Monday, 26 August 2013

Cash Only

Sitting at the table of a restaurant in the Sicilian town of Taormina, I started to sweat.  I had the bill in front of me for 103 Euros and I couldn't pay it.  Ten minutes earlier I heard the dreaded words "Cash only" from the waiter.  Five minutes later, after multiple recounts of available cash, my wife and eldest son had headed off through the crowded streets to get cash from the ATM that we had noticed earlier at the end of the alley.  

The ATM was close by, just up the hill, on the main street, but I was left sweating.  How long can this take?  Another 5 minutes passed and I smiled apologetically at the waitress and explained our predicament.  She bought some shots of local almond liqueur to the table to calm my nerves. Another five minutes passed and I craned my neck to try to catch a glimpse of a cash-laden wife returning triumphantly.  Nothing. 

It was Saturday night, and the small piazza, more a widening of an alley, was getting crowded with would-be diners waiting for a prized table to be made available.  I waited, looking at my phone to avoid making eye contact with the hungry crowd.

Eventually my wife returned with the cash.  Apparently Sicilian banks favour additional security around their ATMs that resemble an air-lock...double electronic doors that let customers in one at a time.  This security was only crackable by Italian-speaking cat burglars, explained my wife apologetically.  She had to walk further across town to find another ATM usable by tourists and other simple-minded people.  She said that she was surprised that I was still sitting at the table and not washing up in the kitchen.

The little restaurant, by the way, was called Osteria da Rita and it was brilliant.  It was the only place we ate at twice during our week in Sicily. 

Streets of Taormina
The popular streets of Taormina (Photo J Game)