My partner rises early to go running or to workout at the gym and, when she returns, I get up. Am I lazy? I think not: I just do not feel the necessity to indulge in extremes of physical exertion to keep fit. Nor am I alone in this belief. Recent “research” confirms that there is an alternative to HII – or High Intensity Interval training. It is called LISS – Low Intensity Steady State training - and it comprises simple, everyday activities such as getting up, yawning, stretching one’s limbs and going for a walk. It works well, so long as you do enough of it. Of course, I suspected all along that this was the case – my own “research” had always tended to verify it – which is why I had no compunction last Sunday about spending the afternoon at the cinema, watching three films consecutively. I had, after all, walked there. Besides, it was the last opportunity to catch the new releases before flying off the next day to spend a few weeks in Sicily.
We have been to Sicily before but, because it is a big island, full of historical interest, we are back to visit the places we missed last time. The flight was fun, being packed with noisy, excited Italians who, when we touched down in Catania, burst into applause and song. However, it was past our bedtime when the girl at the car-hire counter began hectoring us into paying extra for insurance we probably don’t need. We signed up anyway, eager to get our heads down in the nearest hotel and, when she had triumphed, she switched to friendly mode. She revealed that she had until recently lived in Manchester, where she waitressed at our favourite local Italian restaurant. We took her photo and promised to hug the proprietor for her on our return. We drove half a kilometre from the airport, where I scraped the car bumper trying to park in a tight space, then slept fitfully amid dreams concerning car-insurance claims.
Things looked brighter after breakfast, as they often do. The sun shone, and the temperature quickly reached 25 degrees – and this is just springtime. We drove inland to visit the remains of Villa Romana del Casale, a former palace of imperial standing. Though there is not much left of the buildings, the extensive mosaic floors are in a good state of preservation thanks to a landslide in the 12th century which covered them over for 700 years. Excavation in the 1950s revealed remarkable work, famed for its narrative style, complexity, colour and extent. A few hours later we arrived at the fishing port of Sciacca, where we have rented a flat with a terrace overlooking the harbour, and did what one does on terraces – relaxed with a drink while watching the sun go down.
The next morning, we strolled out for coffee to the main piazza, where there were rows of gleaming, vintage Fiat 500s lined up for all to admire. They really are so cute that it is impossible not to want one. We realised that we were, of course, in the midst of a club rally, though surprised it was happening on a Wednesday. Only later did we discover that it was actually a full-blown festa day and that all the shops were closed for the celebration of San Fiat dei Cinquecenti. Still, shopping was low on the priority list, way below getting one’s bearings.
Later, I joined the early evening passegiata along the section of promenade recently restored with funds provided by the EU (or ‘us’ as Brexiteers may prefer to think of it) and finally, exhausted by my efforts, I sat at a pavement café and drank a foreign beer – which was not too bad, actually. I looked out at the sea and contemplated the state of my fitness regime, which I now see as morphing into BLISS – Bloody Low Intensity Steady State.