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Report 2005: Naples & Sicily: Warmly Welcomes Travelers

By teezee from US, Spring 2012

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Page 12 of 13: Selinunte, Baglio Fontana, and Erice

We were headed to our next destination, an Agriturismo located to put us near Erice and move us toward Palermo where we would end our trip. On the way, we had time for more temples, this time Selinunte which was a great choice for a relatively busy day’s travel. Walking in Selinunte from site to site is pleasant, and there were very few people present on the site this day. There is a little train which will take you to the temple and then pick up every 30 minutes to move you on the amphitheater. Some of us chose this means of exploration and others the self-guided walk. While there have been complaints that the reconstruction here has been a little too “Disneyfied” we found it an evocative and enchanting site and were so happy to have had the opportunity to visit it.

We stopped for lunch in Selinunte, which was largely “closed” as the season had not yet opened but we had the good fortune to pop into the Hotel Admeto, where the restaurant wasn’t opened but the hospitable hosts decided that, for 10 of us, if we were flexible lunch could be made. Fish, salad and wine was offered and readily agreed to by the group. Imagine our delighted surprise when fish turned out to be platters of bream, tuna, shrimp, sardines, grilled to perfection, served with big platters of salad and good local wines, as usual. For €15 a piece we were not only well and kindly fed, but felt truly grateful to the kind staff who agreed to take us on. This experience felt so typically Sicilian: welcoming, abundant, and always more rather than less of what you expect.

We had little difficulty finding Baglio Fontana in spite of its location in a small hilltop town and it is a gorgeous destination, with flowers everywhere in early June, a beautiful courtyard and pool, and lovely old furnishings within. We had booked for dinner for that night, having heard good things about the restaurant and were a little disappointed to find that we were something of an afterthought: there was a large cooking class here this day and the small staff were fully engaged in this enterprise. This made our check-in rather more perfunctory than we expect in such a small and typically warm place as an Agriturismo and our dinner, while good, was clearly what had been on the agenda for the cooking class and not in the least personal to us. This is a reminder that when you stay in small places and it is still somewhat off-season, do not be surprised to find them under-staffed. In the end, we found the place generally pleasing and managed with the level of service however lean it was. I think it could shine, in fact, but it did not quite manage to do that on this occasion.

Our next day in Erice made everything worthwhile. In spite of the inevitable “up hill” walking, a slow pace will allow you to see much of this gorgeous hill-town with churches, castles, views, and very little spoiled by modern invasion. We spent the day absorbing the sights and had an extremely pleasant lunch at Monte San Juliano next door to one of the most famous pastry shops in Sicily, Maria Grammatico. This was our last stop as we stocked up for a picnic dinner and, as with just about all our food stops in Sicily, this one outdid itself for our celiac friend as they have an entire shelf of gluten-free delights to go with their decidedly not gluten-free pastries and marzipan.

We ended our day at the Baglio Fontana pool with an impromptu picnic that we enjoyed, as usual, as much as any fancier dinner.

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