August 1-7: The Sicilian Wrap!

Amazing how a holiday can slow you right down … so slow, I didn’t feel like a daily wrestle with the internet, writing on the iPad or uploading and posting photos while we were in Sicily. We’re home now, after a wonderful adventure.

Currently, I’m digesting the fact the notes I took about our time there have disappeared. For one very rare and welcome moment, my writer’s cap returned and I scrawled notes and phrases about the whole adventure that I would have been proud to share with you. But now, at home, they’re no longer lodged inside the guide book where I carefully placed them. Pages of notes – insights and observations that now escape me. I’m devastated!

So, I’m afraid, for now, it’s just a diary-entry kind of post, not the ‘literary masterpiece’ 🙂 I’d scrawled in peace sitting next to Leo as he drove along a road under the Etna, through lava flow and vineyards with views of barren but beautiful hills.

If you’d like to read some short posts and see photos from the start of the holiday, head here for the first day, here for our first few days with Leo’s family and here and here for a bit more of Taormina.

August 1: Another relaxing day spent on the beach. I never thought I’d be a fan of the umbrellas and sun lounges but when the beach is so stony, it’s fantastic! With the umbrella, we could just move the chairs around to remain in the shade all day. Glorious! In the evening, we went back up to Taormina town and watched Carmen at the old Greek theatre. A wonderful experience.

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The beach in front of the little island Isola Bella in the bay where we spent lazy days on the beach

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Love this underwater photo of Leo

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Sitting on cushions in the Greek Theatre. The original stones would have meant a numb bum in minutes!

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The Greek Theatre in Taormina, watching Carmen

August 2: We said goodbye to Taormina after four beautiful, sun-filled days and headed south to Syracusa. The drive wasn’t too bad, but seriously, the Sicilian drivers are insane. There are road rules and speed limits but everyone ignores them! Surprisingly, we only saw a few accident scenes. Once in Syracusa, we rode the hotel bicycles to Ortigia, the old port town beside the more modern city and had an early dinner in a small restaurant near the main cathedral and cooled down on the hotel rooftop as the sun set.

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Looking down to “our beach” and Isola Bella. Bye bye Taormina!

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The plaza and cathedral in Ortigia

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We weren’t staying directly in town, so bicycles were a warm but fun way to look around

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There aren’t many beaches in Syracusa, so anything goes!

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Our beer didn’t last very long in that heat!

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Back to our hotel rooftop bar and a refreshing drink!

August 3: We drove four hours to see a statue, but it was worth it! We went from Syracusa to Porto Empedocle on the south coast, past the horrible looking Gela (industrial) and the stunning Agrigento (more Greek ruins). We’re big fans of the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri, who wrote the Inspector Montalbano police/criminal books which were turned into a tv series. Porto Empedocle is Camilleri’s hometown, and they’ve recently embraced the Montalbano tourism opportunities. We then drove to the tv home of Montalbano in Punta Secca, and then had a twilight dinner in the impressive town of Noto. A 13-hour day but well worth the drive.

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Leo with the statue of Montalbano in Porto Empedocle. The tv actor looks nothing like this book version

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Oh, hello, Montalbano sono!

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We had lunch where Camilleri stopped for coffees and I tasted my new favourite beer

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Montalbano’s house from the series. It’s now a B&B and hopefully we can stay next visit!

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The view back to Montalbano’s house

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The arid countryside on our four-hour drive

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The buildings in Noto are all made from this lovely honeycomb-coloured stone

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Part of festival celebrations in Noto

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Sunset in Noto

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Love these old Fiat 500s! Found in Noto

August 4: More Montalbano tv series location hunting! We spent time in Modica and Ragusa/Ragusa Ibla, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to go to Scicli, which was used for filming the outside of Montalbano’s office and many other scenes. It rained today too, luckily while we were driving. In Modica, I ate my first and only brioche bun filled with ice cream – something I’ll always remember! We went back to Ortigia for dinner with Leo’s sister’s husband and his family, who were on holidays too.

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The church of San Giorgio in Modica

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A view from the church steps

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Ice cream in a sweet bun! Only in Sicily!

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The main square and church of Ragusa Ibla, which was the scene for much action in the fictional Montalbano town of Vigata

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The beautiful baroque town of Ragusa Ibla, where a lot of Montalbano was filmed

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Another angle of Ragusa Ibla

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The boardwalk around the fishing village of Ortigia

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Dinner with Leo’s brother-in-law’s family. Not sure why we’re all red!

