Leaving mainland Italy.
When Basilicata was so nature untouched, Calabria such a rubbish bin and Puglia full of culture and vineyards and olive and fruit trees, then Sicilia (wiki) is all of it at once.
I thought of keeping the southern politician banner flying.
But really people on Mount Etna does Sicily more justice/honour.
Well, Italy has been a photography school to me. Not so much people and landscapes (apart from Mt. Etna) or festivals. More cities and architecture. Taking pictures of architecture has always been a bit of a mystery to me. But there is probably no better place then Italy to become enthused about design and styles and arrangements of buildings. Would I want to go back to university and study architecture? This is too long a shot for the moment.
There are not many places that sound like Taormina (wiki) in my ear. But only because it was the name of a pizza joint in Berlin that served cheap red wine and we quit liked going there. And there was this poster of Taormina at the wall.
Mount Etna (wiki), Europe's largest volcano, still an active one, is classified as a gentle giant with the latest eruptions occurring in 2001-2003. Etna is also one of the best monitored volcanoes world wide.
Above pictures show views from southern base camp at around 1,800m. Below pictures taken at around 2,900m.
It's all a big National Park now, still around the refugio, commercialisation efforts have taken its toll.
Must we really ski on volcanoes?, on bulldozer cut out slopes? And really isn't the area around the Refugio Sapienza on the southern slopes of Etna, with all the souvenir shops, restaurants and parking laid out excessively large? Well, it makes me wish for an immediate eruption to wipe out what wounds man has inflicted on Etna.
We reach the southern Refugio of Sapienza late at night, The MB 300 is just a snail in climbing mountains. We make it to the top of Etna the next morning, take the cable railway with the boys, Unimog then after, as usual they hardly complain.
Later in the day we tour all around Etna and only then we realise what vast territory it covers.
The evening we reach Riposto at the coast.
Riposto fish market.
There is a busy fish market in the morning with all the fresh fish and shellfish, the Mediterranean sea offers.
Past Catania, Capo San Croce, Last view of Mount Etna
Siracusa/Syracuse, Ortygia island.
After Etna the next highlight Siracusa (wiki) in Sicily. And the weather is fine.
Siracusa earlier, Orecchio di Dionigi, Ear of the devil.
Famous for the acoustics, hence its name.
Siracusa Later, Travelling Band, Gone Mis sing.
English travelling band of Neil and Staci and their 3 children are playing their own songs and covers. A family rock band and the young give it the beat/the rhythm. I was particularly impressed by Luigie's drums.
We stay 3 days with them on the beach. It's good to talk some English after all the Italian babble recently.
We leave the friends on 20th of June, we still have much to do in Sicily. We drive around the most southern cape (Isla di Correnti ? - there is nothing) and move on to the West. This is an area for intensive vegetable and fruit farming, as you would expect - but when you cover all plantations in plastic what remains of the land, - and those picturesque villages on hill tops near by. Is it just the tourist who cares about view?
Ragusa, comiso, Piazza Amerina, Enna.
It is getting hot.
I read it in Catania in a bar in Giornale di Sicilia or this was the only thing I could decode. "The days ahead would be the hottest couple of days this year so-far". But really, we have not seen anything hot yet.
This land inward trip via Ragusa (wiki) and Comiso (wiki) to Enna (wiki) gives us a first taste of what is coming. This is interesting beautiful country with crowded hill top towns and their historic centres. Any number of houses crammed around a big all dominating cathedral on top. And there's another duomo in the next town and sometimes two, and countless churches and palazzos and narrow streets and stairways and sometimes it's a lot of going up and down.
Enna, we missed out on it a bit.
We come a bit late into Enna (wiki) after Villa Romana del Casale (wiki) with its 1,600 year old floor mosaics. But I am glad we came the long way anyway. We have given a miss to many towns on our route, Caltagirone, Mirabella Imbacaria, Piazza Amerina and had we chosen a different path we would have stumbled across another set of towns and their historic centres and duomos. There is simply too much.
Enna after all the driving has a beauty and busyness. Churches, beer, Palazzos, beer, the duomo and more beer. I search for an internet connection and Hasna for the shopping mall. She's more successful.
I would have loved to have more time and longer light. Late we drive back to the coast to Gela.
The Southern coast. Agrigento.
Agrigento (wiki) we don't like. The heat, the monstrous concrete ministry what ever right next to the fourteenth century cathedral. They say it is Mafia and it feels like it.
So we go for the Greek temples but it is even hotter and the guy on the parking with his "I don't care attitude" is a real filth face, and as light is of mid day haze I cannot be bothered. We leave.
Hmm. This one I really would have loved to see.
But anyway it is too hot. Not far we find a camping on a beach, and take the boys swimming.
The sea will be the only real rescue from the heat for the boys in the next few days. Temps rise to 46°C. But the sea and the beach also bear the risk of a severe sunburn, so it is swimming in long sleeves for the boys, under the umbrella, again swimming, a cold sweet water shower and back inside the bus, under cold wet light blankets. They manage remarkably well and never complain. And the bath in the sea they actually enjoy.
Marsala (wiki) is hot. In mid day heat I walk around the empty town (Sunday lunch time) while Hasna keeps the boys cool wrapping wet cloth around their heads and bodies.
So we arrive in Trapani (wiki) early afternoon the 24th of June. The day's heat is still on and it won't cool down much. Peroni seems a solution.
Trapani is laid back, a peninsula, sea to the north and the south. It does not wake up much at night, except around Calvino's Pizza Siciliana. We wait 40 minutes, but it is all worth it. 8 Euros a double, and you smell and taste the freshness. And I have seen the guy in the kitchen tearing in part cherry tomatoes, squeezing the juice out of each single one. Real hand made stuff. And this - you taste.
We drink beer half the night, sweat and sleep the other half. We wake up early.
The morning allows a stroll around the fishing harbour.
Later it is too hot again to move. We find the first internet cafe since two weeks, and the only one (Grimon Cafe) out of three in Trapani that allows me to connect my own computer. Italy feels like the 90s in terms of usability of Internet Cafes. We stay inside the air conditioned cafe (it is a real cafe with food and coffee and stuff as well) till 3 in the afternoon. Then they really don't want to let us go - for the sake of the boys. It is too hot.
We drive north to San Vito lo Capo. Cool us and the kids down with a swim. But a strong wind is already blowing. We buy mussels and scampi for a seafood pasta. But we won't eat it. The night sees hurricane style extremely hot winds, more then 100km per hour.
The van shakes dangerously. We cannot touch the sides, the plastic windows, anything metal I touch seems to burn through the skin. The high speed wind takes up sand throws it against the van, later in the sea, where it steers up water and makes it flying.
And the boys, we keep them under wet towels. They aren't afraid. We leave very early morning for Palermo, fearing the wind could knock over our van. And we throw away the sea food.
46°C, we wait. There is another ferry in 4 days. Fire fighter planes pass over head. From the sea to the wildfires around Palermo (wiki). Smoke prohibits any view onto the mountains in the north.
We wait, we calculate the number of days. We have appointments in Southern France to make and head to Morocco then after. Really there is no time left and there can always be a problem with the van.
We wait to buy a ticket, but there is no electricity. Blackouts through out Palermo. The heat, for a week now. All these air conditions just consume too much power.
So we see Palermo in a short day (I need to come back, - and to Rome), return to Trapani, take the night ferry to Cagliari, Sardegna/Sardinia.
27th of June. We drive 50 kms and there is a problem with the car, the gearbox needs replacing. That grounds us for 2 days, but it is less hot here in Sardegna.
And we have survived the heat wave that has caused numerous death around Europe and Sicily.