Visitors (January 3rd-10th)

As per arrangement, we pick up my daughter Lilli and her boyfriend Matt from Palermo airport, hire a car and spend the first couple of days in Palermo. Hiring a car in Sicily comes with a high extra insurance (20Euros per day!!!), ostensibly because it is a high-risk area for driving. That, or be responsible for the first 3500 Euros of damage. Negotiating Palermo to find their B&B place is not without its challenges – one-way streets abound and although calmer than in Catania, traffic is pretty manic.

As cold weather is forecast, we spend the first day of their stay taking them out to the Terme in Segesta, as well as the greek temple and amphitheatre. The views from the top of the hill are stunning and the temple is beautifully preserved. By the Terme, we meet a couple in a van who have a sledge tied to the top of the roof (!) and we hear they are hoping for snow in the next few days.

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The next day, Lilli and Matt explore Palermo until they are washed out by torrential rain. We share food and spend some time playing Bananagrams in the van and plan our route for the next day, since we feel we should try and get over the mountains before snow sets in, if the couple in Segesta was right about the weather forecast.

Lilli and I go ahead in the car and Matt and Frank follow in Emma. We arrive in Enna, our next stop, just in time for the first snowflakes to fall. We park up and go to find Matt’s and Lilli’s B&B in the centre of town – by the time we come back out of the house, the ground is already white with snow, and it’s falling hard and fast.

This is the view out of the window the next morning…

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A sledge would indeed have come in handy!!

 

We are well and truly snowed-in for the next few days. Our water freezes at some point, resulting in the pump blowing a fuse, but otherwise we are nice and warm in the van, thanks to our lovely wood-burning stove.

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We make nice meals, sing songs and play games, interspersed with lovely walks in the bracing, white and windy landscape. One afternoon, we explore a footpath that has 50mtrs of footprints and from thereon is covered in a foot or two of virgin snow. We have great fun letting ourselves tumble 5km down the hill until we reach a road. All public transport has stopped, so we have to take a taxi back up.

On the third day, the thaw sets in but not enough to actually free up the road. We get shovelling and attack icy spots with various sticks until we feel it’s worth a try. Emma does us proud despite not having snow chains, and we escape Enna to drive down to the coast. Fontane Bianchi is our next stop. The weather clears and we have a sunny day or two by the sea, taking trips to Noto, the Cavagrande di Cassibile and Siracusa , before taking Lilli and Matt to the airport in Catania.

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It’s been very nice to spend time with them, to hang out and chat, share food, play games, and really wonderful to get to know Matt a bit better and to see how they are happy with each other, and how good they are for each other. I would have never thought just how much it means to see my daughter HAPPY. Health and happiness are so much more important than anything else. It makes me think back on my relationship with my mother and how she might have felt, seeing me struggle to become and adult and cope with the highs and lows of life, and how somehow we never managed to develop our relationship beyond the parameters of mother/daughter as it was set up in childhood. Our relationship never became one between two equal adults, not even when I’d become a mother too. I feel grateful for the change in the relationship with my children, I’m very much enjoying a different, new kind of connection emerging between us, and at the same time I also mourn the fact that although I tried, I never succeeded to achieve this with my own mother.

For more photos to this chapter, click here


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