If they were to do a remake of the 1980s comedy/drama movie ‘The Big Chill,’ our Villa extravaganza in Sferracavallo would be a suitable update….well….except for the shortage of fast cars, attractive actors, compelling drama sideline stories and sex scenes…..particularly the sex scenes. Having said that, I haven’t a clue what went on at night outside our little wing of the Villa, so who knows… We weren’t all old and unattractive!
Ursula turned 30, for the second time, so we had to celebrate it in style. As we planned to be in Italy, why not rent a villa and invite friends? That’s what we did. After days and days of agonizing surfing of the web, she settled for this 109-year-old Villa in the bay of the town of Sferracavallo, just outside of Palermo, Sicily. The Villa actually has a name, and it’s on the island registry of historic homes. This is cool, except that ‘remodels’ are out of the question due to historical society hurdles and obstacles. But, the house had a very ‘Shabby Sheik’ air about it, and it suited our needs incredibly well. The view from the terrace was spectacular (see the photo!), it could bed down 12 people, we were 8. The kitchen was large, as was the living room, the ceilings were at least 15 feet high. It was in a gated community, and best of all, it had a tower! Who doesn’t dream of living by the beach in a Villa with a tower?
Guests arrived from Alaska, Austria, and Germany, all spoke English extraordinarily well! Ursula did very well in the selection of friends to ensure it was a compatible cross mixture of interests and personalities. The group was composed of travelers (us!), a tour guide, a musician, successful investment advisors, a construction king-pin, and to make discussions really interesting, a budding psychotherapist!
All loved to talk, and when the ‘lubrication’ that we seeded the Villa with was employed, the discussions went everywhere! The talks ranged from politics (there was an interesting mixture of ideas across the political spectrum that lead to no fights), travel, saving the planet, economics, wine, food, investments, and naturally, relationships. That was on the first evening when the wine flowed smoothly after Ursula’s world-renown spaghetti dinner. I think the latest evening went until 0600, it only ended because some of the other guests were awakening and starting to make coffee….which was incompatible with the stale wine! The late nighters became later after nooners as well.
We talked, we cooked, we walked, we visited the sites and thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of ‘chilling-out’ in a seaside Sicilian Villa.
The meals were as delectable as the conversations. One evening we all enjoyed a ‘set menu’ at one of the village’s well know seafood restaurants. The Italians know how to turn a meal into a feast! Our table for 8 was overrun by multiple appetizers that a few of us thought was the main course. To some surprise, it was followed by the first course of small seafood dishes and stuff, then several plates of pasta. After that, the main course of fish arrived and finally, finally the desert and espresso and ‘digestives.’ All of this was accompanied by copious amounts of wine. We all experienced exquisite flavors, textures, and scents that only an experienced Italian chef could conjure up. We also experienced gluttony on an unsightly level and enjoyed it without guilt. We finally called in the local wheel barrel team, so we could be rolled back to the Villa. Fortunately, it was only a 10-minute walk.
In the previous blog, I wrote of some of the sites we visited in the area. Sicily is a beautiful island, and it’s always a wondrously delightful experience to see places through the eyes of friends and share in the discoveries. I’m hopeful that they enjoyed it as much as Ursula and me.
Our time at the Villa seemed like time suspended, for those few days. Shorter for some as they had to return to life back home sooner than others while a few of us prolonged the convivial atmosphere as long as possible. But, where we had a group of friends, common only in their personal knowledge of Ursula and I, they now perhaps have made lifelong friends between them. All have returned to their own corners of the world, but have done so with the modern means of communications of emails, text, and social media.
After our last guest headed for the airport counter, Ursula and I returned to the Villa for one last night alone before our departure the following morning. Our ‘Shabby Sheik’ Villa was becoming a little bit shabby without all of our sheik friends. It was time to go. It was time to leave Italy after 68 days of cavorting amongst its peoples, its cities and villages, enjoying its culture, foods, wines, ruins, and the glorious weather with which we were graced. Our Bellissima Italia adventure was coming to closure. Neither of us could imagine a better way to usher out our journey than with a group of friends that would fly around the world to spend time with us at our little Villa along the coast of the fishing village of Sferracavallo.
Note: I haven’t include pictures or names of our friends out of respect for their privacy,,,,but friends, if you want your names or pics here for posterity’s sake, drop me note – too easy!