After the disappointment/adventure of the Amalfi coast we decided to head down to Sicily over the next couple of days, using the autostrades and finding nice campsites by beaches if possible. We have a couple of campsite guidebooks – one is the ACSI book which lists good quality campsites at which you can get a discount out of season, using the ACSI card (which we have). They’re mostly a flat rate of 17 euro a night and have decent facilities. The other book we’re using is Camperstop europe which lists aires, sostas and campsites in all countries we are planning on visiting. Some are free, some are full price but there are loads of them, and this book has become the bible for us.
Anyway on 22nd April we ended up at a lovely site with the friendliest manager, right by a beach, somewhere near Salerno. I took the opportunity to wash the sheets and dry them on a washing line made of string held up by Gertie and a fence post. It was windy and they dried in no time but I was scared we’d lose them!
The next night (23rd) at a stop near Palmi way down in the south of Italy, we were once again by a beach and spent a very pleasant evening sipping beer outside a tabacchi and watching the sunset. I could get used to this life…
And on to Sicily! 3 weeks to the day since taking the ferry from Poole to Cherbourg we put Gertie on another ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina. Somehow we found ourselves on a ferry used mainly by trucks which didn’t actually dock in Messina (imagine our horror as we chugged on past the Messina port, wondering where we were going to end up and would it even be Sicily at all?) but ended up about 10km further down the coast. No problem – it was easy to hop on the motorway from here and get to where we’d planned to spend the night (another lovely little campsite beside a beach). Here’s Gertie on the ferry, from above. She has a busy roof – 2 skylights, a solar panel and a satellite dish.
We spent the evening doing a bit of planning of the next few days, then discovered the free wifi was fast enough for us to consider streaming the last episode of Broadchurch, via TunnelBear. Great to catch up on it at last!
There had been talk of an early morning swim in the sea, but it was pretty cold so I only got as far as paddling, while still wearing my PJs. It’s a hard life.
We then spent a few hours driving most of one of the stages of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The route climbed through beautiful mountainous country, amongst gorgeous beech woods, and then around a corner suddenly there was the view we’d been waiting for, of Mt Etna. That wispy cloud is steam from its crater – it is almost continuously active.
Many hairpin bends later, we arrived at the ski resort area of the mountain, on the south side. Obviously this is out of ski season (we’d have been tempted otherwise!) and this is where the Giro stage will finish. We’d eyed up several laybys where we could park the van for the night before, to cheer the cyclists on.
At the ski resort car park, we discovered you can (for 12 euro) park overnight. I’ve never spent a night on an active volcano before, so it had to be done. We explored the area, walked up a very steep ash and pumice-stone path to view a crater from the 2001 eruption, ate in the hotel restaurant, watched an episode of Game of Thrones and settled down to sleep at nearly 2000m. It was pretty cold.
Awoke to temperatures of 9 degrees in the van. The heating had to go on for a bit! Drove back down the mountain and across the interior of Sicily, all the way to Palermo. On arrival at our camperstop here the temperature was 31 degrees. Much of motorway driving in Sicily looks something like this, as there are an awful lot of tunnels. You feel like you are driving down into mines. They don’t believe in overdoing the lighting.
Driving in Palermo is very stressful. We are at a basic camperstop (a campervan dealer’s backyard!) which is fairly central and which has toilets and a shower. We cycled this evening into the city centre – cycling in Palermo is also very stressful – and had a very pleasant meal out. Tomorrow we’ll explore the city properly – on foot.