• Day31

    Back on the bike

    September 19, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After yet another wonderful breakfast at the B&B, I ventured down to reception to inquire about using one of their bicycles for the day – with a bit of banging around in a large cupboard a helmet and the key for the lock were unearthed. This was followed shortly by a bicycle (a vintage, step through with no gears and a seat like a rock – but it worked). The seat was duly adjusted to something approaching the required height and with some elaborate pantomime I indicated that I needed a pump as the tires were flat. More banging and one was found – I was about to set to with it when a laborer from the adjacent construction site stepped in and insisted on attending to the problem (I must look frail or something). Tires fixed and I was ready to set off in the direction of Aci Castello as recommended by Manuel yesterday as having a lovely castle and a good place to swim a little further on at Tezza.
    We had also discussed the interesting Italian, and more specifically Sicilian, approach to driving. This being that traffic lights, street signs and indeed most road rules were “suggestive”. Manuel further explained that if one approached a pedestrian crossing with a red light it was merely a “suggestion” that you might like to stop, if you were in a good mood, the crossing wasn’t in use and so on. With this in mind I ventured out into the traffic and it turned out to be good advice. Staying alert was important but also relaxed, cars were going everywhere and it was clear that road rules and even which side of the road to drive on were pretty notional, however there was NO aggression, people just kind of wafted about, let each other in and I certainly felt more comfortable than I have on several occasions road riding in Melbourne. I WAS beeped twice, however it was clear on both occasions that this was a “I’m coming past” warning, not a “bloody bike I wish to squash you” type of encounter.
    I had a fair idea how to get to Aci Castello (keep the sea on your right and ride for about 8.5km) and was pleased to locate the town and castle after about 40 minutes – the ride was really pleasant with gentle undulations along the coast. I paused to enjoy the view and take photo’s but decided not to visit the castle and then pressed on. Passing Tezza I couldn’t really see anywhere to swim so I decided to keep going – again I knew that if I kept the sea on my right I would be ok, I also recalled that road SS114 was one that I needed to keep track of. Unfortunately this plan didn’t quite work as I got a bit turned around and seemed to be heading towards the Autostrada (turns out I wasn’t but never mind) and to avoid this, I took a left turn and ended up diverting through a village with lovely views of Mt Etna and a long hill – never mind it was a lovely day.
    Eventually I found my way back to the coast at a lookout overlooking a nature reserve. I could see a small village and a swimming spot so I followed the cobbled lane down (1km, and very steep) to the water. By this point I had ridden 19kms so I decided to stop for a drink and a swim. Again no “beach” as we would know it but all the locals were swimming from the rocks so I did too (the water was warm and clear) and then sat on the rocks for a while to dry off. Deciding that climbing back up the lane was not going to be ideal I headed through the village which was really rather pretty and I zig zagged my way up through the terraces to the main road (good old SS114) again and turned back towards Catania.
    The trip back was certainly quicker, first because I avoided the previously mentioned village detour and second because I was able to enjoy the benefit of all that climbing with some long steady downhills where I found myself whizzing along at almost 50km/hour (perhaps not entirely sensible given the dodgy bike)! Returning to Aci Castello I got a bit turned around in the village but once I found the castle and coast again I was able to orientate myself (keep the sea on the left this time) and head back into Catania. At one stage I stumbled across a beautiful bike path which seemed to start in the middle on nowhere in particular, run for about 4km and then just as suddenly stop – very nice while it lasted.
    Back in Catania after a 40km round trip (very pleasant) I visited café Spinella opposite the Giodano Bellini – this had been recommended by 2 people as the place to go to try the local speciality Pistachio Anrancino and I had decided that I couldn’t leave Sicily without tasting. I duly took a seat and ordered a anrancino and a beer and took my time enjoying both immensely.
    Back at the B&B I returned the bike, thanked the kind gentleman who had assisted with the tires and then having showered and refreshed headed out for a final walk around the city centre, just wandering and enjoying the warmth and sunshine for a few hours.
    Kirstin meanwhile had had a more relaxing day visiting the herbarium museum and Sicilian tea rooms where she enjoyed an informed discussion about herbs and tea plus tea and biscuits afterwards. She also visited the beautiful and historic library which not only houses historic books but also had art on display and a lovely palm and cactus filled garden.
    At about 7.45 we ventured out for dinner. The restaurant Il Sale (the Salt) had been highly recommended and hence I was highly disappointed when my meal turned out to be under-cooked, bland and overpriced… really it would have to be the worst, most boring food I have eaten in Sicily – I was so disappointed with my black tagliatelle. Kirstin had the Cod Ravioli and reported it was ok but really, I wasn’t impressed and was happy to leave and go and have a Gelati from the place on the corner (pistachio and chocolate… not bad) rather than add insult to injury with a second-rate dessert! What a bummer ending to our stay in Catania – oh well Rome tomorrow!
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