Our first port of call is Noto, where Susan lives, having moved to Sicily from Totnes about 8 years ago. Ciccio, her partner, is from Noto. We arrange to meet them at 9pm on the steps of the main cathedral. As we drive up to the town, we stop off at a fuel station to ask where we can park with a vehicle like ours. Turn the first road left and there’s a car park on the right hand side, we are told. As soon as we turn into the road, we are in trouble. The road itself is narrow, never mind the fact that there are cars parked along one side. The car park is no use for us either, the entrance being too narrow. We pull up by the side and consider our options. We can either reverse down a narrow one-way road, or try and navigate the next, fairly tight looking corner. We plumb for the latter. There’s a street sign to avoid at the back, a really high curb at the right hand front and a badly parked car on the left hand. After a few forward and backward manouvres, we are well and truly stuck and have to wait, amid hooting cars from all sides, for the owner of the car to come out of the hairdresser’s and move her car forward by a few inches. Frank is driving, and we try to exercise our newly found insight of keeping calm and taking things slowly, regardless of mounting anger and horn concerts around us. A ‘helpful’ Sicilian gaily waves Frank forwards, not taking account of the front wheel scraping hard against the curb for a couple of inches, and shrugging his shoulders when we discover what’s happened: ‘I didn’t see the wheel’, he says. Hello???!!!??? How else would the lorry drive around??? Another lesson is learned the hard way: When navigating a tricky situation, we must ignore other people’s advice, as ultimately it’s us who have to bear the responsibility for any damage done to our and another person’s vehicle.

Anyway, in another way, he is very helpful, as he escorts us to a campsite just outside Noto. Normally, we don’t tend to go to campsites, but for today, we’ve had enough of driving around in narrow streets and are happy to arrive somewhere safe and quiet.

Poor Emma, after a year of driving around in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Switzerland, she’s had three knocks in the space of three weeks in Italy. Nevertheless, Noto is well worth a visit, despite the tricky roads for Emma. The baroque city centre is impressive and once a year one of the central streets gets completely covered in flower designs.


For photos to this chapter, go to our flikr album

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