Sunday, 14 February 2016

Sunday in Sciacca

Sunday 14th February, 2016

We should know better than to trust the sat-nav to guide us through an Italian town towards an overnight parking place. Since the place listed in 'Camperstops' was located at the port I figured that vans and trucks would need to go there, so surely Muriel would not fail us. Well, we got there in the end after the usual squeeze through parked cars and  becoming trapped in a cul-de-sac and having to reverse out. The parking place on the quayside was huge and we joined a dozen or so other motorhomes, mostly Italian.

Spot the motorhome
We had assumed that the events associated with Sciacca's famous carnival would have ended by now as the main parade featuring giant paper mâché figures had taken place last Tuesday. However, when we took a stroll into town the pop-up food stalls were still there and a stage set-up in the square high above the harbour, so maybe there were events still happening. That would explain the number of vans in the Camperstop.

Sciacca is an ancient port which today harbours a large tuna fishing fleet. As you might imagine the place is somewhat characterful. It is split between the lower town, traditionally the fisherman's district, and what was originally a fortified town on the cliffs above. In the 18th and 19th centuries Sciacca was infamous for a series of long running vendettas between the two parts of the town with frequent stabbings, abductions and general mayhem. I was going to say things are much more peaceful now, which is true in-so-much as the place is no longer violent, but it's certainly not peaceful in the sense of being quiet.

The lower town from the upper
Spot the motorhome
The upper town from the lowerr

16th century gateway
The afternoon rumpus on the quayside was caused by a mixture of normal Italian family shenanigans, shouted conversation, a who-can-play-the-radio-loudest competition and a few guys taking turns on a miniature scooter. The simple laws of physics should have told them that something 18 inches in height with 9 inch wheels is never going to manage a wheelie with a 14 stone bloke perched precariously aboard. It did not stop these guys trying, greeting each failure with much whooping and shrieking, and use of the scooter's high-pitched squeaky horn. A little further up the quayside two extended families had parked their small caravans and were preparing to have a BBQ while their kids whizzed about on bikes demonstrating to the mini-scooter youths just how a proper wheelie should be performed.

Italy's early evening passiagata is well known. Less famous is  its Sunday afternoon automotive equivalent. This involves all the young-gun owners of customised hot hatches gathering at an agreed stretch of Tarmac then driving back and forth revving loudly, preferably blasting out moronic Ibiza Trance from gigantic supercharged woofers. This afternoon their preferred Tarmac arena seemed to stretch fifty feet in all directions from where we were parked. 

After an hour or so of enjoying the local colour we gave up and set off to look at  Sciacca. It was interesting rather than beautiful. Steps lead up from the port to the main town above. They are tiled with scenes of fish and farming, reflecting perhaps ancient rivalries. Their folksy style and droll depiction of everyday life reminded me of the mosaics at Villa Casale. This must be a coincidental resemblance, to think that there would be a stylistic link stretching back 1700 years is fanciful really.

Tiled steps connecting the port to the upper town

Amazing tiles on the steps - if you care to glance down.



Mermaids...

lions and lobsters 
We returned to the van, for a while it was a little more peaceful. Then the town stage sound system screeched into life. Though it must be half a kilometre distant it still seemed very loud. About three hours ago they started with a band, now they've moved on to bog standard Euro-pop disco. It's 9.30pm now, it remains to be seen how long the party is going to last. In the meantime, we've eaten, washed-up, discovered that the leisure batteries do seem to be on the way out. This means we will have to move to a campsite with ECU tomorrow, hopefully stopping off at the temples at Selunte on the way.

The thing about living in a motorhome is that life is never wholly predictable, especially in Italy. The country is engaging, fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, but it's hardly relaxing. Gill commented as we ate, "Sometimes I think about sitting quietly in a field in France in the sunshine with the awning out." I knew what she meant.

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