1st January – Happy New Year 🎉🎉🎊🎊
It looks like the gentleman at the tourist office didn’t understand our question about fireworks. Not only were they going off all night but at midnight there was a firework display coming from the town square where the New Year’s Eve concert was being held. The fireworks lasted about 10 minutes and we could see them from the luxury of our home. There were lots of little parties around the place with fireworks lighting up the sky in all directions and for most of the night. After breakfast, we did the laundry (have to start the new year all clean) before driving to Otranto, back on the coast. We went for a nice walk down to the marina first before heading across the headland. On the way we saw a huge turtle on the rocks that sadly had died. Further on we passed gun turrets with tunnels through the limestone and then up to what once was a lookout tower, now barely a ruin which had 360° views to the Adriatic in one direction and farmland and the town in the other. We came back a different way, mainly along the roadside before settling in for a quiet night.
2nd January – 8th January
We had a lovely walk around this really nice little town starting again at the marina on a day where the sun was shining and there was a hint of warmth in the air. Otranto overlooks a pretty harbour on the turquoise Adriatic coast and the water here is crystal clear. In the old town, high golden walls tower over narrow car-free lanes, where countless little shops sell souvenirs of colourful ceramics, biscuits, wine, cheeses etc. After walking around the perimeter of the castle with views from the ramparts over the ocean and marina, we visited the cathedral where a part of the history of this town is on view for all to see. Called the Sack of Otranto in 1480, 18,000 Turks besieged the town. The townsfolk were able to hold the Turks at bay for 15 days before capitulating. Eight hundred survivors were subsequently led up the nearby Minerva hill and beheaded for refusing to convert. Inside the cathedral is a stone preserved in the altar of the chapel on which the martyrs were beheaded. The Chapel of the Dead is a bizarre sight, where the skulls and bones of the martyrs are arranged in neat patterns in seven tall glass cases. A wooden coffered ceiling and mosaic floor add some beauty to this unusual place. We continued wandering the streets before taking a lovely walk along the beachfront to some small cliffs before returning to eat our lunch in the sun by the water. On our walk around, we passed some tents that we closed, so after tea we went for a walk. The main tent was an ice skating rink where some very inexperienced Italians were trying to skate. We watched them for a few minutes and then went back into town to see the Christmas lights. So pretty. It was a very quick walk as it was very cold, but I’m glad we went out for a look.
The mosaic floor of the Cathedral – can you tell they are elephants?
After doing the food shopping, we drove to Porto Badisco situated in a lovely azure inlet so we could hike to Grotte del Pastore, about 2 kilometres away over limestone rocks that covered an area not too dissimilar looking to a lunar landscape. We didn’t find the Grotte but did climb up to one of the many towers that dot this coastline that were built as lookouts to spot the Turks landing at night. From there we continued on a road recommended by Lonely Planet that runs parallel with the wild and beautiful coastline to our resting place for the night, at the very small marina in Andrano. We have views back to the town of Castro over another azure bay.
One of many towers dotted along the coast
We continued on along the coast road with similar scenery to yesterday until will came to the furthest point in the heel of Italy before heading inland to Gallipoli. The old town fills an island in the Ionian Sea and is connected by a bridge to the mainland and modern city. It’s a pretty town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks from the sea. Being a fishing centre, there were a lot more people here than we have found in the coastal towns. Walking around the ramparts of the old town we had views out to a few small islands, one of which had a lighthouse on the point. We visited the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata which is located in the centre of the old town on the highest point of the island. This 17th century baroque cathedral is lined with paintings by local artists and the ceiling over the altar was a kaleidoscope of biblical pictures. We walked around for awhile before heading back through the shopping precinct and back to Tilly. We had lunch before moving on up the road 5kms to our overnight spot on the beach.
We had a mix of scenery today, starting with more rugged coastline before heading inland to Oria. The main reason for detouring here was to visit the cathedral where in the Cripta delle Mummie (Crypt of the Mummies) 11 mummified corpses of former monks are preserved. Unfortunately you can only visit by guided tour and the young lady was busy with another tour. We couldn’t get in until the cathedral reopened at 4! No thanks. We did have a walk around the narrow streets before venturing on to Taranto. We are in between the heel and the sole of Italy’s boot and with tomorrow being a religious holiday, we are unsure as to whether we will go into Taranto or move on. The weather is expected to turn very cold with possible snow, so the decision may be made for us. Stay tuned!
