Welcome to the insane asylum. That is the only way to describe Casale Poggio del tiglio – Catania 4584, an agritourism accommodation at the base of Mt. Etna. Before I get into the horror story that was my stay, let me tell you how I got here.
Instead of staying at the Four Points Catania (where I was treated like a person), I thought it would be great to stay at a family run estate as I toured the vineyards of Mt. Etna. This would provide an authentic experience and an opportunity for home-cooked meals.
I went on Agriturismo.net and randomly picked Casale Poggio del tiglio. At 85 euros a night, it seemed like a good deal. It was anything but. The Panda followed Google Maps’ directions to the ranch, but the map directed us to the back of the property. The owner was annoyed that we had come to her back gate and her son gave us directions on how to reach the front. Since we had already gotten lost the first time, I thought it odd that the son didn’t just come with us and show us the right way. After a few u-turns, we found our way to the main entrance. Instead of welcoming us, we were told that we parked the car in the wrong spot and that we would have to move it.
From there, we were shown to our sleeping quarters. The website said there would be Internet but there was not. I may have come for a retreat but my clients do not care for my relaxation. I need to remain accessible.
Here are pictures of the room:
Don’t let the pictures fool you. This is an insane asylum with unfriendly dogs.
The Dinner Reservation
After we settled in, we decided to hit the road for the wine tour. Unfortunately, our hosts had no winery recommendations. All we were given was a list of over 50 winery names. Before leaving, I asked about dinner and was told that it would be at 8PM. I said put us down for two.
As I have already written in a previous post, we were pulled over by the Italian police and had issues at the toll booth on our way back to the asylum. After the toll both, Google Maps was malfunctioning and we got lost again. We arrived just before 9PM and were mad that we missed dinner until we heard the voices of foreigners in the dining room.
I approached the screen door and tried to go inside. It was stuck. I implored the French people staying at the ranch to open it. They ignored me. I looked at the British couple whose eyes warned me to run away. I did not. Fumbling more with the door, I managed to open it.
Moments later, the owner of the ranch, “madame,” as she was called, came out with her cook (here forward known as “orderly”). She yelled at us while he translated. She was nothing short of pissed off that we did not come to dinner on time. I tried to explain by doing the ‘police siren noise’ while motioning with my hands. She didn’t care. Finally, I asked if we could eat. She relented and said yes.
The cook/orderly was not part of the family. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t Italian. Still, he had the same air of indignation. He actually told me that he was doing me a favor by letting me eat this late and that I owed him. I’m not sure if he wanted money or how he wanted me to express my gratitude. He brought out the appetizers. They were disgusting. Moments later, he came back with the second dish. It was a bowl of pasta that is truly an insult to Italian cuisine and to The Olive Garden Times Square. After that was some meat that was bland and overcooked.
We chatted with the British couple who told us of their own harrowing experience in the asylum. Both of them were bitten by the owners’ dog who wanders around without a leash. Just as we were starting to have some laughs, the cook returned to tell us that our car was illegally parked. The place we were supposed to park was full so we parked it right next to that spot. After moving the car, we tried to enjoy ourselves but angry madame returned to announce that it was lights out. The orderly took our plates and sent us to bed.
After a night of oppressive heat, we woke up bright and early and were ready to make our escape. All we had to do was give back the keys and pay for the stay. Madame presented the bill and the sensational price. We were charged 20 euros for basic wine, 26 euros per person for commissary food, and a shocking 20 euros for checking in early.
I called for the orderly to come and explain the bill. He began by reiterating that I was lucky that I even got to eat. “Poor madame, let you have dinner, despite showing up late!” he exclaimed. I told him that his food was terrible, stopping short of calling it dog kibble. That was me being gracious. Garbage food aside, I inquired about the 20 euros. He said that check-in was 3PM and I had come around 1PM. Had I known that I would be charged 20 more euros for the courtesy of checking in early, I would’ve kept my belongings in the Panda and went on the wine tour. Literally locked in the house, we had no choice but to pay the 20 euros before we could leave. After we did, the orderly told us that he used to work at 7 star hotels and that he has never seen such deplorable Americans (not the first time I’ve been called that). He went on to say that he even waited on Tiger Woods who, he said, was a much better person than we. To that, I replied, “He cheated on his wife!” With our bill settled, we were shown the gate and got into the Panda never to return again.
When I made the reservation, I imagined that it would be like going to dinner at my grandma’s house or my best friend’s house. I thought there would be bottles of wine, more food than I could eat, and a general inquisitiveness among the owners and the guests for one another. Maybe that sort of place exists, but it surely was not at Casale Poggio del tiglio, which is Italian for DO NOT STAY HERE.