Cefalù’s glorious sunsets and evening strolls along its narrow, medieval lanes after the hordes had left held a lot of appeal. But not enough to make me want to stay in the village on my next trip. It would take a few more years before I’d feel up to driving into that dedalo (day-dah-low) again.
Metonymy is one of those figures of speech that have terribly erudite sounding definitions – ‘the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant’ – but if you can make your way through to the examples, turn out to be very ordinary, everyday expressions. Like ‘suits’ for business men and ‘counting heads’ when you’re not talking about the French Revolution.
Dedalo – Daedalus in English – was the brilliant architect and inventor to King Minos of Crete. In addition to the spectacular Palace of Knossos, he also designed the labyrinth which unlike the very real palace was probably mythical, in which the Minotaur was held captive. In case your memory of this particular myth is a bit hazy, the Minotaur was a ferocious monster with the body of a man and head of a bull that had resulted from the coupling between the king’s wife and a white bull sent to the king by Poseidon. Said coupling, by the way, had been orchestrated by Poseidon as punishment – of the king! – for having disobeyed the god’s order to sacrifice the bull. In any event, to avoid driving into Cefalù I booked a room in what was described on one website as a ‘farm stay’, in the hills a short distance inland.
I suppose ‘Relais’ should have tipped me off, but it was only slightly more expensive than the B&B in Cefalu. And there was loads of parking! On the drive up I’d been thinking of indulging in a pisolino (pee-zoh-lee-no) but as usual, as soon as I saw the place, all desire to waste time napping vanished.
The view from the pool terrace was exquisite, especially the pond which was surrounded with Eucalyptus, one of my favourite trees. When I asked at the front desk, the signorina said of course guests were free to walk around it. There was a gate which might need a bit of a tug, but it wasn’t locked.
To say the snake put a damper on my idyllic pond walk is as much a misnomer as describing the relais as a ‘farm stay’, an understandable, but ultimately awkward attempt to render agriturismo in English. In any event, from my city dweller’s perspective the snake looked absolutely venomous. But if there were venomous snakes around, wouldn’t the nice young woman at the desk have warned me? They say trust your gut. Well, what my gut was telling me – screaming at me – was that a walk around the pond was not the best thing for a signora to be doing on her own, especially one in sandals and bare legs.
I made it around the laghetto without any further sightings of reptilian nature, although I jumped at pretty well every little rustle along the leaf-covered path. Passing by the reception desk on my way to my room I stopped to tell them about the snake. Oh, that would have been a besce, the young man replied nonchalantly. But it had a triangular head! I insisted. Non si preoccupi signora. There was no need to worry. Black-coloured snakes, even ones with triangular shaped heads, are not velenose (vay-lay-no-zay). It’s only the light brown ones you have to watch out for. It was only much later that it occurred to me that implicit in his reassuring words was the possibility that instead of the innocuous besce, I might have come across a vipera (vee-peh-rah). A light brown and highly poisonous viper!
As beautiful as it was, the idea of lounging by a pool when there was all of Sicily to explore did not appeal to me at all. On the other hand, an evening dip followed by an aperitivo on the terrace and then dinner, was to my mind highly appealing. Sadly one of the (prominently displayed) rules regarding the use of the pool was that after 19,00 it was chiusa (kyu-zuh). Closed.
Even though I had already been converted to the ‘Golden hour’ (previous post), watching the terraced hills which I had found so compelling in normal daylight slowly transform into shimmering drifts of gold was as unexpected as it was beautiful.
As the shadows lengthened, the haze dissipated somewhat and to the north, not only Alicudi, the Aeolian island I had seen on my previous trip to Cefalù, but also its closest neighbour, Filicudi Island, became visible.
From up here the narrow, country road I had driven to the relais was also visible. At least stretches of it, as it wound its way through the valley and under the bridge to the sea and Cefalù. In a few days I would be heading west on that bridge, part of the highway between Messina and Palermo, but for now, Cefalù – a whole 13 k away – was as far as I was going.
The only thing that marred my Punta Panoramica experience was that, unlike the two couples who had climbed up the staircase shortly after me, carrying wine glasses and a bottle, I had not thought to bring along an aperitivo. I wished them ‘Salute‘ and went down to see if it was pos-see-bee-lay, despite its being closed, to have a glass of wine by the pool.
After a leisurely day spent exploring a quiet inland village and taking it easy on the ‘farm’, I felt up to driving into Cefalù. This was not part of the ‘official’ itinerary but I think some part of me always knew I wouldn’t be able to resist spending at least a few hours in what was after all one of my favourite Sicilian seaside villages. But the following day was June 2. Festa della Repubblica. The Italian equivalent – more or less – of the Canadian national holiday, Canada Day, which is celebrated on July 1. ‘More or less’ because there are a few surprising differences between the two. First of all, Italy’s National Day is a fairly recent affair, dating back to only 1946, while Canada’s was first celebrated in 1867. Secondly – and much more significantly – the reasons for the two nations’ holidays are vastly different. The Canadian holiday commemorates the amalgamation of three independent colonies, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and ‘Canada’ (the present-day provinces of Ontario and Quebec) into a self-governing ‘Dominion’ of Great Britain. The rest of what we know as Canada would come along in a dragged out, piecemeal fashion, from Manitoba in 1870 to Newfoundland in 1949. Italy, however was already a fully formed, if not always united country in 1946. Rather than the nation’s birth, which had taken place well over half a century earlier (1861), the Festa della Repubblica commemorates the date of the referendum in which, by a slim margin, the Italian people – ALL of them – even the women, a first for Italy – voted in favour of a republic, and the male descendants of the House of Savoy which had ruled the country since its inception were sent into exile.
While the survival of the Repubblica has often been in doubt since then, what was not in doubt was that Italians throughout the land would be off celebrating. Which meant that there would be even more movimento in Cefalù than usual. I wasn’t encouraged when the receptionist told me a Dutch couple had driven down the day before but after being stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour they’d turned around and come right back to the relais.
I decided to take my chances.
I didn’t get as early a start as I probably should have. But rushing la prima colazione on the terrace seemed a travesty. It was 10 o’clock when I reached the road into the village. The confusione (con-foo-zeeoh-nay) was overwhelming. But I got lucky. Or rather, for once my long-ingrained habit of obeying traffic signs paid off. Instead of following the cars who continued past the ‘traffico limitato‘ sign, I followed the temporary signs that directed me – infuriatingly! – away from the sea and down a couple of streets that of course had no traffic on them to a narrow gate with a big ‘P’ sign. It was the back entrance to an enormous field that had been set aside for parking. I paid the attendant 8€ – which I knew was a bargain – and walked out the seaside entrance and past an enormous line of cars, all of which would have driven past the traffico limitato sign. I told myself I would stay for a few hours, have a nice lunch and leave before the hordes. I just hoped my car wouldn’t be blocked in when I got back.
I sat in the shade of the ancient gate and watched the goings on. I noticed a woman giving a massage to a young woman. I was close enough I could hear the happy groaning of her client. When she was finished she approached the group on the right under the umbrellas, holding out a laminated sheet. She didn’t speak Italian! Was she a refugee? She got a lot of takers in the short time I sat there. I hope she charged a decent amount.
As I got closer to the main piazza the noise level increased exponentially.
The crowds were so thick, and the lanes so narrow, I wasn’t able to keep up with the parade. After some speeches and a short serenade by a bugler, during which half-naked beach goers intermingled with fully dressed military men and women, the parade people marched to the end of the pier and then came back.