A very windy night with temperatures at -2° and snowing! Fortunately not heavy enough to build a snowman but it did help us to decide our plans for the day. We decided we would head to Matera and stay at an aire that has electricity until this cold spell passes, supposedly by the end of the weekend. Mother Nature had other ideas! Not long into our journey the snow started falling heavier than before and was starting to build up along the road although only the area where cars weren’t driving. That was until we turned off onto the road to Matera. We drove about 10kms in even heavier snowfall before we agreed that we would have to turn around, giving Matera a miss unfortunately as it was just too dangerous to go on so we continued heading south away from the bad weather along the coast. We stopped at a beachside carpark to fill with water and were surprised at the amount of steam rising off the water. We both commented on how odd it was also seeing snow falling over the ocean. We encountered quite heavy snow falling for about another 20kms or so that was blanketing the landscape and while it was beautiful to see, it was a bit scary driving in it. We finally left it behind and continued getting the occasional snow flurry from then on. We saw a couple of snow plows heading north, thankful that we were out of the area. We ended up driving about 200kms in total with mountains blanketed in snow in the distance on one side, stopping at a little town called Turretta Di Crucoli where we will stay for night. We had just gotten settled with cuppa’s and the gas heater on when sleet and very light snow started falling. While we understand it is winter, is this normal for this part of Italy? When we finally get wifi, we will have to look it up. Hopefully this weather won’t continue for too long or we could be in trouble.
Another cold -2° night again with strong winds and snow that melted on hitting the ground. After breakfast it was back on the road with snow continuing to fall. It must have been quite heavy in some parts as there was a lot of snow built up on the fields and the side of the road. At one point a man was standing at a roundabout telling drivers to slow down as there was considerable sludgy ice on the road. We arrived in Crotone and found a park near the beach next to a cemetery wall which will give us protection from the wind. Snow flurries continued throughout the day and as the wind chill is at about -8° we decided to stay indoors and hope for warmer weather tomorrow, even 0° with no wind would be good!
We woke to a different scene weather wise. No snow and the wind while still cold had decreased in strength considerably so we donned our thermals, boots and gloves and headed into town, 2 kilometres away walking along the ocean boardwalk. The water is a deep azure colour and there are three oil rigs just off the coast. We made our way to the castle ruins, built by the Spanish in the 12th century. Free to get into, we wandered around the different levels for about an hour, trying to imagine what life would have been like. From there we continued on around the old town visiting the cathedral and stopping for a nice coffee and cannoli before heading back to spend the afternoon watching the changes in the ocean as the wind increased.
9th January – 16th January
Today was a driving day along the coast mainly to find water. As we are in the midst of winter, while we can find water taps, most of them are turned off so they don’t freeze up. We ended up driving about 75kms eventually finding a working tap before stopping at a shopping centre for a walk around to stretch our legs. While the day was sunny, the wind was very cold and more snow is predicted for tonight with temperatures of -5° expected. Thank god for the gas heater!
We continued our drive along the coast, slowly heading to either Reggio Di Calabria or Villa San Giovanni where we hope to catch the ferry to Sicily. We have been driving on the SS106 road for almost 200km and with the road hugging the coast we get wonderful views over the ocean. We stopped at the town of Marina di Gioiosa Ionica and found our water supply before parking and having lunch. After lunch we walked to the Roman theatre nearby, only a small one and not too much of it remains. We then walked down to the beach where there is a huge strip of sandy beach as far as the eye can see both ways. Toward the southern end of the strip is a large mountain range. As it was so beautiful, we decided to head back to Tilly and move here for the night. We have been so lucky with our overnight spots, particularly the beach ones. No one seems to mind us parking anywhere and we haven’t paid for an overnight spot since the end of November! When the shops reopened in the afternoon I went for a walk to the hairdressers where I met a lovely Italian couple from Melbourne. He kindly translated my request and after being told I would need to wait half an hour, he and I had a lovely chat. He told me that the snow of the past few days in very unusual, it hasn’t snowed in this region for 20 years. He also mentioned that there was more coming and it would be a good idea for us to keep moving towards the ferry to Sicily hoping to miss expected snow on the weekend. Lovely man, great haircut!
