As Alison pointed out, the garden is closer to Tunis than Rome. They don’t experience frosts, but plants do suffer from wind burn, particularly during a sirocco – something we were soon to understand. We enjoyed the wonderful palette of healthy Mediterranean plants throughout the garden but one in particular created a lot of interest. It was a plectranthus, given to Alison as a cutting by a friend in South Africa.
After the most perfect lunch, we drove to the coast to catch a ferry to the ancient Phoenician settlement of Mozia, on the island of San Pantaleo. Mozia was one of the three Phoenician bases in Sicily and was settled during the 8th century BC. It wasn’t excavated until Joseph Whitaker bought it in the 19th century and started to dig it up.
By the time we arrived at Mozia the sirocco had really picked up. Some of us managed to walk around the island, at times bent double against the wind. Others found it far too debilitating. Whether we walked or not, we ended the day with a clear understanding of the threat these strong, hot winds pose to Sicilian gardens.
Almost equally memorable was the miracle of the lost mobile phone. It was remarkable, particularly given the weather, that a member’s phone was found and handed in at the Mozia museum just as the ferry man sounded his horn to tell us we had to leave the island.
Sunday 14 May
Our last day in Sicily. After a drizzly start, the sun shone. Selinunte lies on the coast and is the site of the Greek city of Selinus. The city reached its peak in 5 BC and was subsequently destroyed by earthquakes. Most of its temples still lie where they fell. Unlike many UK ancient monuments, the land around them is not manicured. The combination of a Sicilian ‘no mow May,’ spectacular remains, and a sunny morning was memorable.