Return to Palermo & Epilogue

Wednesday - May 3

Today would be our longest bus ride of the trip. A healthy power breakfast was what we needed for the ride. After finishing what most would call a good breakfast, the waiter showed up with a tray of granita. You just cannot leave Catania without just one more granita.



We were having trouble making up our minds, so the waiter left all three. Now the big question. At 7:30 in the morning does one choose pistachio, chocolate, or coconut. Easy peasy! Tom went pistachio, Janet went coconut, and we split the chocolate.

Salvo loaded the bus for the last time, and we began our trip back to Palermo. Traffic was lighter than the last two days when we had done excursions out of the city, but still pretty heavy. There was a quiet on the bus that had rarely been heard up to this point. The realization that everything was coming to an end was settling in on the group. The sky was still as grey as it was yesterday. We headed west from Catania and the clouds broke allowing us to finally get a view of Mount Etna. It was hard to believe that we were on it two days ago, but had never really seen it. The rain we got yesterday in Naxos was snow on the mountain. It received over six inches of snow. Sure wish we could have seen Etna on a sunny day. Oh well, we did get to explore the volcano, and we did miss the snow!



The further west we headed the the skies cleared. Danilo and Salvo were really good about planning stops along the way. About every 90 minutes or so we would have a break to stretch our legs, fill our stomachs, or take a one-euro break ­čśë



We reached our lunch destination around noon. It was an overlook of the city of Cefal├╣. This town was on Janet’s bucket list to explore. From the overlook it easy is to see why she was eager to walk the streets.



Unfortunately, the overlook would be as close as we would get to this town on the sea. There is no doubt if we return to Sicily, Cefal├╣ will be where our visit will begin. If nothing else the overlook offered a great place to capture a picture of us.



We boarded the bus reluctantly leaving this beautiful scenic overlook. The next stop was just minutes away - Lunch! Our lunch venue was like no other we had experienced on the trip. The Gran Caffe' Santa Lucia offers a happening counter containing multiple offerings of anything you can imagine. Danilo herded the cats and assisted us through the busy lunch counter.



It was as if we were easing back into the food we grew up with back home. A sandwich or a slice of pizza was the choice of most, however there were a couple lasagna orders that looked awesome. We all knew we were still in Sicily because of the freshness of all the ingredients, but mostly it was because everyone finished their meal with gelato or a cannolo!



The Gran Caffe also offered great views of Cefal├╣ and offered another photo opportunity.



After lunch, we continued our journey west along the coast to Palermo. As we neared the city, Salvo turned into a town that is on the outskirts of the capital, Bagheria. We weaved downhill coming closer and closer to the sea. Puzzled, we all wondered what was next, but one of our fellow travelers, Janis, knew. Bagheria was the town that her grandparents had called home before they left in the early 1900s for the United States. Janis walked the street as if she was in a time machine feeling the presence of those who preceded her. She did grab a rock to bring home so a part of this town will always be with her.



The town of Bagheria is also very close to where Danilo grew up and he too had an a very special moment. When the bus doors opened his two best friends from childhood were waiting to greet him. It had been many years since the last time their paths had crossed. The three of them looked so excited to see each other. (thanks Sheryl for the picture of the boys)



Bagheria had truly been a great stop. We did not experience the town, nor did we eat anything. We just experienced the past come alive through the faces and smiles of Janis and Danilo. Salvo continued our drive on the small road that paralleled the sea. The road took us right pass Danilo’s old school, his first restaurant, and Salvo’s apartment. Through the bus window, we could see Palermo, our destination.



We unloaded about a block away from the Hotel Tonic, where our adventure began, and said our goodbyes to Salvo. What a great driver he had been and the places he navigated that big bus were quite a feat of skill. Check in went quickly, but the clerk told us that they were having hot water issues and the repairman would be there soon. We dropped our bags and headed out for some last-minute shopping. The two of us strolled at a slow pace taking it all in. We had both been reluctant to join a group trip but were so happy that we did. The streets were crowded, but the hustle and bustle of the city did not impact us one bit.



On our walk we even found a bike for Janet and a dessert we had not tried! No, we did not try the spaghetti ice cream and the bike is still in Palermo!



Arriving back at the hotel there was a marching band coming up the street. We never figured out what it was all about, but we were pretty sure it was a church group trying to raise money. The crucifix and the young boys collecting euros in a hat was the dead giveaway. Everybody loves a parade, and the marching band was pretty good!