11th January – Happy birthday Dad 🎂🎂🎉🎉
Oh dear! We had an awful night, not sure if it was the chicken we had for dinner but both of us were up during the night with stomach cramps and vomiting. Not ideal in a motorhome, especially late at night and with limited space. Suffice to say we are both feeling rather miserable today although we can’t complain, this is the first sick day we have had in 22 months. Fortunately Dave was feeling a tiny bit better in the morning so we agreed to keep moving for as far as Dave could drive. Our first stop was going to be beachside again but the road was washed away! Second stop, a further 45kms has us settled for the night, away from the ocean. Hopefully we will have a quiet night and catch up on some much needed sleep. We are only 30 odd kms from the ferry at Reggio di Calabria so perhaps we can organise something tomorrow for Friday.
13 hours sleep had us feeling a bit better so our first task was to fill with water. It was while we were filling that we saw this huge snow covered mountain in the distance and it took us a minute to realise it was Mt Etna! It was a reasonably clear morning so we had fantastic views on our drive to Reggio Di Calabria. As we weren’t sure where to go, we parked the motorhome and walked to the ferry terminal only to be told the ferries for motorhomes left from Villa San Giovanni, 10kms up the road. Back to Tilly and through some very small potholed streets we continued on. We have never not researched a ferry trip before so was taking pot luck with this. We drove into Villa San Giovanni and was delighted to see signposts leading to the ferry terminal. As with Norway, you just drive up, purchase your ticket and hop on the first available ferry. Within 10 minutes we were on our way to Sicily. 30 minutes later we docked in Messina, a very busy city with supposedly the most aggressive drivers in the world. Our brief experience to date has found they aren’t any worse than mainland Italy and almost anything goes with regards to road rules and parking. We drove out of town a few kilometres and found a quiet street to park in for the night.
We had two choices of road to take today, either the autostrada or the SS road. Being on a budget (and also a bit thrifty) we decided on the SS road and once again were really happy with our choice. The road took us along the beautiful coast through many little towns, some reminding us again of the Cinque Terra with their little shops and small houses. We didn’t realise just how rugged Sicily was and being able to see Mt Etna along the way was just amazing. We drove to the cable car station at the bottom of the town of Taormina and caught the cable car up. Spectacularly situated on a terrace of Monte Tauro, with views westwards to Mt Etna, Taormina is a beautiful small town. Once the capital of Byzantine Sicily and a very wealthy town, it has an almost perfectly preserved medieval town. The medieval main avenue is lined with antique and jewellery shops, delis and designer boutiques. We had fantastic views from Piazza IX Aprile down to the Ionian Sea and mainland Italy across the bay but the highlight was the view to Mt Etna, different to yesterday as this big girl was smoking and plumes of greyish smoke were drifting down the mountain. We visited the rococo church, Chiesa San Giuseppe before making our way to the Villa Comunale, the public park that is full of tropical plants. We found a bird cage at the rear of the park that had two beautiful parrots who were quite annoyed when we turned around to leave, squawking their little beaks off. We didn’t catch the cable car down opting to walk down from the park. Once back, we drove a further 25kms to Riposto, where tomorrow, weather permitting we hope to drive to another cable car station to take us up to where we will hike to the lava flows of Mt Etna.
