Sicily, Day 11 – November 27, 2016

There were more rich choices for breakfast! Croissants, either plain or with almond or pistachio filling, lemon and chocolate pound cake, the choices  went on and on. Trying to show some restraint,  I chose granola with yogurt  again. Then I spied pizza rustica, something I used to make with my mother for Easter. It’s a pie crust filled with ricotta with beaten eggs and  a variety of  diced  Italian cold cuts, cheeses, and  zucchini (not in my mom’s version).  I couldn’t pass that up!

We went back to our room to pack before our bus trip to Villa Romana  del Casale, and we made sure to return our room key!  Villa Romana del Casale is central Sicily’s biggest attraction because it  is decorated with the finest Roman floor mosaics in existence. The villa is thought to have been the country home of Marcus Aurelius Maximianus (286-305 AD). It contains four interconnected buildings and 38,000 square feet of mosaics, so its owner was definitely someone of high standing.

Because of a landslide in the 12th century, the floors were covered in mud for 700 years, which protected them from severe weather phenomena and from looters. The site was rediscovered in the 1950s and has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Romans believed in exercising. After using the gymnasium, one would enter a pool filled with warm water in the tepidarium.
That was followed by entering the hot water pool in the caldarium. The last stop was the cold water pool in the frigidarium. Between the three pools, there was an area in which the bather was massaged with oils and perfumes.

The main entrance led guests through a courtyard  lined with mosaics of animal heads. The Corridor of the Grand Hunt is in the east wing. This 200 foot long corridor depicts scenes of hunting expeditions  for tigers, leopards, elephants, antelopes, ostriches and a rhinoceros.  The hunting had taken place in a variety of parts of the Roman Empire, which included today’s Italy, Africa and Asia.

At the southern end of the building is the Room of the Ten Girls, which contains the most famous of the mosaics. It shows young women in bikinis working out as they prepared for the Olympic Games.

After this amazing experience, we went to an agriturismo for a “light” lunch. First, let me explain that an agriturismo is a working farm that rents rooms to guests and also has a restaurant. Our lunch consisted of stuffed peppers, an antipasto of fresh pears wth cheese, prosciutto, mortadella, and fresh ricotta topped with crushed pistachios,  and eggplant and zucchini, both grilled. Then came the pasta course, a combination plate of pumpkin risotto  and ravioli stuffed with ricotta  and spinach. This was followed by grapes and oranges. Susanna explained that this was considered a light meal because it did not include a main course or dessert. After being quite sure again that we had eaten enough for an entire village, we napped on the bus as we headed to  the hilltop town of Ragusa.

Ragusa is  situated high on a hill. Because of  a devastating earthquake in 1693,  practically the entire town was destroyed. In fact, the only thing that survived  is an arch depicting St. George slaying the dragon. A new town has been built on the site of the former one.

Our rooms were fascinating. The 25 of us  were assigned to one of three different buildings that had the same owner. One group was in the main building and another, in a building down the street.   Nick and I were  assigned to a room that was up four flights of stairs in a tower. Nick loved the room. As for me, it wasn’t my favorite.

Most of us met at 7 PM for an orientation walk. Afterwards, we tried to find a place to have dinner, but we gave up and opted for gelato instead. I chose  cherry and lemon, while Nick ordered chocolate and orange. Sallie from our group wandered into the gelateria, and we enjoyed chatting with her.  We walked back toward our tower, but we got lost amid the long, winding roads. Group members Martha and Tom came along, and we walked together for awhile. They wanted to continue exploring, but  we opted to try to find our tower. Eventually, Sallie caught up to us accompanied by Joyce and Rollin. Each of us tried to remember various landmarks along the way, and eventually we reached their building. Our tower was not far away.  We just had to climb the four flight of steps to get inside!

We walked 12,337 steps and climbed the equivalent of 53 flights of steps.