In part IV we left them listening to Il Volo while riding through the picturesque Sicilian countryside. Don’t dislike them for it. At least not yet. ~Marie
May 18: Naro
Today we went to Naro to meet Piero’s mother, Eleonora Ognibene.
As we were getting out of the car in the square, two young girls were walking by with huge posters of IL Volo and the Eurovision contest! We stopped and spoke with them about our love for Il Volo; they were kind enough to give each one of us a poster. As it turned out, they were the girls who run the Naro IL Volo fan club!
For the rest of the day they were our companions, Wendalina Licata and Alessia Bruccoleri. They came to meet Piero’s mother with us, as they know her very well. They joined us in having our pictures taken with Mrs. Ognibene and with the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Naro. Piero’s mother posed for individual pictures with us, and then she took a video of us and sent it to Piero! Photos that we see on facebook do not do Eleonora justice! She is absolutely beautiful; stunning would be a better word.
Mrs. Ognibene and the Vice Mayor of Naro
“When we left Mrs. Ognibene we went to Castello di Chiaramonte in Naro that was opened that day just for us, so we had the entire castle to ourselves! Someone (perhaps Piero’s mother or the Vice Mayor), had a local guide take us to some points of interest. Below is a photo outside of the Castello di Chiaramonte with our beautiful guide in Naro, Francesca Maria Dainotto, with the lovely ladies of the Il Volo Naro Fan Club, Alessia Bruccoleri and Wendalina Licata.
Francesca was called on at the last minute to take us on a tour of Naro and she did an excellent job! The Castle was built in the 12th Century and is 2000 ft above sea level. A princess had lived there; some of the clothing of that era was preserved and on display – beautiful dresses and hats, plus some men’s clothing. We toured the Castle for at least an hour and took some great pictures both inside and out. At one time in history, the castle held prisoners who carved their names on the walls; those names remain to this day.
When we left the Castle we went to Tenuta Vitanza, the Agriturismo owned by Piero’s Zio Gino. He and his beautiful niece, Anna, showed us around and we were just amazed. The house was made of stone and at least 700 years old. There were lemon and orange trees, and we were given fruits right off the trees; we saw animals – a kangaroo, a zebra, pheasants, chickens, rabbits, dogs, horses and beautiful peacocks strutting around with their feathers flared out. There are acres and acres and acres of vineyards and olive groves on the property. We will stay here on our next trip!
A reporter, Paolo Picone, joined us at Tenuta Vitanza and interviewed us; a few days later there was an article in the Naro newspaper about us and our trip to see the places where the boys were raised!
May 19: Best Western Dioscuri Bay Palace Hotel, San Leone
We moved out of Hotel Amici after 2 nights and stayed in San Leone (near Agrigento), another privately owned Best Western. This hotel was beautiful and near the ocean; it also had a pool.
After switching hotels we went to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. It took more than an hour to go through the ruins. We all had our photos taken just like the one Piero posted on facebook some time ago. We did a lot of walking around the grounds and we all took off in different directions for a bit to take pictures.
From Agrigento we went to the town of Madeline’s ancestors, Casteltermini, high up in the mountains. When we approached the town she started to get choked up and it got the best of her. She could not control her emotions because her mother, who was born in the US, always wanted to visit there but passed away before she had the opportunity. The town was preparing for the Feast of The Holy Cross, which is always held the last Sunday in May. They were putting up arches with lights that spread from one side of the street to the other. The festivities start on Friday and end with a procession on Sunday. Madeline was able to go into the main church, although there was a ceremony of some sort going on. She would have liked to light a candle for her mother… next time, to be sure!
We had a nice lunch in Casteltermini at Ristorante i di Mike.
Having had a late lunch, we passed on dinner and opted to go out for gelato. When we got back to the hotel we went to the lounge for a drink and to check out FB posts. Suddenly, people who were all dressed to the nines, including some children, started coming in and sat around the lounge for a while. There was a band playing on the upper level of the hotel and we thought it may have been a club of some sort but… not for little kids! Finally we realized it was a wedding reception that was going to be held in the restaurant on the upper level, and we had a clear view of some of the tables through the glass walls. Once the guests were seated at their tables, the bride and groom came through the lounge and up the steps to the reception. This was all taking place at 22:00, and on a Tuesday night! It was the first of three weddings that we saw in Sicily.
About an hour later we headed to our rooms and sat out on our own big patios and enjoyed the evening air and the beautiful scenery, while finishing our coffee liqueur.
May 20: Mediterranean Palace, Ragusa
We left Agrigento and drove to Ragusa. There was beautiful scenery all the way, with acres and acres of strawberry fields (for which Ragusa is noted), olive groves, and vineyards. There was a situation on the way to Ragusa that forced us to detour and as a result we traveled through the town of Vittoria. There we stopped at a deli for lunch (the first deli we had seen in all of Italy), where they had all the Italian meats, cheeses, and olives, among other delicious looking items too numerous to mention. We all got sandwiches or platters of ham, prosciutto, provolone, olives, etc. Joan bought a bag of tomato flavored potato chips; they were delicious!
When we arrived in Ragusa, Ciro explained that there were two parts to the city, Ibla, the old and baroque part of Ragusa, and the new, lower part. Ragusa is a UNESCO city. There is so much to see here that we didn’t have time to take it all in.
From Ragusa we went to Modica, the Chocolate Capital of the World. The shops all had chocolate tastings – so many kinds of chocolate! – and some also had wine tastings, which we thoroughly enjoyed. There are quaint stone walls and homes built in Modica and surrounding areas that were erected with no cement to hold them together; they were just layered like a jigsaw puzzle. We had a fabulous dinner in Modica, including tripe, which was the first time we had seen it on a menu anywhere in our travels and Madeline, having eaten it throughout her life, was elated to have found it in this restaurant.
At 10:00am we were on our way to Noto and Siracusa. There was fragrant oleander growing wild along all the roads. Again, the scenery in Sicily is outrageously beautiful!
In Noto we walked the main road which is closed to vehicular traffic. It was a beautiful tile-lined street, and once we went through the arch we were in the shopping and dining areas. The main church in Noto was beautiful baroque style. Ciro explained that the dome was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1990s but was restored to its original state on the outside; unfortunately the inside frescos were not able to be duplicated.
Siracusa was the next town we visited. The city is also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
We toured the city and had lunch at a restaurant by the sea. It was a perfect day for that kind of venue.
Tomorrow meet Maria’s brother who lives in Taormina! Finally even these fortunate ladies have to return to the U.S.A. ~Marie