We then trekked a few kilometers to the nearby train station to pick up the car I had reserved. In typical Sicilian style, my reservation that I had made 4 weeks previously failed to procure us a car. After an hour of negotiating and explaining and despairing in Italian at the, admittedly friendly, rental car agents, we got a small Fiat for triple the original price and piled in it with all of our things. Brave Lorelei was our intrepid driver and managed to keep us alive while driving out of Palermo to nearby Mondello, where we were to sleep in Fabrizia's beach house. In Palermo, there is no such thing as driving lanes, stop lights, or any type of driving rules. It's a paradoxically polite game of survival of the fittest, honking, and nudging, through roads designed in the 13th century. But she did brilliantly.
We then had a wonderful dinner in Mondello, hosted by Costanza, for us and all over family (her grandmother, her mother, her mother's partner, her boyfriend, Fabrizia's father, and her priest friend, Vito). In occasions like this, when Costanza, Fabrizia, and their family are overwhelming gentile and welcoming to me and my friends, I am struck by the hospitality of Sicily. You hear this stereotype about Italians, but until you are the recipient of such generosity, it doesn't hit home. Costanza whipped up a wonderful risotto, after a round of cheeses and meats and olives and Tasca wine, and followed by sausages and chicken grilled in their large fire place (and more wine, of course...). Theresa, the historian, was particularly charmed by Fabrizia's father, a man from a past era, whose family on both sides are related to seemingly every aristocratic family in Europe. He is a Marquess, though his paternal family were once the princes of Sicily, and his maternal family are Spanish aristocrats (his grandmother was a patron of Picasso, no less). With such breeding a person could be despicably stuck up, but he is delightful-- a wonderful raconteur of tales and history. And a great fan of drinking only wine and no water. Before wishing us goodnight, he asked us (teasing, of course) if we had enough alcohol for the next day's breakfast.
The next day, the 23rd, Etna exploded in one of her most dramatic displays of billowing ash in years... Poor Lorelei. I'd say it was bad luck, but I'm not sure if I want to go so far as to say that being in the vicinity of an erupting volcano is good luck.
But then again, Sicilians love their muntagna.