Coming in to land in Sicily at the tiny airport in Comiso, the sun was just setting over the island, turning the Meditteranean golden and the fields pink as Mount Etna smoked in the far distance. It felt welcoming and friendly – the customs guy smiled and happily stamped my passport on request. The air was warm and fragrant and we were met by Walter – he of no English, us of no Italian. Communication via smiles and nods and the quintessential Italian hand gestures was perfectly adequate.
Darkness had fallen as we wound our way through hairpin bends at breakneck speed, most often halfway across the middle line. Road travel in Sicily is not for sissies. I caught brief glimpses of dry stone walls, blooming oleanders and olive trees as the cars headlights punctured the darkness. Balancing on top of hills, villages glowed gold.
Modica is approached down multiple hair pin bends that open up into a wide main road, Corso Umberto I, which runs – relatively flatly – through town. The buildings on both sides are all ancient, made with huge golden blocks of stone that glimmered in the street lights. Walter dropped us at our Air BnB, down the end of the road, just off Corso Umberto I. It was in a perfect position.
Travel must obviously have hurdles otherwise there’d be no stories to tell, would there? And here we stumbled – well, crash-banged, really – into our first. The eighth floor apartment that I’d booked as it had a lift and a gorgeous view had both, but the lift was hardly big enough for two people and definitely not big enough for a wheelchair.
Floriana, our lovely host, was mortified and offered her husband to carry me up the stairs. A very kind but completely crazy idea. She got on the phone, called her cousin at the other end of town who works at the hotel there, and got us booked in, apologising repeatedly throughout. She and Leigh headed up there with the suitcase in the car and GM and I ambled up the Corso Umberto I behind them, marvelling at the architecture and being greeted by all we passed. An old man invited us in for coffee, the Duomo San Pietro watched over us, the aromas of the almost-closing restaurants spilled onto the streets. It was gorgeous.
A clean, spacious hotel room and dinner at the Osteria a couple of steps down the road – which stayed open especially for us and fed us freshly made pasta that defied description in its deliciousness served with red wine and followed by a digestif as the family’s youngest son played football in the kitchen … it was the perfect wobbly welcome to Sicily.