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We managed to fit in a trip to Sicily at the end of our European adventure. Sicily or Sicilia in Italian conjures up images of good fellows, heavy Italian food, sun and sea. Well it lived up to the sun and sea part. The food was good and surprisingly light and Mediterranean influenced. I am not sure how much of the mob we actually saw but it seemed like there were plenty of guys who wanted to look like they are connected. Driving down the road in our little rented Fiat Panda I would often see a couple of big new Mercedes approaching at about twice the speed limit flashing their headlights. I quickly pulled into the next lane out of their way. No need to tempt fate.

Sicily - Fiat Panda!

The island is amazing. It is Italian but its own version. As soon as you fly into Palermo airport you can see mountains that drop into the crashing sea. I think this isolation allows the island to be a nation and culture of its own.

We drove first to Taormina. It is known as a playground for the jet set. It lives up to expectations with jaw dropping scenery and many tourist amenities. Our hotel overlooked the Mediterranean and was surrounded by cliffs. The old town is actually up on the cliffs above the motorway. It is easiest the access by bus. I tried to drive up but was turned around after being forced through a maze of one way cobbled streets and such steep grades that I thought we might topple over. Not a parking spot in sight. The food is impressive. We found a restaurant that specialized in slow food. Everything was local and in season. The climate of Sicily lends itself to a variety of food we normally do not get fresh. It is exciting to taste the taste citrus the way it is meant to be fresh from the tree. The blood orange salad was surprising in its simplicity and elegance.
Sicily - Veranda of Hotel
Sicily - Taormina - Greek Theater

Climbing up the hill there is amazing vistas of the ocean a 1000 feet below and the smoking Mt. Etna close by. You can see both from a Greek theater overlooking the city. The little town of Castelmolla seems to be a fairytale capping off the top of a mountain. Certainly the location is secure but it seems impossible for the original owners to have built this in ancient times.

Sicily - Taormina

Sicily - Taormina

I had thought there was rock climbing nearby but found out that it actually was located on the other side of the island. We cut our stay in Taormina short and head south. In an hour we found our selves at the base of a ski area on Mt. Etna. The 10,000 foot mountain seems like it would fit right in the Oregon Cascades. I of course wanted to climb it. It took a few hours but we were able to knock off most of the mountain. I am sure that on a clear day one could see the mainland of Italy. As it was we could see the ocean through the mist. When the staff was not looking we jumped on the gondola for a ride down to the car.
Sicily

From Mt Etna we headed down to Siracusa known as Syracuse in English. I grew up in the city of Syracuse in Upstate NY. I have always intrigued by this city that shared the same name. Siracusa turned out to have an amazing history. It was settled by the Greeks and was a thriving city in 300BC. The old city on the island of Ortigia contains numerous Greek temples and medieval churches. The city felt full of the weight of history. A run through the city allowed us to see the real city curtained behind walled courtyards. In walking distance were the ruins of a Greek Theater and a Roman Amphitheater as well as the quarry where they cut the stone. All of this in the heart of a busy city.

Sicily
Sicily
Sicily
Sicily

A couple days of Siracusa has us longing for some wide open space so we headed west to a town I head read about called San Vito lo Capo. The destination seemed to be predestined since Suzy had a found an Italian guide booking devoted to beaches in the area. The attraction to me was the reports of rock climbing by the ocean- my favorite combination.

On the trip across the island back through Palermo I found it a challenge to keep an eye on the road with the mountainous countryside unrolling along the highway. It is indeed a highway. The autostradas seem to be either elevated on concrete pillars contained in tunnels driven through the mountainsides. I am not sure if it was all necessary but does add of good dose of fahrvergnügen. The little Panda kept pounding around the curves and down the road.

San Vito lo Capo is a good as hoped. It seemed to be an old fishing town cum holiday retreat sent beneath towering cliffs. Based on the German hotel signs few American make it that far but it is reputed to be packing July through September. In April it was just waking up from its winter nap. The gem of the town is a camping area called El Bahira. A camping and RV park with a beautiful pool and million dollar view. In the last four years a few climbers from the UK and Germany have bolted hundreds of rock climbing routes. They are well bolted with stainless steel to avoid corrosion from the sea. This detail was a welcome sight after the ropes that filled in for bolts in Thailand. We were lucky enough to meet the guys who put up the routes as a party held for the climbers. They were good enough to loan us some gear and we were off to do some routes. It was some of the best climbing I can remember. The Sirocco winds from Africa sent perfect temperatures up the cliffs. The limestone was satisfyingly steep and crisp. A perfect cap to the trip.
Sicily San Vito lo Capo
Sicily

Heading back to Palearmo we stopped an amazing temple in Segesta. It is one of the most intact Doric temples around. The unbelievably old the columns seem like they could host a cult’s ceremonies today. The temple and an ancient theater are set in field filled with wildflowers.
Sicily Segesta
Sicily Segesta

It was a bit sad to leave the happy Italian island. I will be back someday for some history, mountains and sea.

Sicily

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