Well, we got a spoonful of Italy and a spoonful of misery on this excursion. Lesson of the trip: make lunch reservations on a Sunday afternoon in Italy!
But let’s start at the beginning. As Lent approaches, ’tis the season of carnevale in Italy, and the most beautiful carnival in Sicily takes place just about 30 minutes away from us. We decided to go see the fantastical floats and throw some confetti this past weekend in Acireale (pronounced “ah-chee-ray-ALL-ay).
The floats were amazing. Historically, artists craft them from papier-mâché and make some into caricatures of political figures or financial crises, thus bringing the spirit of carnival to even the most serious issues.
Lena completely freaked out and started screaming at the first float she saw, leading me to believe that our excursion might be over before it even began! Thankfully some parental encouragement changed her opinion of the technicolor characters coming towards her, and pretty soon she was just as awed and delighted as we’d hoped.
We walked into the main piazza of Acireale, where a blanket of confetti covered the cobblestones. Elliott unbuckled the kids from the stroller and set them right down in the middle of it, and they had the time of their lives!
Lena quickly got into confetti-throwing wars with other kids. Guess we missed the memo about putting our kids in costumes!
Finally we packed up and started walking down towards a little fishing village that I had read about in our guidebook. The tiny town of Santa Maria la Scala, the guidebook said, boasted several quaint trattorias that served a delicious seafood lunch. We could pretty much live on seafood, and the hike down to the town sounded simple and beautiful, so off we went.
The hike down was beautiful! But it was a bit longer — and a little harder with a heavy double stroller — than we expected. When we arrived, we started looking for a restaurant along the town’s meandering main street.
Unfortunately, every single restaurant was completely packed. Whenever I caught the eye of a harried waiter, he would ask me if I had a reservation or tell us we’d have to wait 30 minutes. When we looped back after inquiring at every restaurant we could find, the still more frazzled maitre d’s now informed us that it was too late. The restaurants had sold their food, it was now two o’clock, and they were closing.
We sat on a park bench in stunned silence. No food? It was two in the afternoon. We were starving. That hill back up to Acireale was enormous, and it would take us almost an hour of sweat and whining children to reach the top again. Sadly, we unpacked the snacks I’d brought — a meager lunch indeed — and then turned our stroller wheels back to the cobblestone pathway up the cliff.
Elliott heroically pushed that stroller all the way back to our car.
What an end to the day! I did manage to smile about it with Elliott a few days later — “will you ever trust me to plan an excursion again?!” — but I think it will take awhile before we can really laugh about it. So much for excessive eating and bacchanal drinking for our carnevale! More like an early taste of Lent! Thank you to my family for being such troopers, and I promise I’ll make a reservation next time… even for lunch in a tiny seaside village.