Taormina with Etna in the background on the right hand side
Smoke billowing out of Mt Etna with the town of Giardini-Naxos in the foreground
We woke to sunny blue skies on what was to be an exciting day. We had a drive of 31kms to reach the cable car station at 1900m, and then the ride up to 2500m. From there it was on foot to just under 3000m, about a 4 hour return hike. Well, that was the plan! We had stunning views on the way up both of the ocean over to mainland Italy and the coast of Sicily driving through one huge lava flow that was hundreds of years old. We were about 5kms from the cable car station when we decided to turn around. There was a bit of snow on the road, no problem there as it was piled up on the edge but the black ice covering one side of the narrow road had us thinking otherwise. What would happen should we meet another car or bus coming the other way? No snow chains or winter tyres meant no insurance and while we were disappointed, it just wasn’t worth the risk. Still, we got to see some of the lava flow as well as the great scenery on the way up and down, so not all was lost. 10 minutes after we had descended, the rain started (thanks accuweather, not!) and we definitely knew we had made the right choice as Mt Etna was no longer visible and under cloud. We drove a further 20kms to Santa Tecla which is a town right on the waters edge and built on an old lava flow. We had lunch first then headed toward the beach for a look. Climbing over the lava it was easy to see which parts of the lava had cooled first by the unusual patterns left in the rock. It must have been an amazing sight at the time as the boiling lava hit the water, but devastating by the fact that people would have lost their lives.
Disappointed that we couldn’t get any further, but you can see why we stopped!
We drove a short distance to Aci Castello not far from Catania. We went through a pretty town a couple of kilometres back with limited motorhome parking so we decided we would walk back to along the seafront. Along the way we walked up to the 1000 year old Norman Castello at the top of a small hill. Originally situated on an island, the lava from an earthquake in 1063 joined it to land. On our way, we heard these huge explosions and on further investigation saw some men down at the base of the castle hill setting up fireworks. Apparently there is a religious festival on this afternoon with fireworks at the close, so we dashed back to where we were parked and moved to just near where the fireworks will be set off. We now have a perfect view back to the castle with the fireworks set to go off around 9pm. We had lunch and then continued our walk along the foreshore for a couple of kilometres to the lovely seaside town of Aci Trezzo. Along the coast there are huge basalt outcrops jutting out of the ocean, some with lava hugging the bases. The town itself is a fishing village with many restaurants and bars lining the streets. We stopped at a small market and sampled two of their local cheeses and bought some to have with a nice chianti. The festival started at 3pm and at 3.30 a number of fireworks were set off and oh boy was it loud. Seems an odd thing to set them off during the day, however we have seen this in Italy before. Can’t wait for the big show tonight! The procession finished late so the fireworks didn’t start until 9.45pm but it was well and truly worth the wait. There were two small fireworks shows that went for about 5 minutes each as the procession moved through the town. The main one was in two parts, we could see the men running around manually lighting the fuses. We saw many fireworks that we don’t see back in Perth and the sound and colours were just amazing. Suffice to say as we were only about 100 metres from where they were being set off, we went to bed with ringing ears. How lucky were we to be here on this particular day.
Norman castle almost 1000 years old
View from the castle
Catania was our destination today and we parked about 3 kms from town. Our first stop was the Piazza del Duomo, Catania’s central square which revolves around its grand cathedral, fringed with baroque buildings constructed in the unique local style of contrasting lava and limestone. The piazza’s centrepiece is the smiling Fontana dell’Elefante, crowned by a black-lava elephant dating from the Roman period and surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk, go figure! The Cattedral di Sant’Agata was our next stop and sports an impressive marble facade with columns from Catania’s Roman amphi-theatre. The cathedral honours the city’s patron, St Agata who famously resisted the advances of the nefarious Quintian (AD 250) and was horribly mutilated. Her effigy is venerated on 5 February in one of Sicily’s largest festivals. The cathedral also housed the tomb of Bellini. Off to the fish market for a look around before stopping at the Roman Amphitheatre ruins which were below street level on the main shopping street that is lined with some beautiful baroque buildings. Villa Bellini, the city park was further up street with views of Mt Etna. We headed back to the market to find something for lunch and came across a little cafe where we shared a lovely pasta dish and an arrancini, a rice ball that was filled with a vegetable mixture then deep fried, delicious! With full tummies we headed back on what turned out to be a 13km round trip.
