Sicily; Etna & beyond.
Sicily. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not very good at researching, so other than a great big volcano, it was a mystery. As we approached the ferry, I was looking towards the island and I could see it was pretty hilly. Then I looked harder. There, she was; Etna, with a wee puff of clouds above her. Snow covering the peak. I laughed like a drain when I saw it, Ed said he was taking me up there today. That’ll be shining bright.
He did. Via as many twisty roads that he could find. So far, the roads approaching Etna were for me the most magical. Sweeping bends, some really tight, some good road surfaces too. The view was astonishing. We could see the top of the volcano puffing away. On the way up, there were warning signs not to ride motorcycles or push bikes when there was an eruption. Really? No shit, Sherlock. I’d be leaving the country, if the lava pattern was anything to be going by.
It was amazing, surprisingly green, lush countryside and then, wham, black lava. We went as far up the mountain as we were able. There was even a wee shop open. We looked for a sticker for our top box, they didn’t sell such a thing. Oh well.
Off we went, downhill, Smoggy’s tank in reserve, to find a petrol station. Ed said he thought I was riding quite slowly. I was, I was pooped! I had booked us in for two nights at the Sheraton in Catania. Thanks to booking dot bloody com, we ended up in the wrong part of town, same street name, 6 km in the wrong direction. We eventually got there and settled in.
The next day, the toughest part for me was getting up. I sat in the sun, eating my breakfast and reading my book. I went back to the room and read some more, then fell asleep.
In the meantime, Ed was beating a trail round the other side of Mount Etna. He had a bonkers day by all accounts, coming back with a blackened face and a cheesy grin. I, in the meantime had had a (short) walk and a pedicure. After a (much needed) bath for Ed, we both had a massage. Our holiday treat. I really needed the day off, the first of my holiday.
Leaving Catania the next morning was a wake up call and a half. I’m glad it was a Sunday, it would have been hell on a Monday! The traffic was erm, interesting. By this time though, we’re getting used to it! If you’re half asleep, forget it, you will be mince! Ed was off and I was hot on his trail. There little room for error. Shoulder checks have to be really swift. Fart around, and the space you want will be filled from either side of you!
Caltagirone was our next destination. The first part of the route I suggested. It was pants. That means I probably won’t be asked to plan a route again. Not a bad thing! We were booked into Casa Alba. The owners ‘Ma & Pa’ didn’t speak any English. It’s ok; amazing how you can get on with hand signs! Ok, we’ve picked up essential phrases, but not many! After a walk around the pretty town centre, we found a pizza restaurant for Ed. We weren’t late to bed. We didn’t sleep well that night. The room in the B&B was lovely, really contemporary. They’ve invested heavily in this property that looks like nothing from the outside. The most unlikely B&B. They did their best to provide me with something for breakfast, ‘Ma’ did tell me though that because it was a Sunday, she’d not been able to get any gluten free stuff in. Rice cakes will do!
Breakfast at 8am; Ed had another punishing day in store for me! It’s amazing what I’m able to do when Ed doesn’t show me the map. He’s the ultimate con-merchant. At times, the less you know the better.
We were going to be heading to Marsala on the west coast. Cross country all the way. We did have a couple of ventures onto a ‘new’ dual carriageway; it was at that point that I realised the road bases looked like they were underpinned with sand. That’s it, that’s why they have dodgy roads!
Most of the time we were off the main road, on as many minor roads as Ed could find. One road was just gravel. That was fine, stand up on Smoggy’s pegs and get on with it. Half way along this ‘road’, we caught up with some lorries who were kicking up dust. We took that chance to have a break. We stopped at the most random picnic area in the trees, which over the years had seen a bit of action. Maybe it was still popular in the summer months. Wild pee and a picnic. It was only the second time we’d bothered with lunch. I knew it was a good thing that I did have something other than coffee, it was proving to be a long day.
The last 10 minutes of ‘find the hotel’ was interesting. The closer we got to the hotel, the tighter the turns. Skittery roads; luckily it wasn’t raining. The hotel was nice, renovated inside, but the old exterior. Some quirky bits, including a glass walkway. I felt a bit queasy when I walked across it to start. A very strange sensation.
There was a wee restaurant at the end of the street, however, we did as we usually did, took a walk into the town, admiring the stunning old town centre and doing a bit of people watching. We ended up back at the original restaurant, which had a big sign saying they served gluten free pasta. I had died and gone to heaven. The owner and his team were lovely. Husband, front of house, the wife, doing the cooking. They were all charming. Sapori di Sole Risrorante was on the Piazza del Carmine, 100m from the hotel. My pasta had red mullet, pistachio nuts, with an onion and cream sauce. A HUGE salad and I was a happy girl. They also gave us some hummus puffs. Get in.
The owner was interested in our route tomorrow. He started reeling off names of towns. We shook our heads. He asked what we were planning. His chin nearly hit the floor when he realised we were going the hard route, across country! No wonder. All will be revealed in my next update.
For me it was one of the most enjoyable meals of the holiday, they cared. What we have been finding hard, is the time the Italians eat dinner. Restaurants don’t even open until 7:30pm. That part we have found tricky. We’re ready to eat our arms by 6pm! Mixed nights sleep, a bit of drizzle as we set off the next morning.