Ann and I just got back from 2 weeks in Italy on a tour organized and led by Stephanie Chance. It has been our dream to visit Italy for years, including the Amalfi coast. This was a tour of southern Italy and the island of Sicily, so there was much left for the next time we go (including Venice and Tuscany). It began with 34 hours of flying and layovers, followed immediately by a bus ride and a huge meal with wine at an old convent converted to a modest hotel on the outskirts of Erice. The village itself is a walled medieval town perched on a mountaintop 2400 feet above the Mediterranean in Northwest Sicily.
The following day we explored the town of Erice itself, still largely enclosed within its old stone walls, so high up that it sometimes sits atop the clouds.
Maria Grammatico’s mother could not afford to feed her children and sent her daughter to the local convent, where she learned the art of making marzipan from the nuns, who eventually told her she was too old to stay and put her out on the street. She began to make her own marzipan in town and the nuns grew hostile. Today Maria is famous and the convent is no longer a convent. Got to love a happy ending! You can read more here. And even more in the book, Bitter Almonds.