Piazza del Duomo
17th January – 23rd January
We had our first taste of the Autostrada on our drive to Syracuse as that particular section didn’t have a toll on it. Certainly made the journey a lot quicker, but the scenery isn’t anywhere near as nice, unless you like the inside of a tunnel! We stopped at McDonald’s along the way and organised our ferry from Calais to Dover in preparation for Tilly’s MOT in May. Continuing onto Syracuse, we were surprised at how heavy the traffic was as we made our way to our overnight spot at the marina, along with 10 or more motorhomes. We decided on a lazy day so apart from doing a few odd jobs, we just kicked back for the afternoon and waited for the predicted thunderstorm.
The old town in Syracuse is situated in the ancient island neighbourhood of Ortigia and is full of atmospheric squares, narrow alleyways and a lovely waterfront. Our first stop was the beautiful cathedral, originally dedicated to Athena which was built on the skeleton of a 5th-century BC Greek temple. A stunning columned facade was added in the 1700’s after it was damaged in the 1683 earthquake. Inside Doric columns are still visible underneath the many layers of reconstruction and twice a year the silver statue of Athena is paraded through the town. Along the promenade, the 13th century castle which guards the island’s southern tip was our next stop. We wandered around the perimeter walls, passed a lot of cave type rooms where the cannons would have been fired in defence of the castle. Continuing along the waterfront and back into the main part of town, we stopped for a bite to eat before heading home in the rain. Another thunderstorm has been forecast, the last one didn’t eventuate, will this one?
Note the Doric pillars on the left hand side that are built into the cathedral wall
Again no thunderstorm and clear skies when we left Syracuse on our drive to Modica, one of Sicily’s baroque towns which is set in a deep gorge. The multilayered town is divided into Modica Alta (Upper Modica) and Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) with our destination being Monica Alta, 3kms from where we had parked. We passed many ancient medieval buildings stopping at the Catedrale Di San Pietro in Lower Modica, an impressive church atop a staircase lined with life-sized statues of the Apostles. We wandered the streets absorbing the atmosphere as we made our way up to the top town where we climbed a majestic 250-step staircase to the extraordinary Chiesa di San Giorgio. Closed when we got there the exterior of the building was just beautiful, built in a honey coloured brick. We had our lunch sitting on a street bench before our steep walk back home.
Catedrale di San Pietro and the apostles
Like Modica, Ragusa is split into two towns, Ragusa Superiore (built after the 1693 earthquake) and Ragusa Ibla (rebuilt on the same site after the earthquake). Ragusa Ibla has the majority of the sights and that was our destination today. Stairs took us up to the
Catedrale di San Giorgio with its magnificent neoclassical dome and stained-glass windows. We had a wander through the palm lined Giardino Ibleo, the public park which was laid out in the 19th century and gave us lovely views down the valley. Many churches and palaces line the twisting, narrow streets and like a lot of places in Italy, outside of the main tourist season it was very quiet. Still, a nice place to wander before we found our parking spot for the night.
Catedrale di San Giorgio at the top of the hill
Strong winds and heavy rain causing flooding has been forecast for today and tomorrow so we decided that rather than hang around, we would head to Agrigento, 90kms away and hopefully find a high, safe place to park. We didn’t realise how high up Ragusa was until we got onto the main road out. The view down the mountain was lovely and we drove passed a lot of agricultural fields, many with plastic covered hot houses. Originally we were hoping to park at the Valley of the Temples carpark, however the police had blocked off the road in, we don’t know why, so plan B was actioned. We plan on visiting the Valley of the Temples once the weather has calmed down, perhaps on Monday. For the time being, we will try and stay safe and warm and hope the weather forecast is wrong.
The flooding didn’t eventuate although the wind is still very strong, not ideal for walking around outside to visit the Valley of the Temples, where the ancient Greeks once built their great city of Akragas. We decided to buy a combined ticket with the archeological museum and spend the morning in the museum out of the weather. The combined ticket was €13.50 each and has a 5 day expiry so we have a bit of leeway if the weather is still bad tomorrow. The museum was a surprise, both in its size and the number of displays. The artefacts were dug up from the Valley of the Temples, some dating back to the 5th and 4th centuries BC. As well as large urns, oil burners, figurines etc, there were displays of Greek painted ceramics and the reconstructed telamone, a colossal statue in the shape of a man recovered from the nearby Tempio di Giove. We ended up spending a couple of hours at the museum before returning home where the remainder of the day was spent reading.
