August 13, 2012

Time by the sea

Every August we head for some time by the sea. We realise that we are not exactly alone in this ambition so we head to little places that aren't too heaving with bods, if we can. Which often takes us a bit off the beaten track.

Last week we were in Sicily, renting an old farmhouse in a small village in a remote valley between soaring mountains, happily for us the only Brits in the village and, in fact, the only Brits anywhere on the whole north western tip of the island it seemed. Result! After having had the soggiest, greyest, most miserably cold spring and early summer in the UK, it was such a joy to see the fierce blue skies of Sicily.

It is an island of intense summer heat, dramatic mountains and fertile valleys crisscrossed with vineyards, olive, almond, and fig groves, where fruits grow to their luscious best and the wine is rich and fragrant. The sea is clear and warm and everywhere there are influences from the Arab, Greek, Roman past all mingling in the present day Sicilian styles of food, architecture and food - the combination is utterly seductive! Apologies for sounding like the Sicilian tourist board, but it was truly breathtaking. We swam in the sea from the pebbled coves of ancient tuna docks and visited car free medieval towns perched atop improbably high mountains, eating in old monastaries and pavement cafes. It was hard not to swoon on the spot. If you ever get offered Sicilian hazlenut ice cream, please say yes!

old tuna dock by a gorgeous pebble cove 

medieval street of the ancient hill top town of Erice
Erice town house

taking the coast road

Unlike parts of Italy further north, there is not a palpable sense of wealth in Sicily, or not in the area we were staying in - no glimpses of palatial palazzos in the hills or swanky cars and glam hotels.   The richness comes in other ways, in the dramatic landscape, the coast, the food... we totally fell in love with  it. It was impossible not to - in our little farmhouse garden warm, ripe figs fell off the trees and the air, morning and evening, was scented with the jasmine that wound its way around the old pergolas and walls of the shady outside eating areas. Smitten.

We were renting it from a Sicilian family who greeted us when we arrived and who had generously filled the fridge with delicious local cheeses and meats and collected limes and figs from the garden for us. Papa of the family pointed us to a flagon of olive oil in the kitchen, from olives he had pressed from his own grove. It was like nectar! My parents rent out their home in Norfolk for parts of the year, so the arrangement felt familiar and we knew to treat their farmhouse, still full of all their belongings, with great respect.

heavy old shutters on every window to keep out the midday sun

There was a lovely pool, and really we had a blissfully simple week with no supermarkets or tv and lots of relaxation. The mister has worked his socks off this year, really pretty gruelling, and it was gorgeous seeing the stress melt away from his shoulders.

We may have to go back some day....


  1. oh it looks heavenly! I don't think I could have torn myself away x

  2. Your smitten-ness is catching. That photo from the pergola is perfection.

    1. Can you imagine the wafting jasmine? Feels a bit like a dream now!

  3. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! What a lovely vacation.

    1. A special time, still pinching myself at the loveliness of it all! x

  4. Someone is my neighborhood is sauteing garlic as I read this and I feel as if I am right there with you eating. Wonder if I just got too much sun from your photos?

    How heavenly.

    No one more deserving of a sunny week.

    xo Jane

  5. Thanks Jane! I had had about my fill of grey skies so this was a wonderful tonic. Love that feeling of waking up and getting dressed in stuff to swim in each morning! Bliss - you would have loved the simple perfection of the seafood and fruit and wood fired oven pizzas. xx

  6. Perfectly gorgeous! What a wonderful place to relax. Glad you had a good trip.

  7. What an incredible place! It looks like a glorious holiday, clearly just what you and the Mr needed.

  8. Thank you for reliving my Italian holiday with me and yes, I see what you mean about how similar our holidays were. My hub and I went to Sicily months before our first was born, it was a truly memorable place. We were there close to Easter so we saw their festivities an tasted the most delicious food. Yum, I want to go back there now.

    Kate x