A lot of time has passed since March, but finally I managed to sum up the great time I had in Sicily!
Last year I had the idea to combine my two most important hobbies: motorcycling and photography. At first, I thought about exploring the Pyrenees, but after I learned that a driver’s licence for more than three years was required, I identified Sicily as a potential location. Some research revealed, that Bernard at the Poggio Bellavista was a well known but secretly kept bikers bed & breakfast in south-east Sicily. In March, I finally took off for one week of riding and taking pictures.
Saturday, Day One
Apart from a short hiking trip and some days before a business meeting in Chicago, this was my first real lonesome holiday. Although I knew I can be all by myself, I was very curious about what to come.
Unfortunately, the trip’s start was not that smooth. There was a mechanical problem at the airport related to the belts, so that I almost missed my flight. Thanks to my lovely girlfriend, I made it nonetheless on time.
In Sicily Bernhard had told me to take a train from Catania to Sampieri, where he would pick me up. Once I had arrived, we quickly took care of the formalities and I could welcome my ride for the week, a Triumph Tiger 800! For long time I wanted to test ride the triple, and now I had a full week ahead!
As it was not too late, I drove to Ragusa. The classical baroque city on top of a hill had a lot of charm and reminded me of the Mafia movies I had seen in the past. Small streets, old facade and laundry on the balconies. I was looking for a nice restaurant for dinner, but was not successful in my search – an issue I was about to face many times during the next days.
The weather was not as good as expected, but I couldn’t care less. I was a bit disappointed about the tarmac though…
After a pit stop at the next supermarket and hence equipped with some cheese, baguette and wine, I spontaneously decided to stop by at Sampieri harbour for some sound of breaking waves and pictures.
The Triumph Tiger 800 is a pretty good ride. Quite comfy, good torque, well shielded against the weather. I was pretty curious regarding the triple, but in the end I would say I prefer the four in line…
Sunday, Day 2
The day’s start was as good as I had hoped for: waking up without an alarm, blue sky and an extensive, delicious breakfast kindly provided by Bernhard.
Around 10am I was ready to go. Passing Scicli and Modica I was heading for Polazzo Acreide. Beautiful weather, dry tarmac but bad quality. I was not sure if it was due to the tires or the tarmac, but I had a decent lack of trust.
Polazzo Acreide is once more located on a hilltop, hence it was around 10 degrees cooler than at the seaside. I was looking for a nice café, but couldn’t find one and soon drove on.
Siracusa was meant to be my next target. The weather was much better than in the mountains. With my camera tensely at attention, I started my discovery.
Although I was pretty hungry, I first wanted to do the sightseeing. Unfortunately I was not able to visit the old harbour castell. In the end I just walked around the tip, before I strolled back through the narrow streets.
This was a big mistake, as I had not taken into consideration the Italian Siesta . All restaurants close shortly after midday, and reopen around 8pm. In consequence I just had a cappuccino before headed for Noto. The city is advertised as the most beautiful baroque city on Sicily, but somehow I could not agree. Maybe it was due to the off season or the once more closed restaurants, but I quickly left.
Monday, Day 3
It had rained all nights, I my mood and expectations were very low when I opened the windows. All the colours had vanished, grey was the dominant colour. Nevertheless I was committed to the plans I had made. After a quick breakfast I headed for Piazza Armerina. Most of the times light rain limited my driving experiences, but once the sun came out, there was an amazing light. I was using Scout as an offline navigation app, and fortunately the app guided me along almost off-road roads, which was at least some fun during the rain.
Once I reached my goal, Plazza Armerina with its mosaics, I first needed a Cappuccino. The villa is an amazing place, it must have been beautiful when everything was new. The mosaics vary a lot, are very detailed and show an incredible creativity. Unfortunately I had seen everything after 30-40min.
Tuesday, Day 4
What a start into the day! Blue sky, sunshine and a very delicious breakfast. The tour to Agrigento went along the coast in the beginning, but soon changed in endless series of greenhouses. I had to pass Gela as well, which is a petrol city not even worth driving through. Hence, I decided not to come along here on my way back. Most of the time I now spent on motorways, but at least I made a lot of kilometres.
Once I arrived, the valley of temples impressed my right from the first sight:
Entering the valley, I first visited the Tempio di Guinone. Unfortunately it started raining, hence I hold out for 20min beneath a Tree reading. I had found a book in the kitchen room of my B&B: „A thousand days in Sicily“ – kind of a perfect holiday book.
As soon as the rain stopped, I headed for the Tempio di Concordia. Due to the rain the area was more or less deserted, so I had free choice regarding the motif. The temple is very impressive, and even more monumental from close by. Amazing capabilities dating 2000 years back, extremely well preserved.
