Our first full day in Italy was a treat. We were still a little unsettled about our plans for Sicily when we woke up. Marsala is famous for a type of fortified wine and while I was sleeping Ton found a place where we could have a tour. So while I was making coffee she proposed we spend the day here and take the tour. The winery was too far away to walk to, and it required reservations so we had to find out if we could get in and arrange for a taxi to take us there. I went up to the office and asked if they could arrange a taxi, and call the winery for us as we do not have a sim card for Italy in our phone. The owner of the campground said he would take us and the winery could accommodate us at 10am. Since it was already 9:15, I ran back to tell Ton to get ready as we needed to leave in 20 minutes. Giacomo the owner of the campground ran off to change into better clothes and also to quickly give the van from the campground a wash. We arrived at Florio winery with 10 minutes to spare.
Florio Winery was founded in the early 1800’s to produce Marsala. It was the first Marsala Wine producer to be owned by Italians as prior to that the fortified wine industry in Marsala was dominated by English. The Florio family went on to become quite a conglomerate including wine, shipping, agriculture, and light industry. At one time they were by far the richest family on Sicily. They also made their mark by providing some of the original assistance to Garibaldi as he began his campaign to unite Italy into one country. Like many family dynasties the first generation makes all of the money, the second generation maintains the fortune, and the third generation squanders it all. The third generation of the Florio’s ended up selling off the winery to raise cash to pay for their extravagant lifestyle.
After we completed the wine tasting we followed the harbor to the old town. Things are scruffier in Sicily, but very charming. We enjoyed walking around town looking at the sites when we realized that our breakfast had been fortified wine. We found a nice restaurant near Garibaldi square. The food was outstanding, and the service was really outstanding. The waiter was a young guy who may have been the son of the owner, and if not acted like he was. At the end we asked for coffee and when we commented on how much we liked it he lit up and told us it was a local coffee and talked us thru the beans and roasting process with great passion.
We arranged for Giacomo to pick us up at a local grocery store. After delivering us to François I saw him sitting in a chair near the office having a beer and struck up a conversation. It turns out between driving us to town and picking us up he had spent the day harvesting the olives from the trees around the campground. Talking to him it turns out he had retired from the Italian Army after 20 years and returned home to Marsala to open the campground on part of his fathers farm. He took us around the campground showing us the different plants and herbs he had planted around the campground. It was a treat to spend some time with him.