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Day 6: Naro to Enna via Villa Romana del Casale

We were woken up at 07.30 this morning by the bells of the church outside our apartment ringing rather loudly! The price of our room included breakfast, which had been arranged for 9am. Promptly at 9, our hosts arrived with a tray for us.


We had a big croissant each, plus some sugary little pastries which are a local speciality, and more coffee than we could drink :) 


After breakfast, the lady who owned the apartment had promised to give us a tour of Naro. Although it was only about 09.30, it was already extremely hot when we stepped outside.


We started with the church just opposite where we were staying.


This was the Chiesa di Maria Santissima Annunziata and it was really beautiful inside.


It had a really old baptismal font, I think from the fifteenth century. Our guide Francesca was speaking in Italian with Tim translating for me and there were a lot of dates, so I may not have them all right. The font had previously been in another older church before it was brought here.


Once we'd finished admiring this church, we stepped outside into the sunshine again.


We passed this balcony, which has four masks carved on it, looking in different directions to ward off evil spirits.


We walked down from there to a second church, which Francesca had the keys for to let us in.


This was the Chiesa di Santa Caterina. It's normally only opened for weddings, so we were really lucky to be able to see inside :) 


There were some beautiful scraps of frescoes on the walls here. Apparently the entire church had originally been covered in them, but that style of decoration went out of fashion and at some point the church was white-washed.  Years later, people have scraped the white paint away in the hope of finding frescoes underneath.


The church was also home to a chair which Pope John Paul II had sat on when he visited Sicily.


The third church we visited was the Chiesa di San Francesco. The church is situated in a square called Piazza Garibaldi, but apparently the locals aren't too keen on Garibaldi (because they would have preferred to keep their independence rather than be unified into Italy), so locally they refer to the square as San Francesco rather than Garibaldi.


Although we have seen a lot of baroque buildings on this holiday, this church is very special because - unlike most of the other towns we have visited - Naro wasn't destroyed by the big Sicilian earthquake in 1693. Whereas most of the other churches we have seen were designed and rebuilt after that date, this church was built before then and survived. This means it is older than all the baroque architecture we saw in Noto earlier this week.


It was really stunning inside.


The most exciting part of the visit was that Francesca had keys to the sacristy and opened it up for us.


It was very grand, with the most amazing paintings on the ceiling...


...and lots of intricate wood carvings around the walls.


It was such a fascinating tour and we learned so many things that we definitely wouldn't have done without the benefit of a local guide :) There was more that we could have seen in Naro too; we didn't have time to visit the castle, for example.  That means we'll have to come back one day and stay at Casa nel Barocco again. We couldn't have hoped for more helpful hosts; when it was time for us to leave, Francesca's husband even volunteered to drive ahead of us and show us the best route out of town to the main road. We would have been completely lost without that, because some of the roads in Naro were closed today for a market.

Our ultimate destination for today was a town called Enna, but on the way we wanted to stop off and see some mosaics outside a place called Piazza Armerina. There was about an hour or so to drive from Naro, but as we progressed through the hilly Sicilian countryside we realised that there was a problem with the rental car. Ever since we picked it up, an intermittent warning had been flashing up about us needing more of something called "AdBlue". Tim realised while driving today that the warning was actually a countdown, telling us how many more kilometres we could drive before our lack of "AdBlue" meant we would no longer be able to accelerate.

Neither of us had any idea what AdBlue might be, so when we next passed a petrol station Tim decided to pull in. Our rental car runs on diesel, and the people in the petrol station (who thankfully knew what AdBlue was!) explained that it's some sort of fluid which needs to be poured into diesel cars. Having now googled it, it seems to be some sort of diesel exhaust fluid. Luckily they managed to find some and poured litres of it into the car, after which the error message went away and we were able to continue our journey. We had to pay €13 for it though, which we'll be taking up with the rental company when we return the car, because according to the car instruction manual (which we had some fun reading while we tried to figure out what the error message meant!) the warning about AdBlue first appears when you've got 2,400 kilometres left to drive, and then when you've only got 1,000 kilometres to go it pops up every 20 kilometres, which is what was happening to us. We'd only driven about 400 kilometres on this trip so far, so the notification had clearly been showing for ages and the rental company should have sorted it out before giving us the car.

Anyway, with that problem solved we continued towards the mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale.


Villa Romana del Casale is fourth century villa, with one of the largest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. We parked, bought our entrance tickets for €10, and then made our way along signposted paths towards the mosaics.


As we got closer to the entrance to the villa, there were some beautiful pink flowers :) 


We passed through the entrance gate...


...where we could see the remains of some frescoes...


...and then we were inside, getting a glimpse of our first mosaic.


We followed a series of constructed walkways, from where we could look down towards the mosaics.


Sometimes the walkways were constructed in a way which meant we were looking at the mosaics from slightly odd angles, but they were still really impressive.


I thought there would be a few mosaics here but I was completely unprepared by how many there were!


Some had geometric patterns...


...while others depicted really elaborate scenes with people.


Some of the larger mosaics depicted hunting and, specifically, the capture of exotic animals to bring back to Rome.


In this scene I think the animals have been caught and are being loaded onto the boat.


It was fun trying to work out what the animals were. This one was definitely an elephant...


...and I think this one may have been a rhino.


Another of the most famous mosaics is the so-called "bikini mosiac".


This one depicts a number of scantily-clad women engaging in various sports, like throwing the discus... and something which looks remarkably like beach volleyball xD


I think the encounters with wild animals were probably more exciting :) 


There was so much detail! Though sometimes it was hard to work out exactly what they were showing. A carriage drawn by pigeons?


This mosaic was showing an aquatic scene...


...and I was rather excited when I spotted a mosaic duck :D 


There was so much to see, we could really have spent all day looking at mosaics.


The reason there are so many and they are so well-preserved is that the site was covered by a landslide in the 12th century and only rediscovered again in the nineteenth century.


I think any other mosaics we go to see are going to be a disappointment after these!


It was late afternoon by this point, so eventually we headed back to the car to find somewhere to get lunch.


We'd passed a restaurant not far away from the entrance to the mosaics so we headed back there. It was a lovely location to sit outside and eat :) 


We both had a dish of tagliatelle ragu with some of pork in it. The sauce was really tasty and it was a nice big portion :) 


From there it wasn't far to get to Enna. We were supposed to be staying in a B&B near the centre, but I'd had a message from the owner a couple of days ago saying that due to a technical problem she was going to have to relocate us to a different B&B that she owned. We didn't have a lot of choice in the matter, so said okay, but we weren't quite sure what we were going to find when we got there. We also weren't sure where we were going to be able to park. Enna is a hill town and we ended up having a bit of a nightmare, with Google maps trying to direct us up some very steep and narrow streets, which ultimately proved to be too narrow for our car. Some rather stressful reversing later, we found some flat ground to park the car on and climbed up the hill on foot!

When we eventually arrived, the room turned out to be really nice and spacious :) 


The lady explained that there was a problem with the plumbing at the other property, hence the change. She was slightly horrified at the way we'd tried to get here, as apparently there's a big wide road we should have taken. I guess Google Maps must have decided that the steep and narrow way was shorter :( We were rather hot and bothered after our exertions, so decided to sit in the air con and do the blog, saving our exploration of Enna for tomorrow!

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