It had been a turbulent day. When I arrived at Caltanissetta, I discovered that the note-book covering the last six weeks of travel had fallen from my back pocket somewhere between Canicatti and Caltanissetta. This may say much for my competence as a travel writer, but you can imagine the blow to my pleasure in life. After being sunk in gloom for 12 hours, I decided I had to make at least some effort to find it, and so I set about retracing my route of the day before. It was a very, very, very long shot, but I couldn’t just let it go.
So back down the Agrigento-Catania highway I went, to Canicatti, about 30 km, and set about searching. And blow me down, blow me away, bowl me over, there it was, lying beside a very minor road between Canicatti and Serradifalco, a little scuffed, but otherwise no worse for wear. At first simply couldn’t believe it. And then I could and to say that I was glad was a massive understatement. Those of you with a memory of the Bible may remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son, all that bit about the father rejoicing about the son who was lost and is found. Well, I know just how the father felt. It’s enough to suggest that the Age of Miracles is still here.
And so I made my way to Agira.
Agira is a town clamped to the top of one of those pinnacles of rock that erupt suddenly from the Sicilian central plain. And my resting place, Case al Borgo, was somewhere very near the top and at the back. That much I knew from studying the map. I took the road that led up, and up and up, and round and round, and up and round and then back on itself. I stopped to ask for the vie di Gesu. Men shook their heads. Women pursed their lips. No matter how far up I went or how many times I went round, I couldn’t get any closer. And then I stopped a man who was getting out of his car.
‘I’m just back from work and need a shower’, he said. ‘Hang on for half an hour and I’ll show you.’ I waited for half an hour. He returned. I followed his car through the cobbled, mediaeval streets around and around and up and up until we came out at the back of Agira, near the remains of the mediaeval castle and there was the delightful Case del Borgo. My guide made sure there was someone in reception to look after me before driving off. I was so overwhelmed I forgot to ask his name. But such graciousness, kindness, thoughtfulness.
But then Agira seemed overflowing with these admirable qualities, because after a night at the Case del Borgo, mostly spent admiring the extraordinary view from my balcony – Etna to my right, Siracusa and the sea beyond 100 kms away to the right of Etna, and the whole of the central plain spread out like a vast, undulating bed spread in front and to my right – the cheerful and beautiful Vivianna deserted her post at the case reception to guide me back down the town to the road to Bronte.
Without the selfless generosity of those two souls, I’d probably still be going round and round the streets of Agira.