The hot water was back on. We showered and got ready for our last dinner together. To this point all our dinners had been pretty casual when it came to the attire we wore. As we gathered in the lobby it appeared everyone had put on their best trip clothes. Once again, Danilo had a surprise for us. Lined up outside the hotel was a group of limos ready to drive us to the restaurant.



It was not a long ride, but well appreciated by all. Arriving at the restaurant we piled out of our chariots and prepared ourselves for the meal to come.



The dinner was lighter than many we had on the trip, but there were no complaints. While we were eating, we were joined by some of Danilo’s family. We would enjoy a Sicilian tradition back to the hotel with his family after dinner. It is called the passeggiata. Simply put, it is an after meal walk.



The mile stroll went by quickly as we enjoyed the city’s beauty. There were very few cars or people on the streets and the lights were a glow on the buildings we passed.




Reaching the hotel, Danilo gave us our last instructions for the morning. Most of us, including Danilo, would be departing in the morning. One couple had decided to stay an extra day and some were off to other points in Italy. We said our goodbyes and retired for the night. Lying in bed, moments of the trips kept flashing in our heads. It had been a wonderful two weeks! There were so many special moments that will not be forgotten for many years to come. We had circumnavigated the island in the last 8 days and oh what a trip it has been!






Our Return

The next morning, we gathered outside the Hotel Tonic with our bags, gifts, and mementos. A fleet of cars arrived, and we were off to the airport. Check-in went smoothly and we departed Palermo on time for Munich. Our flight from Munich back to DC was on a brand-new Lufthansa Airbus 340-600. We will definitely look for this type of aircraft on future trips. The plane was very comfortable and there was even leg room in the cheap seats. Arrival and clearing customs at Dulles went smoothly. We were on the road in no time at all. On the way home we stopped for a nine o’clock dinner at McDs. What a wakeup call! It took 30 minutes for them to provide a special-order hamburger that was cold and incorrectly prepared. After dealing with the counter kids and the whole McDs experience the words of the Sicilian expression Danilo shared with us rang in Tom’s head - “The mother of stupid is always pregnant!”

It had been a long day of travel, but pulling into our driveway it was good to be home!

Epilogue


It has now been a month since our return, yet it seems like it was just yesterday. We hosted a group get together on the farm. Ironically, it was the same day that Momma vented her anger and erupted closing airports as smoke could be seen for miles. After spending a day on the mountain, it was surreal to think we were just there.

Almost everybody was able to make the reunion, including Danilo and his family. Alona, Danilo’s wife, had been instrumental in putting our trip together. Unfortunately, she had to stay behind with their two beautiful boys, so it was nice to be able to thank her for her efforts. There was lots of food, wine, and of course Negronis. Many of the dishes that the posse prepared for the evening were out of the cookbook Danilo had given us in Catania. It was good to see so many, and it was as if we had never separated.



We could not let the day slip by without one more photo of the gang.





For future travelers with Danilo, you may ask what made this trip so special for us?

It would be easy to say the trip was amazing because:

the wonderful food…



the group we traveled with...



the places we saw and experienced…



the guides and chefs who made Sicily come alive…



the wonderful drivers who took us from place to place…



All the people and things listed above made a huge impact on our trip, but the one person that made our time in Sicily so special can be attributed to...



Ciao!

Breaking News!     Breaking News!     Breaking News!    Breaking News!

Last night (6/19), the group gathered at Orofino’s Restaurant for a wine tasting and dinner. Giuseppe from Pellegrino had come to the states on wine business. We had a wonderful wine tasting with other travelers that had been to Sicily with Danilo.

It was during the wine tasting, Danilo announced that some our posse members were featured in the most recent Wine Spectator magazine. Andy and Carol putting on the final touch to our couscous lunch were in the foreground of the picture. While Jim and Danilo are in the background.  Giuseppe is the one on the phone.

We knew Wine Spectator was taking pictures during our lunch for a future article but had no idea that our group’s pictures would make the magazine!


 





3 comments:

  1. Sounds fabulous!!

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    Replies
    1. It truly was a wonderful trip! Thanks for following along.

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  2. Super narrative and wonderful photos as always. Thanks for allowing us to travel virtually with you.

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