We met up with Nuccio again for the next rally, this one outside of a town whose name I never ended up discovering; Carmelo couldn’t make it, but we picked up a friend of Nuccio’s, Salvadore, who we had met briefly on St Martins’ Day, and his son André to join us. Salvadore was a meteorologist, interestingly; the language barrier was a bit of an impediment to talking further, though. Along the way, he pointed out interesting landmarks to us, as we drove along a picturesque winding road with views over pretty little villages with omnipresent Etna in the background.
We stopped in town (possibly Francavilla di Sicilia?) and took a look at the ‘weighing-in’ process; Nuccio informed us that no less than 25 cars had been totalled the night before, or at least damaged beyond recovery for the next race. One of the famous drivers (don’t ask me who!) Nuccio was looking out for had ended up upside-down, apparently (but otherwise unscathed). Heh.
A pilot (the car-driving kind) friend of Nuccio’s was going to compete in this race. Nuccio told us that he had skipped out at the last minute, to help some other competitors with repairs to their vehicle! Nuccio laughed and told us about a prior race when, distracted with helping a friend, Nuccio’s pilot friend missed a race he was supposed to be driving in; his father took the wheel instead!
We arrived at the place Nuccio and Salvadore had chosen for watching the rally, parking at the side of a small road that ran along the side of a deep green valley scored with erosion, somewhere between the towns of Borgo Schisina and Borgo Piano Torre. We could drive no further, the road being half-collapsed down the steep hillside, perhaps during the big storms that hit Messina. Nuccio herded us carefully around the chasm and we walked down the road to where it intersected with the road along which the rally was to be held, joining a crowd of others, and even a motorhome and several food vendors.
Nuccio indicated a house up on a neighbouring hill side: Mussolini had had it built. When the builders were putting in the plumbing, it became obvious that, actually…there was no water available nearby. The house was abandoned, never finished. When asked why they didn’t, you know, have the forethought to check for water first, Nuccio shook his head sadly, “Why we lost the war…”.
So, we had a good time enjoying the ambience, and admiring the odd drift and well-taken corner (remembering our days on Project Gotham Racing on the XBox 360); we watched the sun go down over the mountains, staining the horizon bright red for a while as Etna smoked/steamed away to the south:
When it was all over, and the cold night had set in, Nuccio had found a fellow spectator who had agreed to drive us back up to the car — “the most important thing is to ask”, said Nuccio when we were impressed with the gesture.
We spent a little down-time back at Nettle while Nuccio went home and we prepared to go out to “eat fish” — this was something we were anticipating nervously, a very, very well-respected fish restaurant that served incredibly fresh fare; there was no menu — one just sits down and they bring you whatever’s fresh. Being a little seafood-phobic, it was going to expand our horizons a little, but we were determined to make the most of it.
Nuccio arrived soon after, with his girlfriend Graziella, who was lovely — Nuccio had to be our go-between again, as we had no Italian, and Graziella had only a little English. Man, I wish we could just upload new languages into our heads.
We drove down to the coast again (I’m surprised we haven’t worn grooves in that road…), and took the freeway.
Along the way, we got talking about attitudes towards southern Italians from northern Italians, and were surprised to hear that apparently there’s a good deal of animosity in the north towards the south. I’m unsure what kind of portion of the northern population think this way, but apparently the north views people from the south as “of mixed blood”, less pure than the more “european” northerners, due to the south’s cultural mix. We were told it was hard for Sicilians to find work in the north, as they are frequently turned away. This is all a bit baffling — we’re certainly yet to met any kinder people than the Sicilians. We’re looking forward to finding out more from the other side when we visit northern Italy.
Nuccio drove up the windy road to our destination, an exquisite hillside coastal town, Forza D’agro’. The restaurant was “Osteria Agostiniana”, and sure enough, we walked in, greeted the waiter, and sat down, and that was that.
Each dish was brilliantly constructed, and delicious. Neither of us were sure about the cold, squishy oysters, or the fiddley little prawns, legs and all, that we just couldn’t manage to effectively unwrap. The rest was brilliant, even the octopus tentacle chunks (although they too were a little scary). A cook/kitchenhand walked past into the kitchen carrying a basket of fresh broccoli, and two dishes later, it turned up on our plates. The dishes just kept coming and coming, at an insane pace — We’d fasted all day, but we were still more stuffed than we’d ever been by the end of the second course, and the main course hadn’t even arrived. Nuccio was merciful, though (and, he admitted, full to bursting himself), and we told the waiter that that was enough.
Then began the drinking — the waiter brought a bunch of bottles of liqueurs out and plonked them on the table. Nuccio told us about each one, and poured a full shot-glass each of each one in turn — there was pistachio liqueur, grappa, chocolate, limoncello, some icky dark stuff made by monks (“Naughty monks”, Katherine observed), and lemon cream. Wow.
I’d never been so full in my life…I think my stomach’s stretched.
After we’d recovered a little, we strolled through the town. Nuccio showed us a few ancient churches, including one featured in The Godfather (where the Godfather’s son gets married when he’s in Sicily). A neighbourhood cat joined us for a while, and caused much amusement when it started making noises that sounded just like a frog. I tried to record the frog-cat, but it got shy, unfortunately.
So, we drove back to Linguaglossa, said goodnight to Nuccio and Graziella, and settled into Nettle, parked by the park in Linguaglossa.