We had the traditional airport dash along the north coast of Sicily, having lingered too long in Cefalu. The Norman king Roger II vowed to build a cathedral there if God would save him from shipwreck-which proves travel has always been bothersome. Still, it was only when we arrived in Sicily for half-term that we realised just how the daily pressures of life, spent, for us, principally in London, can build up. Although no end of activities are available at Rocco Forte’s Verdura resort, our first destination, I found I spent much of the first day asleep. Stress had crept up on all of us, even the children.

Godfathers apart, Sicily is a blessed land, whose cuisine is as glorious as its Greek temples and Norman mosaics. Wagner-who knew a thing or two about self-indulgence-wrote some of Parsifal in Palermo. He also visited Taormina, being, Cosima noted, ‘delighted by the columns’, presumably of the Greco-Roman amphitheatre, which open to seductive views of the bay.

The first of the town’s many hotels, the Grand Hotel Timeo, now owned by Orient Express, had opened a few years before, in 1873. Hoteliers have been honing their hospitality skills ever since. So what if I left my spectacles in the hire car? I returned serene.

* Give Country Life for Christmas and save up to 40%