At pie-ah-zah dust-mote, turn right. My travelling companion and I look at each other and fall about laughing. Where?! The Italian pronunciation on the sat-nav is – to put it mildly – appalling. Still, it’s keeping us entertained, and we haven’t even got out of the city yet. That’s another story, though. Where the hell is she taking us? My history of driving in this city is shady at best – the one time I did it I ended up in the worst area of town getting robbed – but my sense of direction is better than the sat-nav’s, apparently. She’s taking us south to go north, and she’s completely lost our destination. I try punching it in again. Palazzo Amerina, right? Maryann glances over. Oh! No! *Piazza*, not Palazzo. I type it in again. The sat-nav still doesn’t recognise it. I’m gonna kill that bitch! exclaims Maryann cheerfully. She found it earlier, so what’s her problem now? We reach a junction. I make an executive decision. Follow the signs to Enna. At least then we’re going in the right sort of direction and we can work out the details further along. Maryann swings the wheel and off we go.
Ten minutes later we’re in open countryside. The sun’s blazing down, and the road is empty. Are those lemons? asks Maryann. I look to left and right. Yep, they most certainly are. After three years in southern Italy it still surprises me that they just *grow* here, and it seems that New Yorker Maryann is just as bowled over. The trees are covered in yellow fruit, crowding outwards between bright green leaves. If only I had a lemon tree, I’d be swimming in limoncello right now. And the greyish ones are olives, right? Right. It’s beautiful out here. I’m glad we ignored the bitch and didn’t go on the highway, says Maryann, as she settles into her seat and adjusts her sunglasses. So am I, although I wish I’d remembered to get my sunglasses out of my bag before I put it in the boot. Never mind. I pull the sun visor down and go back to reprogramming the sat-nav. At least I’ve succeeded in turning her down. Now to see if I can make her speak Italian properly. I scroll through the list. There are three choices for English speakers. This one’s name is Serena. Below her is Daniel, who sounds more interesting than plain old generic ‘English’, which is the third option. Let’s give him a try, shall we? Bye bye Serena – there’s a new voice in town.
Daniel proves just as useless at finding our destination, but at least his voice is a little more bearable than Serena’s. His pronunciation is equally bad, however, with the added quirk of being unable to say the ‘e’ at the end of words. It descends into a guttural computer-y buzz, rather like a burping electronic frog. This entertains us for the whole of the weekend. Little things, and all that.
We reach a junction and finally there’s a sign to our destination. I look at it and the penny drops. Piazza AR-merina, not A-merina. I’ve been typing the wrong name into the sat-nav. Serena and Daniel, all is forgiven. Well, maybe not all, but at least a little.
The road starts to climb. The lemon and olive trees disappear and are replaced by open grassy spaces and wildflowers. It’s a different kind of landscape to the low country around Catania, but no less stunning. That does it! says Maryann. I’m gonna have to take a picture of this. She swings onto a farm track and opens her door. Hot air blasts in, overpowering the air-con and bringing with it a smell of dust and dry grass and sunshine. Finally I can retrieve my sunglasses from the boot, and I grab my camera at the same time. We’re at the top of a mountain, looking across a valley. It’s still early enough in the year that the grass is green, rather than brown, and it’s dotted with yellow and red flowers. It’s gorgeous. At the far side of the valley there are wind turbines, breaking up the green. From here they look so small. And they are, in comparison to the mountains themselves, which roll and climb all around us, as far as the eye can see. I take a photo, knowing that it won’t come anywhere near doing justice to this view. Sure enough, when I glance at the screen, it’s rubbish. I take a long look and commit everything to memory instead, then climb back into the car to continue our journey. Piazza Armerina, here we come.
Image by Chotda (Creative Commons)