After 10 days of unpredictable and changeable weather our time in San Vito Lo Capo has come to an end. Despite several days of hanging around waiting for the weather to improve, the time passed very quickly, and I certainly, was not yet ready to move on. We had extended our stay by an extra day anyway to make the most of some newly arrived sunshine, so our visit ended on a high note with a couple of warm although windy climbing days. I will upload some videos onto our YouTube channel of those final climbs in the next couple of days.
Staying in San Vito out of season definitely has its pros and cons. From a climbing perspective the crag was really quiet, we rarely saw anyone else, and it was only on the very last day when we were climbing near the campsite that we had to work around other climbers. However the town was equally deserted, many of the restaurants and bars were closed, but fortunately the mini market and bakeries were still open. On our last night we decided to try and find somewhere to eat out, even if it was just a takeaway pizza. We walked through the empty streets surrounded by closed up, half-dilapidated buildings, the dark night creating large shadows in the unkempt corners. A window shutter banged in the wind and pieces of litter rolled down the deserted street like tumbleweed in a spaghetti western.
Wandering down the main street with little expectation of success, we came across a brightly lit window illuminating a room full of tables adorned with wine glasses and linen napkins. This looked far more civilised than we were expecting! There was no visible menu outside, and the name “Syrah” accompanied by a mosque shaped logo seemed to suggest a middle eastern influence. We have had some fabulous food in the middle east so decided to give it a go and adjusted our expectations away from a big bowl of pasta. It turned out to be a seafood restaurant. That in itself posed a few challenges for me. My shellfish allergy ruled out about 20% of the dishes, and I don’t like aubergine or squid which seemed to be a key ingredient in most of the others. But in the spirit of adventurous travel, I decided to push my culinary boundaries and be brave. I ordered an aubergine and ricotta mousse, followed by fish and artichokes in a cream and wine sauce (I am not a big fan of artichokes either!). Halfway through my first glass of very drinkable Sicilian wine, two beautifully presented plates of food turned up. And I have to say my aubergine mousse was one of the best starters I have ever eaten. It had the right amount of texture (it wasn’t just mush) and the flavour of the aubergine and ricotta blended together to produce a result that was superior to either individually. It was fabulous.
After sleeping off our indulgent evening, we packed up the car in the morning and headed off across Sicily to Ragusa. We decided to take the southern route to see more of the south coast of the island and also to have another attempt at visiting Selinunte. We had tried to see these ancient Greek ruins a week earlier when the weather was preventing us from climbing. We had made the 1.5 hour drive down to the south coast and turned up in torrential rain wondering about the wisdom of walking around one of the largest archaeological sites in Europe in such atrocious weather. We fortified ourselves with a quick bite to eat and a surprisingly good cup of tea in local bar before approaching the main gates. Where we were summarily halted. Seemingly Gucci had rented out the entire site for a fashion shoot. I didn’t know whether to feel more sorry for us having trekked down here, or the models who were trying to show off summer clothes when it was only 6 degrees and belting down with rain!
Second time round however, we were in luck. The gates were open, the entire site laid out in front of us, and the skies were clear. The guide book describes Selenunte as “hectic” with visitors in the summer, and “hard work” in the heat with the sun beating down. We had the entire site to ourselves on a mild day at the start of February. It was perfect.
The ruins themselves are impressive. One of the temples dedicated to Hera was partially rebuilt in the 1950’s, it is incredibly evocative to walk up the steps into the temple as people would have done 2500 years ago. Not all the temples are still standing, there are vast areas of collapsed temples, houses, and local merchant quarters. One of the great things about this site is its accessibility. There are very few roped off areas, so you can go in and walk amongst the columns, touch the stones, and peer closely at the fallen capitals. You get a much greater appreciation for the size of the individual components when you get up close. The architecture and engineering is simply incredible. I could easily have spent a whole day roaming around those ruins, finding interesting new details in the fallen facades. But we still had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us.
Our destination was Ragusa Ibla, an old town on a hill top with narrow streets and Baroque style architecture, not far from the east coast city of Syracuse. This is our base for the next 5 days while we climb in canyons which house caves and tombs containing evidence of human settlement stretching back over 4000 years.
There is also an old town nearby that is the Sicilian centre of chocolate production. I think we may need to go there as well.