Today’s a travel day, devoted to getting from the south side of the island to the north. When I was to be traveling with my Arizona friends, this is when we would have parted, at the airport early tomorrow morning. Rather than cancel and rebook when they dropped out and Alice joined, I kept the itinerary. So back to Palermo for a night. This will give us the opportunity to see more of Palermo, for example, the fine antiquities museum with treasures from the ancient sites we’ve just been to. Most particularly, I want to visit the Norman palace and the Palatine Chapel.
Anyway, this is but bullshit rationalization for the semi-unnecessary cross-island schlep. We wake to rain, big fat drops. We set our sights on reaching Mussomeli for lunch. Mussomeli, just a bit off the beaten path, has a striking keep, Castello Manfredonico, perched, there’s no other word, precariously upon an enormous limestone outcropping. The castle is said to be haunted by the ghosts of three sisters who were walled into a small room by their brother when he went off to war. ‘For their own good,’ the story goes. Though he left them with plenty of food and water, he was delayed, and when he returned he found the corpses of the unfortunate women and the half-eaten soles of their shoes. Hell, I’d be pretty haunty, too.
Alice’s guidance is spot on, however, once we’ve turned off the highway, I make a wrong turn and we’re forced to recalibrate. She says we’re good. The Fiat commences twisting upward through a medieval town, forever nameless. “Turn right in no meters,” she barks. I obey, and suddenly we’re catapulting upward at an angle like being strapped to an Atlas rocket. The pavement is cobblestone. I floor it. Escape velocity! Did I just stall out/slip backwards? There’s no time for an ‘uh-oh’. We make it. Ha! A level place at a cross street. But Jesus Christ, another incline? Alice, what? And another. And another. I’m leaning into the steering wheel while Alice has flattened herself against the back of her seat. We’re both hollering, not unlike the Millennium Falcon inside that space worm thing.
Then, as if we’ve broken through cloud cover, we reach the rarefied atmosphere of Mussomeli. The weather’s still grim, but a recommended restaurant should be nearby. Alice has been guiding us here all along. The door’s open, we walk in. I can’t help but believe in whatever mojo has brought us to this restaurant called Divinity. The chef/proprietor looks a bit surprised, probably at our ashen faces. Watching us stare hopelessly at the menu, he suggests spaghetti carbonara. “E insalata mista,” I chime in. It is a perfect meal. Some of the tension slips away.
Before we begin our descent, it is absolutely mandatory to document this fucking castle, which just happens to be closed for a three-hour midday whatever. Done. Please God, not back the way we came. Alice gets us back to terra firma, but not without suffering the nausea that comes from reading a handheld device on hair-raising mountain roads. The rest of the trip spools out calmly, though our highway is a work in progress, forcing us to submit every so often to the Italian version of a flagman, a stoplight.
We cruise into Palermo and down Via Vittorio Emanuele to our hotel, a slick venue. They would park the car for a fee, but suggest a free spot on the embankment. We clean up and meet for a walk to the Museo Archeologico Regionale. Its front door is where its back door should be, plus it’s not really open. Just a few cursory exhibits, as the museum is reimagining its collection. Oh, well. Let’s have dinner and go to sleep. Fuck this day.