Before we leave the forest of Quisquina, we sit in the car, air-conditioning cranked to full, and drink the now warm water that we brought with us. The peaches are warm too, but the warmth brings out the sweetness and the flavour. When I close my eyes the peaches seem to taste of the tan and orange hills that are ubiquitous throughout this part of Sicily. Having forgotten to bring a knife, we bite into the cucumber and pass it back and forth.
Even though the cucumber has been sitting in the warm car, it still tastes of the cool earth and freshens our mouths after the sweetness of the peaches. We reluctantly leave the pine forest and drive the two or three minutes into the town of Santo Stefano. We need to make one more stop before heading home. Gelato. We stop at a little sports bar. These bars, besides selling beer, wine and a variety of hard liquor, also sell panini, pizza, and the beautiful thing that is gelato. Nick gets his gelato in a cup but I ask for mine in a brioche. What a wonderful idea to take the sweet freshness that is gelato or granita (sherbet), slicing open a sweet bun and scooping it in. This is heaven. We sit watching formula one car-racing coming from Germany on the bar’s television. This is the first television we have seen in a week and, while I enjoy it while we delight in our gelato, I am not reluctant to leave it behind when we leave the bar.
By the time we return home it is 1:00 pm. The streets are virtually empty and the shops are all closed. It is the beginning of the hottest part of a very hot day – the sign above the farmacia says that the temperature has hit 37°. Not the hottest day we have encountered but today there is no breeze on the now quiet street making it feel like the hottest. Time to nap. In her book, Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes says that these few hours – approximately 1:00 – 4:00 – are prime time for television, and the hours when most babies are conceived. It is also when many people nap and Nick and I, every day, make use of this time to sleep through the worst of the heat.
Nick and I wake at 3:00 to the sound of the clock tower. It is still hot and we are sticky from the sweat in our sleep. We had heard that there were two swimming pools in town and one we passed one our initial drive into town. A swim seems like a perfect idea. Back into the car with the air-conditioning on full, we drive about 4 minutes to the turn off marked by a small sign demurely saying “Summer Pool Club”. We follow the bouncy dirt road until we reach a parking lot much less demurely decorated with large flags from many countries. No Canadian flag. We determine that when we return next summer, we will have to correct that deficit. A wall of green fabric surrounds the pool. We poke our heads over the cloth to see a beautiful, clean pool surrounded by deck chairs, tables and umbrellas. To the side is a bar. On the far side, the forever amazing views of the mountains and valleys created a beautiful backdrop. This doesn’t just look like a pool – this is a resort.
For a mere 3 euros each we enter the pool, change, shower, and done the requisite bathing caps (you can purchase them there for 1 euro) and jump into the pool. It is perfect balance between warm and cool and we gratefully feel the warmth of the day drift away from our bodies. We are the only ones at the pool other than an inordinately attractive pair of lifeguards. Is this Baywatch, Sicilian-style? We ask the female guard why there is no one else there. She flashes a brilliant smile and shrugs. “It is the wind, and maybe a storm is coming.” She waves in the direction of the clouds that are gathering in a corner of the sky. She is right about the wind. It has picked up and our umbrella is shaking, edge flipping up and down above us. The wind is perfect – keeping us cool as it evaporates the water from our bodies. I walk up to the bar and order a limonata, a refreshing lime drink, to share with Nick. I comment on the lifeguard/bar keep’s tattoo – an interesting Asian design with a date underneath. In a mixture of Italian and English he introduces himself as Robert Clark: he is so ultimately Sicilian looking and sounding that his name seems truly out of place, but I don’t feel like I should ask. He explains that he runs the town’s Bushido School (we have seen the signs as we have walked through Cianciana) and was World Jiu-jitsu champion on the date beneath his tattoo. I am suitably impressed and congratulate him. It certainly explains his god-like physique.
Nick and I lay in the sun for a lovely, relaxing hour with the pleasant sound of the flapping of the umbrella and the occasional shadow drifting past as clouds slowly continue to gather in the mountains lulling us to sleep. The female lifeguard has left, returned with her 8-year-old daughter (my god! How could that figure have produced a child?) and then left again. Two other men have joined Robert Clark and the three sit at a table, sipping from cold bottles of beer and playing cards. Not one other patron has entered the pool. This is a perfect afternoon.