Sicily, Italy

Day 50 – Sunday 13/06
Palermo to Isola delle Fammine – 24kms Total 2335kms

Had a decent nights sleep, the old boat had its smells but ok one cannot expect too much from the old girl.
We found getting out of Palermo quite difficult and were happy to finally do so. There weren’t any trucks on the road but all of Palermo decided to go for a swim today so traffic was total chaos. On top of that there seems to have been a garbage collectors strike because there were mountains of garbage everywhere and the smell was horrendous.
Camping here is ok I guess, for Italian standards, and music till late into the night from the discotheque near by.

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Early morning between Sardinia and Sicily. Those truck drivers are really good parking those rigs so close together.

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Monique enjoying the fresh sea air.

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Parlermo harbor is to the left of that rock. We rode along the coast from left to right. Click to view larger.

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This guy along with several of his friends started to follow the ship when we neared Sicily.

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Coming into harbor.

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More views of Palermo while the ship was doing a 180° before docking.

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Finally out of Palermo. We didn’t take any pictures from in the city just a lot of chaos and bad neighborhoods.

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There were a lot of cars but thankfully no trucks.

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The coast line ahead. We tried to follow the coast (right of picture) but the road ended so we doubled back and cycled between the two hills. Click to view larger.

Day 51 – Monday 14/06
Isolla delle Femmine to Lido de Valderice – 86kms Total 2421kms

Today’s ride was something else. For the first 40kms (heading west) was total filth, mountains of garbage and dead/decaying animals every 50m or so. It was a nightmare, and in some places some people thought that burning the piles of garbage would help the situation, and the stench was unbearable in many places.
People living in this area should be ashamed of themselves.
But soon after it slowly began to get better and we could breath a little easier.
Near the end of the day we had a very hot and sticky climb out of Castellamare and began to ride inland for a while. The humidity was very high and while riding inland we even felt some rain drops. Sweat was just running off of us.
Camping here is the worst so far, the sanitation blocks were totally filthy and we had to set up on hard ground with gravel but as always there wasn’t any other camping around so…
We met this American couple and had a nice chat with them. They are snorkeling the waters around here, and surprisingly they don’t mind this camping?!?

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Early morning and the piles of garbage started.

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It was really bad.

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No comment.

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There were also many decaying cats, dogs, sheep and also goats along the way.

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No comment.

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After what seemed like an eternity the piles of garbage began to lessen. And we could breath a little better.

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Crossing the E90 with Palermo airport in the distance.

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On the climb out of Castellammare del Golfo. Click to view larger.

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Monique bringing up the rear. This climb was made more difficult from the high humidity.

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The port of Castellammare del Golfo from above.

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Taking a much needed break after the difficult climb.

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One last picture of the coastline we had cycled.

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We passed this marble query while on the SS187. After this picture was taken a bee flew onto Monique’s forehead and stung her we thought it would be bad for a while but we were sweating so much she just sweated the poison right out and after a few minutes it was over, no pain or swelling 🙂

Day 52 – Tuesday 15/06
Lido de Valderice to Biscione – 62kms Total 2483kms

Quite an uneventful day, we got up and out of this horrible camping early and by 10:30 we had made 40kms.
We blew past the very busy city of Trapani. But we did stopped at the more beautiful Marsala for a gelato. But soon after Marsala the wind picked up to an almost 50kph head wind which made the going much harder. We also saw some very dark and threatening clouds in the horizon.
We did make it to the camping in Biscione before the rain came, it wasn’t much but it did get everything wet.
Camping here is pretty good actually with thick grass and very clean sanitary facilities.

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Water front of Trapano.

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Beautiful buildings in Marsala.

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Beautiful buildings in Marsala.

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Enterance to Marsala town center.

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Cathedral in Marsala. Click to view larger.

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We found Marsala to be a surprisingly beautiful and very clean town.

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Just before Biscione rain showers appeared.

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After dinner at the camping restaurant we went for a walk along the village sea front.

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Sunset from our camping spot.

Day 53 – Wednesday 16/06
Siscione to Sciacca 89kms Total 2572kms

What a day, it was great, we followed rural roads for the whole 89kms. It got very hot and with high humidity but the ride was beautiful. We haven’t sweated so much in a very long time 🙂
At one point, the last hill before Sciacca we ran out of water and after reaching the top we saw this house with a couple of cars parked in front, so we stopped and asked for some water and the people were so happy to help us out and they wouldn’t accept any money so we gave them one of our cards so they could follow our trip around Europe. Its always nice to meet people like that on tour.
The whole day we rode through olive groves in what seemed to be middle of nowhere Sicily, we loved it.
In Sciacca we looked for a camping but it had closed down so we ended up in this overpriced and dated hotel with some really huge cockroaches running around. To Monique’s delight 🙂

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Early ride through grape vine orchards.

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We did some of the best riding today.

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When it started to really warm up I had to put on by bandanna to keep my head from roasting.

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Another hot valley we had to cross. Click to view larger.

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The E90 in the distance.

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Just great cycling around here.

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We saw this huge clouds in the distance so I zoomed in with my camera.

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And we saw it was a wild fire on the hill side.

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After setting up at the hotel we went for a walk around Sciacca. Click to view larger.