After an Espresso dopio and Pasta di Siciliano I headed home, yet this time not along the coast but though the back county. A good decision! Very different roads, some country lanes and some great light for taking pictures.
There was a beautiful sunset after I had crossed a broad valley. Unfortunately this was not the end of the ride. Soon after a heavy shower started, which was not going to end until I was home. I road for two or more hours through the rain. A short stop in Niscemi didn’t do any help. Wet feet and other vehicles contributing rain from below to the one from above, darkness and serpentines in Comiso. Very slowly I carried the bike home. I arrived safely but soaked to the skin.
Wednesday, Day 5
I had not a detailed plan, especially as my host proposed to postpone the Etna trip to Thursday when better weather had been announced (Though I had sunshine breakfast on the terrace). For a start I visited Pachino and Portopalo, although both places were not really worth a visit. Afterwards I passed Noto on the left along the Monte Renna with some spectacular roads Once more I passed Palazzolo Acreide and had a Cappuccino while planning the next steps. Following the advice I got from my host, I headed for Pantalica. On my way I stopped in Sortino to capture one of the many intriguing churches.
Regarding Pantalica I can only say: The journey is the reward. The canyon was quite nice, however taking into consideration the time, I was not motivated to visit it by foot. A short break and some pictures and I left.
For the way back I chose a route over Vizzini, for which I was rewarded with a lot of bends, especially around Monterosso Almo. It was quite freezing – Buccheri e.g. is at a height of 700m. There was sun and some clouds resulting in great light and so I often stopped to take some pictures.
I had planned to look for a Café in Scicli. However I decided to spend the evening in Samperie’s harbour to take some pictures I had in mind since my arrival. The sunset was beautiful, and after taking the pictures I listened to the waves and missed my girlfriend. We would have been walking along the beach collecting mussels…..
Thursday, Day 6
After some coffee and cookies for breakfast I left for the Etna 20 past seven! The route went along Modica, Ragusa and Vizzini again, as I did not favour using the state road all the time. Shortly after Ragusa I completed my collection of weather phenomena: fog. Or rather clouds I was driving through with a visual range of less than 15m. At 40km an hour, full beam and turning signals I sneaked forward, hoping the cars would see me….
Fortunately the weather improved on the other side of the hills. Right before Vizzini I stopped on a pictorial bridge for breakfast and pictures:
The weather improved the closer I got the Etna, I started doubting whether the warm clothes I had chosen in the morning have been the right decision. The first time I saw the Etna appear, I was deeply impressed – wow!
Passing Catania was a struggle, but once achieved, the fun started. Going upwards was great. Suddenly there was snow, it got cold and I was very happy about my warm clothes – a wise decision.
At the crater of silvestri I took a break. Ice-cold winds and a 30 Euro fair for using the lift prevented that I went to the very top. Moreover, due to the could I doubted that there would be any benefit in doing so. Eventually I just rounded the small crater, slipped on my butt and had a nice 5m „sleigh“ ride to the restaurant! There I had a Cappuccino to get warm again and planned my way home.
After little detour around Linguaglossa for some bends I used the highway to cover the lowlands of Catania as fast as possible. Unfortunately I was running low on money and gas and had to take a break in Lentni. From there I rode via Licodea Eubea to Ragusa. Especially around Chiaramonte Gulfi the ride was worthwhile!
Day 7, Friday
May last in Sicily, which I had planned to be very relaxing. Hence I started the day with a very long breakfast, before I drove to the beach of Sampieri, which was not really worth a visit (loads of trash)
Afterwards I finally found the nice corner in Scicli:
My host had recommended the Café Millenium, which I had failed to find the entire week. Now I used the Café and time to write some postcards and to complete the rented book. Next city on my list for the day was Modica, where I visited the next Cafe 🙂
Time to sum up. Maybe I should start with Sicily in total. Around this time of the year, the island is most likely most beautiful. Everything is green and flourishes. The landscape is by no means not varying with a lot of possibilities for me to take pictures. After flipping through those, I am happy with the results. On the other side, Sicily can be very unattractive considering all the trash. Some of the cities and villages are rather at the lower boundary of being atmospheric. Many roads are in bad condition with sudden changes of surface, potholes, water, limited or wrong labelling. In addition the driving style of the Italians doesn’t make life easier: no signal lights, crossing lanes, ignoring speed limits, ridiculous passing manoeuvres and tailgating.
Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun though it was exhausting because of the constantly high level of concentration required. Hence and all in all, a positive resume. And a final image of Ragusa.