San Giovanni Vecchio, Calatafimi Segesta
Escape the coast, head for the hills, keep an eye out for the Greek temple of Segesta. Then you reach a pot-holed road that buckles through vineyards, citrus groves and rough fields where sheep graze with their ringing bells; this is an ancient landscape. This hilly landscape has hardly changed over the centuries and retains its ancient agricultural nature. Rows of olive groves and vineyards are briefly interspersed by fruit orchards. Where the land is flatter, the cultivation of wheat takes over vast expanses of treeless land where from a distance sheep grazing look like a scattering of white rocks. San Giovanni Vecchio is in the heart of the hills of the Trapani countryside, in western Sicily, 3 Km from the town of Calatafimi and strategically located near several centres of cultural and natural interest. This sprawling stone farmhouse, its land and its rose-strewn garden have been in the family for generations. Lovingly restored stone by stone, it’s surrounded by 4 hectares of land partly dedicated to the cultivation of fruits such as citrus, olives, figs, prickly pears, plums, persimmons, medlars and many more as well as roses and tropical plants. The rest of the land is left untouched: olive and almond trees grow on the rolling gypsum rocks that emerge from the sloping ground. It’s a spacious, secluded and unspoiled rural retreat. A car is necessary! You will need a practical car (a normal saloon car is more than adequate), which can take the local country roads: often very windy, some are not tarmacked and/or quite potholed. Here are just a few sites reachable within a leisurely one hour’s drive: Segesta, Castellammare, Scopello, Salemi, Lo Zingaro nature reserve, San Vito Lo Capo, the archeological park of Selinunte and the Cave di Cusa ( where the temple columns where carved out of the land), the remains of Phenician Mozia (Mothya), The Stagnone nature reserve, Marsala, the Dancing Satire of Mazara del Vallo, The medieval town of Erice, Trapani and the Egadi Islands, Palermo and The famous Arab-Norman mosaics of Monreale. To give you an idea of distances, Palermo is roughly 80Km from Calatafimi and Trapani 40Km. The local Town of Calatafimi, counts just fewer than 6,000 inhabitants and is very good for stocking up on local provisions, offering a good choice of local food shops such as butchers, bakers, green grocers as well as small supermarkets and, for those of you with a sweet tooth, typical Sicilian cake shops “pasticcerie” and ice cream shops “gelaterie”. It is famous in Italy for being “the theatre of Garibaldi’s first victory in over the Bourbons troops of Naples in 1860 on his triumphant march to forge the Unification of Italy”.