Crusin' the northern coastline of Sicily


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Europe » Italy » Sicily » Gioiosa Marea
April 15th 2013
Published: April 17th 2013
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Today’s Gelato flavour – not today saving ourselves for more Sicilian sweet treats tonight, cakes that is !

We weren’t in any hurry this morning to leave Monreale as we had less than 200km to our next stop in Gioiosa Marea where we have two nights before leaving Sicily for the mainland on Wednesday.

Needless to say it was another beautiful sunrise and we lay in bed with the sun streaming in thinking that despite yesterday’s trials of trying to find a car park in Palermo perhaps the place wasn’t that bad at all, especially when the sun is shining.

A repack of the suitcase was due and in the bottom I discovered a table spoon amount of Dubai sand which must have been filtering out of the packing cells as we have bumped over the roads of Italy. We are sure Ag and Fish wouldn’t let us back into NZ with that in the suitcase so it was tossed out with some difficulty as it got caught on the lip of the suitcase and wanted to stay with us.

We thanked Fausto for the apartment which we have found to suit our needs perfectly and was very comfortable and well located being close to Palermo but far enough way to feel rural. He was about to take off somewhere on his Ducati with a young French girl on the back so we wished him, said we would recommend his apartment to any Kiwis we might know coming this way and he was gone.

Vicky still wanted to direct us through the disused tunnel to take us down the hill to join the A20 which we will take for a while to clear the city.

We passed the directional sign to a B&B with a name that has been a talking point each time we passed it....B&B Veigina.We never actually found the B&B although it must have been along the street our apartment was in.

As we headed down the hill we had a close call with an Alfa Romeo, which suddenly motored in from our right from a side street, with a driver completely oblivious to what was going on around him as he had his cell phone to his ear. Now in NZ I would have reported him via the website that you are able to do and although it is illegal in Italy to use your cell phone while driving we decided to let him off as we don’t know the website to report people here. Any he missed us and Cindy remained in one piece!

As we hit the flat and only a short distance from the motorway we saw the first ‘one finger out the window ‘at a driver tooting another driver for some reason that we have seen in nearly 2000km of driving in Italy. Mind you we have thought about doing the same one finger sign on a number of occasions ourselves but perhaps now we have seen it done we may not be so restrained in the future when traffic annoys or takes advantage of us not being a local.

Heading east towards the other end of the island we noticed a very large and modern building with high walls and barbed wire which we took to be the local or one of the local prisons. At least the prisoners have something new in which to reside their sentences.

As we left the outskirts of Palermo we did agree we will miss the panificio and the vast array of Sicilian sweet treats on offer and all so reasonably priced.

We motored along on the very surface that the motorway had compared to the town roads with the dramatic steep hills to our right and the ocean to our left.

We hadn’t seen any trains since we had crossed over from the southern side of the island but then suddenly ahead was a two car electric train that did not look unlike the old Vulcan railcars of the 60’s and 70’s in NZ except the nose of the front car was more streamline and not as sharp as the Vulcan was. Whether it was a local train or one heading to Messina we will never know but it was speeding along faster than our 90kph that we were cruisin’ along at in the slow lane of the 130kph highway.

We left the highway to get closer to the coast and the beach and also to avoid any potential tolls now that we had cleared the city limits.

We had asked a question a few days ago of you blog readers about words that are the same in a number of languages relating on that occasion to breakfast. We must say we were rather disappointed in having only one entry to the little competition we ran so we thought we would give you all a chance to redeem yourselves.

This time we are looking for words that are spelt the same in two different languages, one of which must be English, that have different meanings like ‘piano ‘which is of course in English a musical instrument but in Italian refers to the floor level in a hotel for instance.Please feel free to offer your word in the comments of this blog and the esteemed judges of Gretchen and myself will decide on a winner with the prize being named in this world famous travel blog which we are sure will bring you notoriety in the world of travel blogs making you internationally famous. Go on now, don’t be shy and give it your best shot. We will be back to you in a couple of days with a winner.

This came up because the GPS was now showing on the screen ‘passi’ then ‘paini’ and finally ‘giardini’ all of which we took to be names for the types of lanes that ran off from the main road we were on which we presume were’local’types of laneways to get to the housing back from the road.

The countryside was now less steep and the rolling meadows were covered in the yellow daisies that have been prominent as we have driven around Sicily. The land looked like it would take farming of animals but there weren’t any to see within our vision.

