A stay at Silvia Sillitti’s home is a unique experience. You are given the opportunity to stay in a very nice apartment in a beautiful house on a very nice property, but Silvia also makes you feel as though you are an invited guest to her home. There is a wonderful large glassed-in room that serves as the breakfast and dinner area but which also serves as their dining room / living room. You are invited to go into that room anytime, and likely you will run into Silvia or her daughter or one of the helpers at any time, either there or anywhere else on their property. You feel like you are living there. And Silvia and her husband Bruno are a very special couple indeed.
Silvia owns the farm where the principal crop is wheat (at least according to my untrained eye), but where clover also is grown, and then there are the olive trees and such. The house sits on a hill with a large deck (for our use and theirs) overlooking half the property (the other half is seen from the pool on the other side of the house). You cannot ask for a nicer place to take your evening ‘passeggiata’. You either can walk within the property or slip out the gated driveway and walk along a small road used only by those who farm in the area. It is a very scenic walk at sunset.
Unless you are traveling with small children, I recommend taking up Silvia on her offer for dinner. Silvia will be dining with you, and usually, Bruno is there as well. Both are serious professionals during the day (Silvia runs this farm which is no small task), and Bruno is in a professional job, but both turn into gracious hosts in the evening. Eating a nice meal in their company, and in the company of the other guests around the family table, makes for very pleasant evenings. Bruno is about as gracious a man as you will meet in Sicilia, and Silvia is the perfect host. Besides getting some travel tips, you also will learn a little about everyday life in Sicily.
Many guests use the farm as a base from which to visit some major sights. They are right off SS122: about an hour West is Agrigento, and about an hour East is the Roman Villa near Piazza Armerina. What I think is less appreciated is the opportunity to experience history right on the farm. The province of Caltanissetta has been producing wheat since antiquity. Central Sicily supplied most of the wheat consumed throughout the Roman Empire and, indeed, Rome took Sicily because it already was a prodigious wheat producing region.
So, in the springtime before the wheat is harvested (it is a winter crop here), go out onto the large deck at Silvia’s: Look out at the sea of beautiful green wheat that covers the rolling hills before your eyes. Imagine thousands of slaves working those fields during Roman times, and think about the lives that were lived right here on this land producing essentially the same crop that you see before you. Thousands of émigrés to the Americas were peasants working these very fields at the end of the 19th century before they left on ships never to return.
I took one of my most memorable drives from Silvia’s farm. Using only back roads, I drove to Serradifalco and then directly north to Villalba then Marianopoli then to Santa Cristina then Resuttano and Alimena (on the Alimena road, you can find the remains of an Arab castle, and also used by the Normans in the middle ages – I promise: you will be the only ones there). What a drive: the roads seemingly were for me alone to use. The rolling hills (think Vermont) covered with green velvet dazzled the eyes. The Madonie mountains to the north are ever present. The abandoned farm buildings dotting the landscape haunt you with thoughts about life that once happened there. The presence of history is everywhere. What a gorgeous land this is in the springtime.
Stop in any of the small towns you encounter in this region. No women are seen – except on balconies hanging their laundry or just outside their flats sweeping the dust away, or buying produce from the old truck that travels up and down the little streets to their front doors. Men only are found in public mostly hanging around at the local coffee shops/ bars chatting away. Everyone notices that there is a ‘forestiero’ walking around their town. They are puzzled and suspicious at the same time. This is how Sicily used to be.
So, take my advice. Go to Sicily. Stay at Silvia’s farm. See the major sights if you must. But if you are there in the Springtime, be sure and take some time to see the glorious beauty of the land that surrounds you, and to appreciate the history that happened here. You can go to a 100 B&B’s and inns to try and duplicate the experience you will have at Silvia Sillitti’s farm and home, but you will never succeed. A memorable stay, to say the least.
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