Replica of Temple di Giovi with the Telamon holding up the roof in between each pillar
Actual size of Telamon found in the Valley of the Temples
Torrential rain fell for most of the night and we thought our visit to the Valley of the Temples may have to be postponed, however when we got up, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to shine. We had to drive a few kilometres and fortunately found a carpark on the roadside, thus avoiding the carpark fees which for cars were €5, motorhomes would have been possibly double that, and on top of your entry fee, it makes for an expensive day. Anyway, we were lucky and we only had a short walk to the entrance. There are 5 Doric temples within the park, the first one being the 5th-century BC Tempio di Hera (Temple of Hera, aka Juno), perched on the ridgetop. Though partly destroyed by an earthquake, the colonnade remains largely intact as does a long sacrificial altar. We passed a gnarled 800-year-old olive tree and a series of Byzantine tombs before reaching the Tempio della Concordia. This remarkable edifice, the model for Unesco’s logo, has survived almost entirely intact since its construction in 430 BC, due in part to its conversion into a Christian basilica in the 6th century and also to the shock-absorbing, earthquake-dampening qualities of the soft clay underlying its hard rock foundation. Next was the Tempio di Ercole (Temple of Hercules), which is Agrigento’s oldest, dating from the end of the 6th century BC. The Tempio di Giove (Temple of Olympian Zeus) was next and this temple would have been the world’s largest Doric temple had its construction not been interrupted by the Carthaginian sacking of Akragas. A later earthquake reduced it to the crumbled ruin it is today. Lying on his back amid the rubble is an 8m-tall telamon (a sculpted figure of a man with arms raised), originally intended to support the temple’s weight. This one is a copy, the original is in archeological museum that we visited yesterday. Another ruined 5th-century BC Temple of Castor and Pollux, and the 6th-century BC complex of altars and small buildings known as the Santuario delle Divine Chtoniche (Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities), were our last stop before turning around and heading back to where we started, stopping again at the Temple of Concordia to have our lunch. We left Agrigento to drive 35kms to our next overnight spot at Eraclea Minoa where we have fantastic views along the coast. There are some Roman ruins here, but after what we saw this morning, everything else will pale in comparison.
800 year old olive tree
Tempio della Concordia
24th January – 31st January
We struggled a bit today to find water, the taps were there but the water was turned off and we ended up driving further than we had originally planned. We eventually stopped at Mazara del Vallo where there was supposed to be water near the free aire next to the port. We had a walk along the pretty boardwalk for a kilometre or so and found the water tap, so after we had our lunch, we drove up there and filled up. Back to the aire where we parked facing the ocean. A quiet afternoon was spent doing a spot of cleaning and reading in the sunshine.
We spent the morning wandering the streets and alleys of this lovely town. We visited a couple of the churches and walked through a district known as the Kasbah, mainly because of the alleyways that crisscross the historic quarter. Many of the walls in the old town are decorated with colourful ceramic tiles where philosophers and thinkers’ quotations that resound with tolerance and respect are cited. We had lunch back at home before taking what was to be a short stroll along the boardwalk, this time continuing along the beach. Our short stroll ended up being 7kms long, but it was a nice way to spend the afternoon.
Note the Arab influence
Happy Australia Day 🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺
We had a short drive to Marsala which in AD 830 was conquered by the Arabs, who gave it its current name, Marsa Allah (Port of God). We had a walk around the historic centre which was just lovely, a few ornate baroque buildings and a very tidy town. We did go into the main church in Piazza della Repubblica and found the outside of the building was much more appealing than the inside which had whitewashed walls with minimal artwork. Having said that, the altar piece was beautifully decorative in silver. We had lunch at home before driving a further 13kms to an area called Saline Della Laguna. As the name suggests, it is a salt lake that covers a very large area and has many windmills that pump the water when they harvest the salt. Lovely and quiet, the views across the lake and the individual salt beds are to an island which houses a museum (all about salt of course) and three islands off in the distance.