August 5: We left Syracusa and the Montalbano trail to go back to Leo’s dad’s house near Taormina, in a small village of 400 called Passopisciaro. On the way, we stopped in Milo for a light lunch and to admire the coastal views, and then drove on a scenic road (when I wrote my missing notes, sob) back to Passopisciaro, via Randazzo. We visited the father and mother of Leo’s dad’s godson, then surprisingly went back to Randazzo for a night-time walk and then had a very late dinner, where the restaurant had closed, but opened just for us.

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The dry, lava flow landscape around Mt Etna north

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Amazing lava formations

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Visiting with Leo’s dad’s friends

August 6: Our last day, once again at the beach! We went back to Fiumefreddo with Tony and Bossy and spent a relaxing time reading and swimming, and admiring the dexterity of the people selling wares on the beach. We then went home for an early dinner and later joined in the village festivities (the start of the month-long festival season in August) and said goodbye to all the people we’d meet and seen, mostly family members!

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How to carry stuff

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Another good photo of Leo underwater!

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Leo’s aunty Elvira, Bossy and Tony at the beach

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One last beach shot …

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Festivities in the town were a human football field, like the table football game but with people strapped to the bars

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Action in the blow-up field

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One of the human football teams, with our new friend Paula on the right

August 7: Up early to drive back to Catania, drop off the Fiat 500, which we loved driving around the country, for our two-hour flight to Basel and 90-minute trip back to Wohlen bei Bern. Luckily we didn’t experience any temperature shock when we arrived – it was 36 degrees in Switzerland! Went swimming at home then joined The Usual Suspects for a fish festival/dinner in Hinterkappelen, the village next to ours.

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Saying goodbye to Bossy in front of their house in Passopisciaro

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Back home! With Liliane, Lene, Nuri (Eve’s very funny grandson) and Eve

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The outdoor dining theme continued at home thankfully!

So there you have it, a far less extensive tour of Sicily as I’d hoped (maybe I’ll find those notes one day!) but to sum up our two-week trip, here are some bullet points.

  • Toilet seats are optional in Sicily. Sit on the porcelain or squat
  • Driver’s licences seem to also be optional
  • Mt Etna emits smoke constantly, which is thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time
  • The people were generally friendly. It helped that Leo speaks the language and I want to learn!
  • We should have tried more wine – there were vineyards everywhere
  • There’s still so much more to see/do/taste/explore, so we will be back

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 31: More sunshine

Here’s last night, today and tonight in picture form.

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Italy’s behind those palms, just a few kilometers across the sea

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Taormina at night, with Mt Etna

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One of the main squares in Taormina

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Leo being a merman

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Me being silly and not wanting to open my eyes underwater

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Chilling under the umbrella

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Lovely dinner on a restaurant balcony under the full moon

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Leo getting a haircut at 11pm

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 30: Taormina

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My view for the whole day

What more can I say about today? Lots of swimming in the beautiful clear water, book reading and Relaxing. We’ve been craving quality beach time for ages – Leo more so than me, because he didn’t come to Australia last year. I’m not so happy about his sunburn though! Why do men think they’re bigger than sunscreen?!

The Internet connection is stronger today, so I uploaded the photos to yesterday’s post if you fancy having a look at a few more.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 26-29: Sicily!

Haven’t had the internet until today! It’s been quite nice being internet-less but here’s an update of the trip so far …

Sunday: Flight was great, took photos of Mt Etna out the plane window, were met by Leo’s Dad and Bossy at the airport, picked up our Fiat 500 and drove to their house in Passopisciaro, had a fabulous lunch in a nearby village, met Leo’s Aunty Elvira and had an early night.

Leo, Bossy and Tony with our hire car :)

Leo, Bossy and Tony with our hire car 🙂

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Looking around the grounds at our lunch venue

Monday: Went to the beach at Fiumefreddo for the entire day, lazing under an umbrella on lounge chairs at a private lido (beach area) with Tony and Bossy. Had pizza in Linguaglossa village at Leo’s second cousin’s restaurant with members of Leo’s dad’s family.

Spent our first full day under an umbrella at the beach

Spent our first full day under an umbrella at the beach

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The original version of our Fiat!

Tuesday: Went to Mt Etna in the morning but didn’t go to the highest point – too expensive! Will do that next trip maybe. Cruisy afternoon driving around the region.

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Driving towards the southern viewing point

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Walking around a crater

Today: Left Tony and Bossy for Gole Alcantara, a natural ravine with a cold river, and then drove on to Taormina. Had a swim and a fantastic seafood dinner. Despite the stony beaches, it’s beautiful here!

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Cold water river

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The view from our hotel room in Taormina

Wishing you a wonderful day.