Our boot lunch was taken at the picturesque town of Cefalu with its dramatic rocky outcrop behind the town with housing spilling right down to the very water’s edge with the buildings so jammed packed you couldn’t tell from the road above where we had stopped whether there were any roads in the town. In a way it reminded us of Dubrovnik in Croatia although part of that would be to do with the colour of the buildings in similar tones to that of the Croatian city on the seaside.

Off the coast, a short distance away, but well within sight, was a super yacht at anchor making the whole scene quite stunning.

We were both taking photos and video and talking to each other picking out points of interest and didn’t realise a 44 seater coach had pulled in right behind us and tourists babbling in a foreign language(not Italian we think) were pouring off the bus to take in the same scene we were looking at. Here we were thinking that because it was well after the start of siesta time that there wouldn’t be anyone else around and all of sudden we and Cindy were surrounded by people with cameras vying for the spot we had to take photos of the town. So much for peace and quiet. We packed up, turned the engine on and the bus tourists parted to let us through and on our way.

With the thought of dinner in mind we looked for a supermarket that flouted the closing hours of 1pm to 4.30pm but didn’t find one as we passed out of Cefalu. The two we did see were both closed.

The road now hugged the coast closely and it was reminiscent of driving along the Kaikoura coast with the rail line adjacent and mountains behind and then sparkling sea to the other side.

Every so often we would cross what was a valley further inland and looking right would reveal another massive bridge/viaduct on which the A20 rode. We lost count of the number of these structures we saw today, many of which emerged and entered the hills into tunnels. The sheer cost of constructing the road is mind boggling and here we are in NZ can’t get enough money together to build the Transmission Gulley road north of Wellington or finish the holiday highway north of Auckland. As we have said before, perhaps this is why Italy is broke!

At Castelbuono we were almost fooled into thinking that the SS113 shared its path, at least for a short distance, with a rail tunnel such was the vision ahead that all we could see in front of us was the portal of a rail tunnel. With no other traffic on the road we had no way of seeing where vehicles opposing us were coming from. Then at the last moment the road turned sharp left across the railway line not 20 metres from the tunnel. It is just as well all the rail crossings are controlled by barrier arms with flashing red lights because it would have made for an interesting crossing had we been part way over the rail line and a train emerged from that tunnel.

We were getting closer to our destination when we saw a sight that had us both in fits of laughter. We couldn’t believe our eyes when coming towards us was a machine not unlike that put together by Tom Good in the BBC series ‘The Good Life ‘when he had the need for a machined plough which he rode on to prepare his front lawn for a crop of potatoes. We really couldn’t believe what we saw and the driver looked very earnest as he pottered along going to wherever he was off to.

The offshore islands of Vulcano, Filicudi and others came into sight looking picture perfect in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Just before we entered Gioiosa (try and pronounce that name) Marea we passed the first road maintenance team we have seen painting the centre line on the road. Although really why they bother with a centre line as the locals don’t take a lot of notice of it as they scoot along this windy coast road. What amused us again was that they were painting the line with a hand held, walk behind machine which seemed to take 5 men to control. We made a comparison to the line marking machine that the guys mark our croquet lawns in Tauranga with although we must admit this one looked a little more powerful and sophisticated.

We were met at the local garage by the owner of the apartment we have for the next two nights after sending him a text. We have a great deal at €20 per night and the place turned out to be a real bargain with all that we wanted including cooking facilities although we still relied upon the microwave to cook our very tasty fish dinner and veges.Desert was a decadent chocolate affair purchased from the local panificio (we hope they are as present on the mainland as we have found in Sicily).

All in all an enjoyable coastal drive with some magnificent scenery and a bit of local flavour thrown in with the ‘Tom Good tractor’ and ‘the hand held road line marker’.

We took in the magical starry night sky complete with a sliver of moon and a range of northern sky stars uninterrupted by any local street lighting as our apartment is in a valley a couple of kilometres from the town and headed to bed.

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17th April 2013

International language
Ah, the old one finger salute - the internationally recognised gesture :-) I would like to enter your competition with the word 'chair'. Meaning 'flesh' in French, it gives a whole different meaning when asking a French-speaking person to sit down on a seat.....?
18th April 2013

Well done,out first entry.Tick v.g! We will let you know in due course

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