27th January – Happy Birthday Adam 🎂🍺🎉🎂🍺🎉🎂🍺🎉
Our day started with a call to our son Adam for his birthday, it is always great to talk to the kids. Afterwards we drove to the port city of Trapani nowadays busy with a steady stream of tourists and traffic to and from Tunisia and the Egadi Islands. Our walk took in the pedestrianised Via Garibaldi passed some lovely churches and baroque buildings. Trapani’s other main street is Corso Vittorio Emanuele, where the huge Catedrale di San Lorenzo with its baroque facade and stuccoed interior is situated. We returned to Tilly along the waterfront and had lunch before leaving and we are now headed North. We drove through the surrounding beautiful countryside where the scenery was ranging from the watery vastness of the coastal salt ponds to the rugged mountainous shoreline to the north. We have come to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro where we plan on doing a 15km hike around the coast tomorrow, weather permitting. We have a stunning view over the ocean to the end of the point and the town of Terrasini, south of Palermo.
A bit of baroque?
Overcast skies greeted us when we woke, but we decided to go ahead with our planned hike. Just passed the ticket box there is a tunnel that was dug out of the rock in preparation for a road to go through this beautiful area, however environmentalists won a hard fought battle in 1980 and the road construction was stopped and the area became a regional park. The route we took hugged the coastline passed beautiful aquamarine waters in the coves and inlets. The path was a mixture of surfaces ranging from boggy mud to gravel to rocks. Along the way were signposts in Italian and English that gave a description of the plant life growing in the area as well as a couple of museums that were closed for winter. We came across a large cavern with the remains of stalactites on the roof as well as evidence of fires that had burned many many years ago. An information board nearby had pictures of ancient tools and equipment that had be found that we assumed are now housed in one of the museums. On the journey home, it started to rain and while not cold, it made the path quite slippery in places. It took us just under four hours in total and even with the rain, we both agreed it was worth it.
We ended up walking almost to the tower at the end of the landmass
Beautiful palms surround the alcove
We had a biggish drive today with this section of the autostrada also being free, just a couple of kilometres from the nature reserve all the way to Palermo. The scenery was just beautiful, again with views to the ocean and the rugged coastline for most of the way. Once again, we took a wrong turn trying to get into Palermo, so we took that as an omen. Neither of us were overly fussed about stopping there anyway after reading the reviews in Lonely Planet and Triposo. We had lunch then continued on for another 20 or so kilometres to San Nicola and a lovely spot on a marina. We had a walk around the marina before settling in for the afternoon. The views from the front window are around the bay over the water to the rugged peninsula near Palermo.
Some of the beautiful scenery
After looking at Lonely Planet and Triposo (our travel bibles) we learnt that there were no towns between Palermo and Messina that were worth stopping at, so we decided to bite the bullet and drive on the autostrada and hope the toll wasn’t too expensive. We needed to do a food shop so we drove 145kms, at least 50kms through tunnels, stopping at a Lidl store not far from where we had planned to stay for the night. Dave’s estimate for the toll was €10, mine was €20. Dave won, it was €8 which we were very happy with. If we had taken the state road that wound its way through a lot of small towns as well as going up and down the mountains along the way, it would have cost us more than €8 in extra diesel. We only have a smallish drive of around 40km tomorrow to get to the ferry in Messina back to mainland Italy. Hope all of the bad weather has gone!
We had an early start on our run to Messina. We took the autostrada again (shock, horror!) and this section cost us €2 so all up we spent €10 to travel almost 200km. Can’t grumble at that. The ferry back to Villa San Giovanni was a few euros cheaper than the journey over, not sure why, perhaps the man in the booth gave me a discount for my smiling face. We only had a short wait before the ferry was underway and 30 minutes later, we were back on the mainland. We again drove on the autostrada (this is becoming a habit!) with this section being free. We went through more tunnels than I care to remember, although we did get glimpses of the ocean and some very deep gorges in between. We drove to a little town called Paravati, purely for the free parking with water, however it is on the way to our next stop, so nothing lost. We had a walk around the town to stretch our legs, commenting on the number of elderly Italian women just sitting outside their doors enjoying the sunshine, some by themselves, others getting together for a chat. All were very friendly, saying buongiorno as we passed. I’m sure they wondered who these strangers were.