We say goodbye to Siracusa and Hotel Gargallo. The Gargallo is a fine little family run hotel. Mom prepares breakfast and cleans, the front desk is staffed by one of the kids, and everyone is friendly. Weaknesses are the too-hard bed, crummy pillows, and the all-too-common leaky corner shower. If you've used one you know what I mean, there is no way to shower without water going on the floor.
We walk a half hour to the Siracusa train station which is next to the bus station. Our choices are the 10:10 Trenitalia or the 12-something bus. Most take the bus but we take the train. The two tickets are a cheap 15€.
The train is sad-looking, worn and of course tagged with graffiti, but the seats are new and it’s not packed with passengers. It’s an odd looking train as it has two passenger cars and no engine car. The engine is underneath somewhere. What is really odd is that we feel the transmission shift as the engineer moves through the gears to get up to speed. I pull down the window to enjoy the breeze - the temperature is great - and snap a few pictures of the country going by.
After a couple of hours riding through gently rolling agricultural land and making a half-dozen stops we arrive in Ragusa.
We step off the train and are immediately approached by a small man in a sports jacket. He speaks nothing but rapid-fire Italian. I figure he's a taxi driver looking for a fare. I smile, say no, and start to move on.
Turns out it is Angelo, the owner of the b&b. He grabs one of our bags and leads us to his Citroen.
He doesn’t stop talking - in, of course, Italian - for the next 45 minutes as he drives the short distance to the b&b; explains the three door keys; demonstrates the espresso machine (pointing to his stomach with disapproval when i tell him Paul drinks Coke); gives us a tour of the b&b; maps out a walking tour of Ragusa; tells us where to go for dinner and what to order; takes our breakfast order (croissant with chocolate or riccotta); and copies our passport details into a notebook. Whew. That's a lot of Italian.
We spend the rest of the afternoon walking the old town. The old town is called Ragusa Ibla as opposed to the newer part of town which is called Ragusa superior.
We also check out the churches. Italy has a church on almost every corner. The churches in Ragusa are very beautiful so we've a pleasant time spent marvelling at the architecture and interior adornments.
The pictures are of Ragusa Ibla.
It's another beautiful blue-sky day in Sicily. I down an espresso and take the stairs up to the rooftop patio. Angelo greets us. Angelo is a small, trim man, maybe 65, who dresses neatly like most Italians past 40.
We are the only guests in the b&b yet Angelo has set out enough food for ten. Breakfast at the b&b i soon discover is like eating with a dad who hovers over you, correcting your meal habits all while saying eat, eat.
Angelo has laid out our croissants (chocolate, or is it nutella? for me, ricotta for Paul) but stops us as we start to eat. No, we must start with the bread, cheese, and tapenade course. Next, Angelo stops us when we use the same plate. Courses cannot share plates. I feel like a Neanderthal.
I put a few baked apples slices on my plate. Angelo stops me. He wants me to use a bowl and then he adds more Apple slices to my bowl because i haven't taken enough. They are delicious so i do not mind.
As we eat, Angelo occasionally goes to another table and smokes. Everyone in Italy smokes. They are worse than Canadians.
Finally, my non-dessert courses are done and I dig into my chocolate-filled croissant. It is good but i am stuffed. If Angelo weren’t watching i’d skip the first two courses and just eat the croissant but i can’t so i don’t. When all is done i want to say thanks dad.
Breakfast over, we head out to hike the Cava della Misericordia. The hike begins in Piazza della Republica so we take the stairs down to Ragusa Ibla, the old town, then we walk down another set of stairs to the trailhead.
We soon hit a river crossing too deep to attempt. So we walk the stairs back up to town and then down again, an alternative approach indicated by the openstreetmaps phone app. Success. This route has a bridge.
We spend the rest of the day hiking through a forested canyon surrounded by rocky outcroppings, then we circle back via a road which cuts through farms and cow pastures which are separated from each other and from the road by stone walls. The rocks, the olive trees, the stone paths, and the clear dry climate is how I imagined Sicily, and here I am, on this beautiful day, walking with Paul on this island in the Mediterranean so far from home. I am very fortunate.
We return to Ragusa mid-afternoon. After a snack at a patisserie (espresso, arancini, lemon cake that looks like art, and a whipped cream and berry pastry) we stop to trade travel tips with a young German couple we saw on the train, then we return to the b&b to shower, rest, and plan our dinner. Some days i think that life is composed of meals broken up by short periods of non-meals.
The photos are of the b&b's rooftop patio followed by shots from today's hike.
A whiney post today, sorry. I expect to be in a better frame tomorrow.
After breakfast we walk to the bus station where I start to feel sick. Bad tap water, too much red wine, too many rich foods, maybe some combination of causes. It doesn't help that the Ragusa bus station is a parking lot and waiting at the station involves standing in the parking lot inhaling a mix of diesel fumes and cigarettes. As mentioned previously, it feels like everyone in Italy smokes - though maybe i should qualify this and say southern Italy - and since indoor smoking is prohibited (yay) when outdoors you are continually surrounded by smokers chain smoking. The diesel plus cigarettes combine with my shaky digestive tract to make me feel nauseous.
I don't want to be sick on the bus - it is a long ride with no toilet - so I decide we should stay another day in Ragusa. But I learn to regret this decision since tomorrow is Sunday and transport options are limited.
The same thing occurred last winter - one of us sick on a day of a long bus ride - but we were able to fly at the last minute. But Ragusa isn't Buenos Aires; we've few options and none include an airplane.
We head to the train station but it is closed. They've a sparse schedule on work days. Sundays just won't work.
The bus is our only option but we spend what seems like hours trying to decipher the Sunday (Festivi) bus schedule. The printout is surprisingly complex and it doesn't help that it is in Italian.
We ask the fellow at the hotel's front desk for help as he speaks English - we didn't return to the b&b because of communication issues - but we don't trust his interpretation of the schedule. That he says the bus to Palermo goes via Modica after Ragusa makes no sense as it is the wrong direction. And he wouldn't go online to confirm. Jerk.
And we can't get our phones to connect to the AST bus website. So tomorrow morning we'll walk to the bus station to see if we can get an answer.
Yes, I know, too much complaining.