Friday, March 18, 2011

The first encounter

As the plane began its final approach, Sicily beckoned below with rosy hills lit by the sinking sun. The landscape was more mountainous than we had imagined, with rolling hills and endless rows of olive trees. The small airport was clean and our arrival was handled surprisingly smoothly. The arrivals hall gave us our first glimpse of the Italy we were expecting; a buzzing meeting place full of people hugging, kissing, laughing, talking on the phone and embracing each other in loud “Benvenutti!” My father-in-law was quietly waiting for us after taking a heroic car-trip through the whole of Europe. His first observation was about how different Italians are to the British – both in their cars and in arrivals halls.

The car journey to our new Italian home started on bumpy motorways which turned into bumpier side roads and later into serpentine country roads climbing into the Sicilian hills. We finally pulled up to the house around eight O’clock, making it something of a frenzy getting the little one her dinner, preparing all the beds, unpacking the essentials from our suitcases, putting together a quick meal for us, all whilst trying to get a fire started.

A fire was essential, because the house was freezing! I can’t even remember the last time we felt so cold indoors. Luckily we came prepared - so it was on with the warm jumpers and on with the ancient electric heaters. As the night wore on a large storm brewed outside, and in the battle between gale-force winds and tiny heaters, unfortunately there is only ever going to be one winner.

The next morning we awoke to shutters clattering against windows, as the storm continued to rage outside. Everyone put on a brave face and the forced smiles turned to real ones after our first hot cup of tea and a (not very Italian) porridge breakfast. Opening the blinds gave us our first view of the surroundings – seemingly endless undulating olive tree hills as far as the eye could see. As soon as the rain stops coming in sideways and the dark grey sky gives way to blue, I’m sure it’s going to look beautiful.

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