It’s Sunday, so it is market day in Randazzo. There is a considerable amount confusion, as the stalls are crammed along the main streets which are supposed to be closed to traffic, the stalls bulge out onto the edge of the road. There is chaos as pedestrians converge with cars filled with people looking for a spot to perch their vehicles and others vehicles who have leisurely slow down to observe what is at the market.
We’re at the half way point of the journey to Sinagra from Catania airport. Making our way outside the centre of Randazzo we cross over the rocky Alcantara River and begin a stomach churning zig zag up the mountainside towards the small town of Santa Vittoria Domenica where we skim over into the province of Messina, leaving Catania behind us.
The dense lava rocks are also left behind us as we climb into a lush mountain-scape and zip past Santa Domenica a forgotten little town with its tenacious collection of homes, bars and stores selling woodfire baked bread and local produce.
The landscape is filled with pine and maple forests and intermittent small towns. Rustic family restaurants flank the main road and attract people from Catania who satisfy their stomachs with the specialities of the region. The Catanese often make the pilgrimage to this district and depart with car boots laden with fresh provolone cheese, cured meats, bread, olives and a litany of other products made by the locals of these mountain towns.
We clamber up to Floresta, the highest town site in Sicily, one thousand two hundred seventy meters above sea level. It seems to be immediately across from Mt Etna although it is divided by many kilometres of mountains. There is a water fountain below the road filled with freestor water throughout the year. It feels refreshing to rinse out my parched mouth. I wash my face, hands and neck, before getting back into the car for the ongoing odyssey. I feel as if someone is playing a practical joke on me by constantly shifting our final destination further away.
Rubbing my half closed eyes, I feel more exhausted than ever as the road down from Floresta saps my energy with its multiplying curves. I begin to feel worn out and car sick at the same time. A little before Ucria, the final town before our destination, I hold my stomach and fight the desire to vomit. Sticking my head out of the window, I barely resist.
Ucria is another one of those decaying maze-like mountain towns full of bumpy stone roads, side streets and alleyways with dead ends leading to abandoned ‘palazzi’ and crumbling walls. At one time these small towns were full of people bustling with the commerce and produce of the agricultural wealth of the area. From hazelnuts to oranges and olive oil, there were many bountiful seasonal products whose trade kept these small towns thriving. Today the archaic streets of Ucria are empty, destined to soon become entirely abandoned as people are slowly tempted away into the major cities.
I am relieved when the curves subside as we drive through Ucria and cross the Naso seasonal river in the countryside outside Sinagra. My in-law’s house is close by and we recover here for a few days before going to our new house at Sinagra. Arriving, I greet everyone who has come to welcome us, grab a bite to eat before lying down to rest and then slumbering soundly for nearly twenty-four hours.