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Things are hotting up here at AMHQ. There’s all sorts of things I ought to be doing. I’m supposed to be finishing the new collection, and our new studios on Tower Bridge Road will soon be ready to move in to. But all work and no play is no good for anyone. So we whizzed off to Sicily for a week instead. To a snazzy hotel with a swimming pool nestling at the foot of Mount Etna in Catania.

I know the south of Italy very well, but I’ve never been to Sicily before. And I wouldn’t normally choose August either. But I’ve heard so much about it, and the food, and the people. So I couldn’t resist.

We were between Taormina and Catania, a couple of kilometers from the coast. I tried a couple of runs in the mornings but by seven it was already far too hot so I borrowed a mountain bike and did a bit of exploring on bike instead.

Sicily was everything I hoped it would be. Little fishing villages with a cluster of brightly painted fishing boats bobbing around. Kids diving off the rocks and jetties into clear blue water. Very run down but delightful. And the people were incredibly friendly wherever I went.

Aci Trezza and the Isola Ciclopi were great. We hired a man and his boat to take us out round the rocks and my kids explained how a Cyclopes had thrown them at Odyssius after he’d blinded his friend… well we all love a bit of Homer, but they’re actually volcanic and in parts they reminded me of the Giant’s causeway in Ireland (except it was hot and sunny!). I wished I was brave enough to leap off them like the local kids. Terrifying.

We did a bit of touristy stuff. Incredible Greek and Roman ruins in Syracuse. But it was always too hot, and the hotel had a pool. So lots of books were read. The food was great. Arancini for lunch. Locally caught fish for supper. And pizzas of course. Made into cute heart shapes for us at our favourite place.

The hotel was in the grounds of a mammoth plant nursery, which kept me happy. The prickly pears were flowering, and there were all sorts of hot climate plants which I’d never seen before.

Mount Etna was a must. Rather than trying to tackle it on our own, we hired a hiking guide who drove us up to about 1900 meters then we got out and explored. This was easily my favourite day. Amazing plants and insects. I stopped for a drink and spotted a cute hummingbird hawk-moth feeding on some flowers. It was incredible to climb down old volcano chimneys and around crater rims. We saw the roof of a Hotel which had been destroyed by a recent eruption. And it was a bit cooler up there too!

Sicily was hot. Sometimes almost too hot to do any more than drink a cool beer in the shade. Perfect. But I didn’t do as much drawing as I usually do… I wonder if I’ll ever do a Sicilian collection?

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