Around the coast, 29 June – July 7, 2017
Sicily is amazing! The vibrant, exciting, hustle and bustle of the cities are matched with the beauty, peace and wild of the outskirts.
We arrived in Messina and decided we would drive the coast, around the island – a mare 1000km. From Messina we took the hillside route in the direction of Cefalú and Palermo. It was beautiful and serene but also pretty testing for Maddi; the roads narrow and steep, we managed only 45 kilometres in 2 hours. When we hit flat land again, we passed through a very lovely seaside town called Milazzo.
Just on the outskirts, we found a little rocky outcrop, right on the edge of the seaside, filled with campers, directly under a ‘no camping’ sign. We were quick to decide it would be hard to find a better spot than this so we parked up, making friends with our new next-door neighbours, an Italian couple from Catania. We swam, hiked, shopped for vegetables and a beautiful hunk of pork & pistachio sausage, foraged for blackberries and enjoyed the sunset.
Next up was Palermo, passing through many towns along the way where beautifully handcrafted terra cotta pots and sculptures lined the roads. Palermo is an amazing example of a ‘melting pot’. Many cultures and ways of life, all differing, are merged into this incredibly delightful and colourful city. We had our sights set on a restaurant called Bisso Bistrot for dinner. The result of Bisso Bistrot for dinner was two very full and content diners – the meal was excellent, you can see more about it here.
The result of a night in the van in Palermo was two very tired and grumpy campers the following morning. In the cities, parks are hard to come by. In a van, in the city, they are almost impossible to come by. This time we were lucky and managed to find a park just out of the centre, outside of payable hours, but the only time there was any silence along the road that night was the minute the preceding traffic lights were red. To boot it was stiflingly hot and muggy throughout the night, making it very hard to sleep.
It was an early start for us the following morning. We walked back to the market – which we discovered when we accidentally walked through it the day before on our way to dinner – and quickly found ourselves a fishy breakfast of octopus and fried squid. A little early, but yum all the same.
Through Trapani and up the hill to Erice we drove. An amazing spot to park for the night, on the top of the world. We hiked a bit here and soaked up the evening sun and surroundings.
The following day we set our sights on Ragusa, but we hadn’t driven very far when we passed an incredible spot, one that we couldn’t drive past. On some rocks, only metres from the sea, it was wild, rugged, remote and (except for the intense wind) calm. We had some washing to hang so we set about trying to make a washing line from the poles and bunjee cords we had without attaching to any other pole or tree – a little tricky! It was so windy though, the washing was being blown horizontal. It wasn’t long before it all got blown down!
We woke the next day, ready to attack the nasty amount of kilometres we had to cover to reach Ragusa, a province in Sicily that is the third largest grower of vegetables in Europe. Ragusa was rather uneventful, just a tonne (literally, mile after mile) of greenhouses, a place we read is home to hundreds of foreign workers who are often quite badly mistreated by their employers.
We visited the very well known Planeta, Gulfi and COS wineries – which you can read more about here – before making a very interesting stop at a little herb farm called gli Aromi in Scicli, who are growing all sorts of strange and unique herbs and spices. Along with producing some very unique products they have created an atmosphere which has developed into a beautiful ecosystem of it’s own. We bought a little marjoram plant to take on our travels with us. The aroma that it emits through the van is truly amazing! Thanks guys.
It was then on to Catania and the famous Mt. Etna. We spent one night looking up at Mt Etna, watching the steam bellow out from the summit, and the following night we decided we would spend on it.
Via the market in Catania – which we found so amazing we returned the following day – we made our way up the mountain, winding and weaving until we reached a spot which had an amazing view of Catania and the coast. At the market that morning we bought a swordfish steak, potatoes and tomatoes to cook with. See more of what we did with these ingredients here.
Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe, rising up to over 3,000m. The fertile volcanic soils are superb for agriculture with much of its lower slopes covered with both vineyards and orchards.