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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Slow Start, Good Ending!

Travel is an adventure, right?  Sometimes more of an adventure than you desire however.  While looking around Sicily for the right location in which to spend our holiday, Doug and I thought we were ready to get off the beaten track, rent an apartment from someone advertising online through a home stay site like Airbnb or HomeAwayUK.  We landed on Trappeto, a quiet village down the road a bit from Palermo, close to other areas we might like to visit.  I found Giussepe's place on several sites, the price seemed good and Giussepe spoke English. It was a beachfront property with a balcony and a little kitchen and wifi so we thought it might suit us.  There were several restaurants in town that were getting good reviews on TripAdvisor and the beach looked great. We arrived around 10.00 pm on Saturday night and this "quiet" little town was in full tilt.  Oh, did I forget to mention that I got an email from Giussepe a few days before our departure that he was off to Peru so would not be meeting us but the woman who owns the apartment will meet us and give us the keys.
The little streets were more like alleys and it was seriously crowded.  We eventually figured out that this was the last Saturday night of the official summer season so everyone was enjoying it.  To be fair, it was a balmy 25°C, close to 80F at 10pm so I could fully understand why people were out!  And it was fascinating to see everyone sitting in their chairs outside of their flats, especially the older Italians, chewing the fat, solving the world's problems while watching the world go by.  We finally found our place and lo and behold a tiny little Italian woman appeared from the sea of people with our keys.  She spoke no English.  We went inside and I was pretty disappointed from the get go.  The place was much more run down than expected and as is often the case, the internet pictures didn't exactly tell the entire story.  The tv was smaller than our computer and located in a place where one would ever watch.  Not that it matters. Italian TV isn't all that exciting.  More disconcerting was the fact that there was no A/C, a disturbing thought for summer in Italy.  And there were two restaurants directly underneath us, one being The Privilege which had been touted as the best pizza in Trappeto, so no wonder it was packed.  Football (soccer) games were being shown in every restaurant and the noise level was quite high.  With no A/C, we had to keep the windows open so we were pretty worried about getting any sleep at all.  When we asked about the promised wifi, she gave me a blank stare.  Finally, I somehow communicated to her to go find someone in the village who spoke English and bring them back so we could discuss certain matters.  We'd only paid a deposit so I was actually formulating my get away scheme.
She came back with Vito who told me that The Privilege was happy for us to use their wifi.  Gino, the manager, gave me the password.  We agreed to settle up in the morning.  We were starving so went, where else, to The Privilege to get pizza and beer.  It was really good and we did enjoy watching every person in town on their evening stroll, wander by.  Old men sat and watched.  It was kind of a delightful old world experience.  While eating, Arturo, Giuseppe's brother stopped by to give us his phone number and said to call if we needed anything.  Feeling more assured that things would look better in the light of day, we returned to our hovel.  We sat down on the bed to get our wits about us and it broke!  The slats underneath buckled and we bounced down a few feet.  That was the last straw.  It was 12.30 a.m. by now but I picked up my phone and called Arturo.  Doug couldn't believe I was calling someone in the middle of the night but by the loud sounds still coming from the village, I was confident he was still up. He didn't pickup but called back a few minutes later.  I was in the (disgusting) shower so Doug answered and said, "We're done.  We are leaving tomorrow after we try to get some rest on a broken bed."  They agreed to meet at 8.30.  We spent the next two hours frantically looking for another place to stay, deciding that A/C was important and perhaps a swimming pool as well.  We were both afraid to move in the bed, thinking we might end up on the floor!
The noise went on until 2.30.  Then at 4.30 someone came and emptied the garbage which was all bottles!
Arturo and the owner showed up and once we showed them the bed, they took a very humble approach.  They offered to show us other properties.  We declined.  We were ready to get out of Trappeto.  Then they graciously agreed to return our deposit.  I was very happy that they did not put up a fight.  We basically said that this place was not fit for outside rentals and certainly not at the rate they were charging.
We had found a place way off the beaten track again but a great deal, A/C with a beautiful seaside pool affording you all the luxury of a great poolside lounger but ability to jump in the sea as well.  We drove about 2 hours east, enjoying the wonders of the Sicilian landscape.  It was truly beautiful.  We made a pitstop to get some coffee and again, the place was swarming with people.  I ordered two pastries and two cappuccinos, because I knew how to say cappuccino!  It was fast and furious but turned out to taste great.  We finally arrived at our destination, San Stefano di Camastra, which turns out is the ceramic making capital of Sicily.  We wandered down a winding road and found La Playa Blanca hotel.  We got out of the car and heard an ABBA song playing at the pool deck.  We somehow knew we had arrived at the right place! We couldn't check in right away but they allowed us to use the pool until our room was ready.  It was quiet and beautiful.  The sea is right there and is so warm.  It is a rocky beach filled with gorgeous stones but the pool deck is lovely so it really is the best of both worlds.  Finally we checked in and love our room.
Our hotel and pool area at sunset
It's spacious, clean and has A/C!  And it is quiet!  No restaurants or bars beneath us.
After spending the afternoon in the sun, we made our way up to the little village and enjoyed the feel of this charming, totally Italian little place.
Looked like a painting but this is just one of the building fronts in the little village
We found a restaurant and gorged on bruchetta, antipasti, and Doug had spaghetti arrabiata while I enjoyed ravioli in butter and sage sauce.  We finished it off with the obligatory gelato, Doug choosing stracciatella, me going with lemon.  YUM.  We arrived back to our nice little hotel and slept the sleep of the contented!  24 hours after thinking that this might be the worst holiday ever, we were feeling redeemed!
view from our balcony
Now I'm sitting on my balcony, listening to the waves come in and out, thinking about the cappuccino that awaits me at the provided breakfast, very happy to be far away from Gino, Vito, Arturo and Giuseppe in Trappeto.