, he said again that we would eat well (mangia bene).
Although it was closing time, the staff gave us a warm welcome and we had the best seafood lunch you could imagine. The waiter explained the different dishes and gave us great recommendations on what to eat. We started with mussels and a melange of interesting fish combinations for our appetizer. Then, we shared plates of their home made pastas. We couldn’t believe our luck and had a great time talking to the cook and owner after our meal. We found out that we were in the town where Andrea Camilleri, the author of Montalbano, was born. So we walked down the block to see his statue. They also gave us Ignazio’s full name so we can send him an email and thank him again for his generosity.
These are the kinds of experiences you find in Italy. There is a special generosity that doesn’t surprise us anymore, but it still catches us off guard.



About msraaka

I am an artist, writer and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there and other countries in Europe. We love to travel, but especially to stay in one area and get a better sense of place. I love learning languages, so I continue to study Italian, French and Spanish so I can communicate a bit more with the locals. Even learning the basic greetings can make a big difference.
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1 Response to Why We Keep Coming Back

  1. Carola Anderson says:

    Now that we are back from India and over our mild tummy bug and jet lag, we’ve had time to read all the blogs. What a grand time you are having. I love reading about all the food that you are enjoying, quite different from our Indian experience. Don’t get me wrong, we had a marvelous time but the food was not to write home about.
    Enjoy all your travels with the Shusters too. Carola and Barrie

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