Day 54 – Thursday 17/06
Sciacca to San Leone Mose – 61kms Total 2633kms

Got out of our room early and cycled about 20kms (with hills) on the very busy SS115 before our first cup of coffee lol, we’re getting good.
The whole day was spent on the very busy N115 which became a bit difficult in the midday sun and the hills. Oh and a few scary moments with some drivers coming a bit too close.
We ran into this German cyclist who rode from Freiburg to Sicily, nice guy, we ran into him again later on at camp and shared some stories and a beer.
Camping here is ok I guess its on sand and on the beach which by the way isn’t very clean.
We also ran into Mark and Cindy (the two Americans from Lido de Valderice) we had a good time together over dinner. A very nice couple that we wish to meet again sometime in the future.

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Riding through this tunnel was a bit hairy without a shoulder.

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Once out we had to stop and catch our breath.

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The SS115 was quite busy but in most places there was a decent shoulder.

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If we would had to ride through here again we would definitely look for an alternative route.

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No place to really stop and have a proper rest.

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Ancient Greek ruins near Agrigento.

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Monique pushing the bike this short but very steep hill just before the camping.

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 Having diner and drinks with Cindy and Mark at camping Nettuno. They are the two Americans we had met earlier at  Lido de Valderice.

Day 55 – Friday 18/06
San Leone Mose to  Falconara 53kms Total 2686kms

Got up a bit under the weather this morning, due to the cheap Italian wine we had for dinner. But the dinner itself was delicious, thanks to the suggestion of Cindy.
The ride today was kind of boring, the first 15kms or so were on rural roads with many greenhouses growing melons, than onto the busy SS115 before finishing off with more rural roads to Licatta.
At Licatta we bought train tickets going from Falconara to Catania. Reason for buying tickets from  Licatta is that there is a station in Farconara but no way to buy tickets there, go figure.
Yes we have changed plans again, we’ve decided we had enough of Sicily and now want to get out. We’re sure there are many out there who think the world of this island but it didn’t impress us, and we’ve found it to be way overpriced, so we’re leaving, asap.

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Back on the busy SS115

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By this time we were starting to have enough of this busy SS115.

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One of the better views we had from the SS115.

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Beautiful country house on the sea.

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Another expansive and crappy camping.

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All the permanent places at this camping had their spots covered for privacy.

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The beach nest to the campsite.

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And “no” we didn’t go swimming here.

Day 56 – Saturday 19/06
Falconara to Catania – 9kms Total 2695kms

Got up very early to catch the first train at 07:00. The one car train was very old and we had to lift the bikes over a meter high to get them in (without luggage hehe) and had to repeat this at Gela for the second train.
At Gela (a town with a lot of heavy industry and petrochemical plants) we had to wait at the station for 5 hours before the next train to Catania.
Once in Catania we looked for the camping which is about 5kms north of town but once there found it to be the most expensive camping so far, 27 euros for a patch of gravel in a parking lot and a warm shower. I think the Mafioso’s are getting desperate lol. Anyway it was either 27 for the camping or a hell of a lot more for a room.
We also met this likeminded German girl Ether (hope I got the name right) who is cycling around Sicily we had dinner together and a nice chat. A very nice and intelligent girl if I may add.
We also got wifi (for 5 euros a day) and booked our tickets from Bari to Patras on the 30th, which gives us 11 days to cycle through Calabria.

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Falconara Grand Central station.

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Petrochemical plant before Gela.

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Some views from the train.

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Another view from the train.

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Mount Etna in the distance.

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Mount Etna a bit closer.

Day 57 – Sunday 20/06
Catania to Spropolo – 32kms Total 2727kms

Very interesting day. Got up at 7 said goodbye to Ether, rode the 5kms back to the train station and got on a new electric train to Messina.
The train stopped a few meters from the ferry where we were lucky to get tickets for the next boat leaving in a few minutes for Villa san Giovani.
From Villa san Giovani we cycled to Regio di Calabria where we bought train tickets for Bova Marina were the map showed a camping. And after a 2 hour wait we were again on an old one car diesel train heading for Bova.
At Bova we found out there was no camping so we rode several kilometers down the road to Spropolo were we found this ok camping. Very basic (everything) but also cheap, good for a night.

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Ether, the nice German girl we met at Catania. Notice the place we had to camp on (gravel with some dead leaves) for €27.

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Waiting for our ride at Catania Central station.

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Leaving Sicily, probably will not see us again, ever.

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Some patron saint at the port entrance.

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Messina harbor.

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Straight of Messina, Sicily on the left Italy on the right.

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Special berths for these train caring ferries. They needed these special berths to line up the train treks.

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Last view of Sicily.

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Having lunch in Regio di Calabria Central station.

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The coastal road between Bova and Spropolo.

Even though there were some good riding in Sicily we found that for the most part it was bad. There was a lot of garbage along the roads and many dead animals that were left their to rot. And not just dogs and cats we saw some bigger animals like sheep and goats that were just left there along the road. We are sure they do not see the problem while speeding along in their air conditioned cars.
We also found most locals to be more rude than Corsica and Sardinia. They had an air about them like the tourists owed them something and a take it or leave it attitude. The quality versus cost of the camping’s in Sicily was another bad point, in northern Europe most of these camping’s would have been shut down.
Only two words describe Sicily, overrated and overpriced.
So maybe in the far future when we’ve seen the rest of Europe and cannot afford to travel overseas we might go back to Sicily.

Continue on to Part 3, Southern Italy and Greece.