Giardini Naxos, SicilyFebruary 19, 2017 in Italy
We were so excited; today was the day we were going to Sicily! However the mood was somewhat dampened by a super stressful drive, where we initially found ourselves trapped on the seaward side of the railtracks by low bridges, then found ourselves holding our breath as we squeezed past lines of parked cars with oncoming traffic giving us only inches to spare. One car was even driving with their wing mirror already tucked in!
Arriving at the ferry port, the system was very relaxed. We chose a line to park up in and eventually found the small sign telling us which building was the ticket office. There were no advertised departure times but when asked, the attendant said it would be 'about an hour'.
The ferry itself was the most juddery we'd been on, but the Straights of Messina were quite a challenging course to sail. Homer's Odesey describes Odyseus' journey between the rock of Scylla and the Charybdis whirlpool. Vicky had her eyes peeled for the whirlpool but it was nowhere to be seen.
Arriving on the island south of Messina, we exited the port via a road that appeared to have been designed like a whirlpool. It was disappointing to see there was just as much litter here as on the mainland. We crossed large stony river beds where rubbish had been strewn. Stopping at traffic lights, we saw a beggar making his way between the cars with a sign around his neck saying he and his 3 children were hungry. Taking the coast road south, the area was urban. The buildings that weren't for tourists were dirty and run down with flaking paint, plaster and rusted iron railings around their small balconies. After a while, the filth and squalor wears you down and it was beginning to get that way with us. Goodness knows what the people living day in, day out in these conditions must feel like.
On the up side, there were verdant green hills rising steeply, inland of the developed strip and dark shingle beaches to the seaward side. Wooden fishing boats sat without trailers in car parking spaces and on the pavement. As we passd through tourist areas, the roads were cleaner and the bins were emptied regularly. It was nicer to look at but the inequality was stark.
In Giardini Naxos there were several campsites very close together. We chose Lagani, the one in the middle. Upon pulling in we immediately got a strong community feel. The place offered discounts on stays over a month and there were several long timers. The site manager wasn't around but a camper encouraged us to explore while he phoned him. The place was immaculate and interestingly we saw two vans with GB plates; the first we'd seen since November. We decided to stay three nights and took a wander down the hill to the beach. It was built up and had a lot of tourist restaurants and attractions, including a gelateria, where we had our first ice creams in Italy.
The next day Vicky logged on to Facebook and checked the posts of the Grey Gappers, David and Karen, who were blogging about touring in their van. They'd recently been on Sicily and Vicky wanted to check out their experiences. About an hour later, Will got chatting with both couples from the GB vans and returned with the Grey Gappers' card- they were two vans up! We returned together and introductions were made between ourselves, the Grey Gappers and David and Tosca, who had two beautiful dogs, Lexi the Rottweiler and Wiley the Doberman.
Over the next 2 days we got to know each other, shared travelling experiences and our favourite stopovers. Vicky got to do yoga in the garden shaded with palm trees, we bought oranges from the orange delivery van and Will picked prickly pears when taking the riverside route to the beach. He brought them back to the van and much to our dismay we discovered why they were called 'prickly'! Once processed, the juice was nice enough to drink but Vicky banned any more foraging.
We discovered on the second day that we could see the snow topped Mount Etna over the river behind the site - how exciting! We watched the steam and smoke rising above it and were at just the right position to witness the sun set into its crater, something which made us feel very privileged.
Time seemed to fly by but on the last night we arranged a GB get together which was really enjoyable even though Will over did the vino. We were all different people from different walks of life, but the way of life we had in common meant we had plenty to chat about.Read more