Italy Part 5: Sicily

The southern Italy traffic nightmare continued: A street in Cefalú

The journey continued on our final destination: Sicily

As always we underestimated the richness of this island, the sheer amount of things to see and the time you need for seemingly small distances (probably got used to much to racing along on German Autobahn…)

So we decided to skip most of the cultural and ruins stuff 😉 .
Well, to our defense I have to add kids needed rest (if nothing else available, blame it on the kids 😉 ) and it was getting rather hot – see below on our sirocco adventure.

However we put focus on relaxation, less populated areas, nice surroundings, little cozy towns to stroll around and good beaching for the kids and then did excursions from these bases.

Two stops were a full success, the other one was quite a bore:

(1)    Cefalù

Very recommended. Great landscape and coastline within a national park and much greener countryside than you would expect from Sicily in the late summer.

The town is cozy and beautifully located and the beach next to it was simply great – cristal clear water and white Caribbean sand.

We visited the mountain village of Pollina(800m above sea level) and met some crazy cyclists there that went all the way up for sunset.

Pollina, on a (very) steep mountain top right next to the sea. Quite what I would call “Lord of the Rings”-scenery. And there still live many people, even many young ones!

Also we did a roundtrip through inner Sicily, Enna, and Taormina. Taormina is the touristic hotspot on Sicily, but much overrated in my view. Total Disneyworld, very expensive, only tourist shops and no more “original” life there and packed with people even now in the off-season.
Enna is another crazy on-top-of-a-mountain-town, great views on the central desert-like surroundings.

Beach of Cefalù.

Piazza Duoma in Cefalù.

Central Sicily close to Enna (on the mountain in the background) – hot and dry.

Approaching the volcano “Ätna”.

A photographers nightmare: Backlight plus damp.
The ancient greek theater in Taormina, with a view on Ätna. These guys knew about dramatic stage management already 2700 years ago.

Sunset close to Cefalù. Actually you find another “Lord-of-the-Rings”-feature here: The watchtowers spread all around Sicily, always in sight of each other.
Not sure, but guess they were build by the Spain in the 13th century against pirate attack of the Saracen.

(2)    Mazara del Vallo

Had to cross a part of Palermo on our way south. Traffic holds up to what you’d expect: A nightmare!! Then we did a stopover in Monreale.
Mazara itself was the down turner of the whole trip. Quite an uninspiring spot of the island, strange climate, very windy and very humid and dusty. Ah, and a million dogs trained on heavy barking in the night. Well, one very nice and lonely beach not far from there in Selinunte, and one real highlight that you seldom see in southern Italy: A McDonald’s! However, had a burger there and it was really bad. Always thought these guys have a standard recipe. Anyway, left there after 3 nights where 6 were planed.

Stopover in Monreale, close to Palermo. Notice the strong arab influence in the architecture.

A mobile shop in Monreale.

The Duomo of Monreale.
Someone read the “Pillars of the Earth”?…

…These small corridors inside the walls actually exist! And you can explore them im Monreale…

…View from the roof-top. And you can peer down through little holes into the cathedral. Big fun, recommended if you come there!

Only one pic of Mazara: This.
Felt like in a ghost town in a bad western movie. Only the rolling bush was missing.

(3)    San Vito lo Capo

Simply a great place! A real surprise at the end of the Sicily round trip.

Set within another national park with stunning surroundings, we stayed at a great campsite below a cliff (good climber destination).

The town itself is not spectacular, but it has one of the best beaches in Italy, you really feel Caribbean flair there.

Also there was an international Couscous-Festival going on, which added quite some vibrant atmosphere.

An adventure was the onset of sirocco, a desert wind coming from Africa. This was something I never experienced before. The wind blew 2 days, hot and dry.

I drank 4 liters one day and didn’t go to toilet once 😉 .

And measured 34 degrees Celsius (94 Fahrenheit) at 7:30 in the morning – crazy. Now I start to understand why people in the south always will stay a bit more laid back than us (over-?)productive Germans or other temperated countries.

Pics of San Vito Lo Capo next time, battery is down…

Cheers,
Woodpecker

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7 comments on “Italy Part 5: Sicily

  1. […] by mrwoodpecker Some impressions from the Area around San Vito Lo Capo on Sicily (ctd. from this post): Coastline close to the camping site. Lovely in the late summer evening sun… Same spot, view […]

  2. Sicily is beautiful! I would love to go there someday. You have really good photos taken in there, beautiful! And I love how you play with lights in your photos. Anyways, you said in your post that it’s really hot in there, would you recommend what months is good to visit Sicily?

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi travelitaliablog,

      yes, Sicily is absolutely worth a visit, and we have only seen about half of it yet…

      Temperatures go very high obviously in Juli/August, then it’s also high season, prices roar, beaches are packed as all locals leave their cities to stay at the beach.
      Probably not the best time to go.

      September/October (when we were there) is actually the perfect time to go. It was not crowded but not deserted yet, the water is warm, and in general the weather was perfect (around 25-30 degree Celsius). The heat I described in one of the posts was quite exceptional, and due to a special weather condition, called Scirocco, a wind which blows from the Sahara. That was extreme, but fortunately only 2 days.
      So generally I absolutely recommend late September. As a plus, the light is beautiful then, as you can see on some of the pics.

      February/March is said be great as well, when the whole island is covered with flowers and blossoms. That would be great for hiking or cycling, less so for beaching…

      Cheers,
      wp

  3. […] then if you once had three days of hot and hammering desert winds blowing from the Sahara (see here), then you start to understand that you cannot expect this people to work as “efficient” as […]

  4. […] can drive by car to the end of turkey or Sicily or you can take them to a backpacking trip through […]

  5. Sandra says:

    just returned from 2 weeks in Sicily. I rate it a 5 out of 10. It was under-whelming. Scenery was beautiful, too many tourists crowding all the alleged, – must see – areas, advertised as unique. The scenery is similar to every other beautiful coastal, mountainous area you ve ever seen. Food was ok, but not terrific. Over- blown seafood is all. Even other Italians I spoke to suggested Capri would have been a better choice. Plus there is the mafia that tourists inadvertently assist, by using the Ferry service from Messina in partic, but other less obvious linkages as well. The there is the endless traffic, tour buses, scooters, private cars, delivery trucks that pretty much ruin the tranquility you might expect when visiting, say Toarmina, or Catania, etc.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi Sandra, sorry to hear you did not like it.
      When we travelled it we found some really beautiful spots and it was not crowded or rip-off at all, no traffic jams and hardly any tourists at all.
      Maybe it was because we went there in October or because we skipped most of the must-see places in favour of the second tier (which is often the secret first tier).

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