Thinking it might be fun, we headed inland to see Monreale (Italian for Montreal) on the way to Marsala on Sicily’s west coast. A decent, 2-lane, A-road brought us to the hilltop (surprise!) little town.
The town itself may have been rebuilt a few times, but the streets were definitely laid out in the pre-medieval era. Reg struggled with the GPS but after the third time Mable tried to lead us up the same “street” which, though called a Via was actually a flight of stairs, we had to give up and head downhill. Easier said than done. Inching through “streets” so narrow that the right hand door mirror of the car smacked something at least three times, we essayed a stab at a parking spot to regroup. The streets were crowded with cars parked randomly and knots of pedestrians, one of whom was closer than I thought and I managed to clout him on the elbow with the same mirror. Re-thinking our position, in the light of developments and angry, fist-waving locals, we decided it might be better to park elsewhere and accelerated away.
Emerging eventually from the warren of tiny alleys, we hit the road again and continued towards Marsala. Lunch-time came and went and after an amusing escapade with yet another type of gas-pump at a filling station (closed between 1 and 4 of course, so one is left to deal with the “automatic” pumps which do not accept credit cards with built-in chips) we found a snack wagon in a town that looked as though it had been transplanted from west Texas and had a quick nosh.
We arrived in Marsala about 2 PM, wrestled the car into a tiny, white-painted space on a side street and set off to explore.
A word about parking in Italy (I know, I know). The attractively located spaces outlined in yellow paint are reserved for buses, people with handicap stickers and other vehicles, not you. If it's the perfect place to park, you can't use it. The spaces outlined in blue paint (sometimes faded to near-invisibility) are for residents who have permits displayed in their windows, people who have bought a sort of honor-system blue card from the tabacci and scratched their arrival time off the card, OR they MAY be a pay-parking spot. There are no meters, you find the Parking Ticket Dispenser machine for your stretch of street, feed in some Euros and display the ticket on your dash (do try to get back before the time elapses. You don't want to try to find the Impound Lot when no one speaks English.). So, if you can’t find a Parking Machine, you can’t park there. Then there are the occasional parking spaces outlined in white paint; these are free and OK to use. They are, of course, occupied. The tricky bit, is to remember where you left the car and how to get back to it. A portable GPS might be useful.
Anyway, after heading bravely off in the wrong direction, then using the tiny guide-book street map to find the long way around to the Duomo, we arrived in the main town Piazza. The church (curiously dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury) turned out to be plain in the extreme and in the midst of a funeral service, so we retreated to the nearby shopping street, Maggio XI. The stores were closed for lunch, of course, but we dawdled over a Gelato, tried the door of the nearby Tapestry Museum (closed till 4:30 for some reason) and managed to outwait the shop owners enough to sample their delights. Purses, etc., having been duly examined and cooed over, we picked up a lovely, golden, bottle of Marsala (yes, this is where it's made!) wine and accidently found the car which had been nearby the whole time.
Mable, returned to efficiency, and got us back on the Autostrada after only 15 Km of side streets. We headed off home, passing through Palermo in rush hour (of course). Clever planning (really Luck!) got us home when there were still a few parking spaces available and we found one right in front of the doors to our building.
The next morning, we were awakened by our owner’s agent, who explained in Italian and some English that I needed to move the car so that the owner’s 1962 Volkswagen could be taken for a tune-up by her uncle. More adventures in parking ensued and we eventually sat down to breakfast and the Blog.
Marsala from the SS115
Lunch en route
Chiesa Madre dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury
Via Maggio XI, a pedestrian shopping mall (during lunch break)