We arrived to the island of Sicily in Messina. We stopped for groceries as we planned to camp tonight. We had first though to just go the 28 Km to the first camp place, but decided to press on. It actually took over 2 hours in traffic to get the 62 km to the campground on the cape and we were an exhausted mess by then.
The traffic is heavy and people are parked all over both sides of the road. The buses are stopping every 2 minutes! I will say the Sicilian drivers are better than the Italians in general and we actually saw driver courtesy a few times today. They do not drive right on your back tire and pass with more care.
Setting up camp we were both tired and crabby, but luckily we had a great Malaysian coconut chicken curry (Thanks Faizal) for dinner and a comfy nights rest! They also had extremely hot showers which did help a lot. The camp spot has a nice beach and restaurant.
Today we are headed to Palermo, which on the toll road is 209 km and takes 2 hr 28 min. If you avoid the toll road it is 222 km and 4 hr and 40 min.
We planned to take the coast road, but after 3 hours to get 116 km we had had enough and headed for the toll highway. It was not too bad except for the traffic in the towns where you were going 15 km /hr.
This is almost a continuous set of tunnels of 300-3000 metes with small breaks between. We were a bit worried how much it was going to cost for the 100 km since there was so little traffic, but it was only 4 Euros per bike! At the price of gas here were are even on time saved.
The price of gas here varies widely even if 2 stations are in the same block. Today we say from 1.39 E to 1.72 (7.27 USD/ gallon). Arriving To Palermo the traffic was actually following the rules of the road (I know novel concept here in Italy).
So getting into Palermo was a cake walk compared to Naples. The hotel we booked as about a 40 min walk from the historic centre and so we headed out to explore. Here we really appreciated the gothic and baroque buildings.
The city gate.
The quatro canti is an intersection where the four buildings facing the intersection are highly decorated.
The Palermo cathedral
Getting out was even less of an issue and we were quickly on the main road west to Trapani. This is a quick 107 km and there was very little traffic. It was non existent getting into Trapani.
We are headed to the Suzuki dealer here to arrange oil changes and new brake pads for both bikes. In addition the water pump on the 650 has a small leak, which we noted about 10 days ago. Daniel had brought a new one with him since he was worried it would fail on the 800, but its’ poor Lulu with the runny nose. We were told of the shop by our Swedish friend Orvar who had service done on his 1200 2 months ago. The owner created us and was happy to do the work. the only issue is it is some sort of holiday here today on a Thursday and the device shop is closed. He set us up for 830 the next morning. Now it is 1030 am and we have to change plans.
Bulk wine!! You bring your own container.
So its tomorrows route today.
We back tracked on the highway over the farm land to get to the foothills.
We want to visit Corleone!
Many of the roads we took are “unmaintained” according to the signs, but its hard to tell the difference since the road surface is pretty bad in parts on the regular roads. We went 20-30 min at a time and never saw another vehicle.
Then we made a track out to the beach at San Vito lo Cabo. This 253 km loop took 6 hours with stops.
We were up early to head to Suzuki super bike and they had dropped everything to get our bikes done for us.
Leaving the shop at 230 pm it was 37 degrees. We had planned only a short day since we did not know exactly when they would be done. This worked for us as we had a few hours poolside this afternoon. We met a great couple here from Bonn Ulla and Martin also on an 800 GS.
There was a bit of cloud cover today and we had hoped for cooler weather, but no it was 35-36 most of the 188 km to Catania. It did cool to 28 about 20 km from the coast.
We made a route past the valley of the temples, but in this heat we decided against the 4 km walk thru the park.
The drivers here are so un Italian is was a breeze to get into the city. Finding the B&B was a bit more difficult since the GPS coordinates were correct, but there was no sign and the GPS said the street address was one street over. This is at 30 degrees on narrow warrens of roads, many of which are one way and some dead ends. Finally we asked for direction, but that was not help. Ultimately we went back to the first spot and by then the owner was out looking for us!
We spent the day walking in the historic centre.This town is definitely a bit gritty. The drivers here have some manners though. There is graffiti on all the buildings in the historic centre. Several of the big landmarks once open to the public are in ruins.
There are ruins of a Roman amphitheater buried under the city. They have excavated a small part.
That said we had an enjoyable afternoon and some great ice cream with the ladies who had just left one of the many wedding we saw in the city today. For dinner we stopped at a road side Bbq spot for some MEAT! Of course a gelato.
Todays plan is just to get to the ferry dock, back to the mainland, and then about 250 km north east. If you take the coast road from Catania to Messina it is 104 km and takes 3 hours, but if you take the toll road for 3.50 E it is 96 km and only take 1 hr 15.
We also decided on a side trip on the loop road up on the Etna Volcano. This is a 48 km loop off our course that adds 1 hr 20 min. There are a ton of guys racing up and down on donor cycles and some of them in packs will come up on you at serious speed.
Up the south side you can see the lava flows and you arrive to the base of the active cone, where you can get the gondola up.
On the north side it is treed, but you can see the real cone and the smoke coming out from it from this perspective.
Arriving to the dock we only had about a 15 min wait for the next ferry.
We need to get OUT of Italy! We have finally had enough of the garbage, general disorder, and the Italian drivers. Routing north the only option is to stick to the main highway as even if you enter avoid all highways you are still routed here since on the small roads it would take days. We headed 226 KM north east to Lombardo and finally got some time on the highway pegs.
The gas here on the highway is 160 plus and we decided to hyper mile the last 60 km to get off the highway to get gas in the village (still 1.50). The small hotel we booked was in a tiny town, but it did have a hip bar/gelateria with good cones.
Today we are going to Bari in 304 km to get the ferry to Durrës Albania.
On the way we had an itinerary of sights to see. The first stop was at Matera. This is a town where until the 1960’s people still lived in the caves here.
“Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera” (meaning “stones of Matera”). The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy. The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of them are really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as “la Gravina”. In the 1950s, the government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city.
Until the late 1980s the Sassi was considered an area of poverty, since its dwellings were, and in most cases still are, uninhabitable. The present local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented, and it has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi with the aid of the Italian government, UNESCO, and Hollywood. Today there are many thriving businesses, pubs, and hotels there.”
This lovely lady I helped up the stairs is 89 and her very stylish sunglasses she said she has had for 50 years!
We also checked out the south side of the valley where the more ancient caves are located.
From here it was to Albertobello which is the centre of the zona di Trulli. This is where they are concentrated, but for about 10 km around many buildings are built in this fashion.
“A trullo (plural, trulli) is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Their style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley, in the Murge area of the Italian region of Apulia. Trulli were generally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small proprietors or agricultural labourers. In the town of Alberobello, in the province of Bari, whole districts are packed with trulli.”
We hit a mile stone today as well.