We arrived in Sicily at 630am with the sun rising over the horizon and this set the tone of our Sicilian adventure. In some ways, mainland Italy hadn’t lived up to expectations but in contrast Sicily exceeded them.
The first thing we noticed was, like most islands, there is a slower pace of life. There is none of this arriving at port sat in your car, disembarkation took over an hour. The second thing we noticed was that whilst the driving was just as crazy there’s not so many cars giving the impression that it is more orderly. Don’t be fooled!
For the most part we free camped throughout Sicily. It’s far more accepted than on the Italian mainland and there are so many incredible spots to chose from.
We did visit a few campsites. Most notably, in Agrigento where all the reviews said that the owner would try and sell us wine. He did and less than 5 minutes after arriving we were the proud owner of 4L of wine and a sample of the family Olive oil!
Sicily is well served by boat and by air.
We arrived on the boat from Naples to Palermo and had intended getting the ferry from Messina to the mainland. However, with Brexit hanging in the balance we caught the ferry from Palermo to Genoa instead.
The general consensus is that if you can get over the rubbish and grimy appearance then this is a wonderful city. By Italian standards we didn’t think the rubbish was too bad and once we headed into the city we discovered a charming city with stunning churches and piazzas, panoramic views from the cathedral roof and beautiful city gates.
Doug and I aren’t really beach holiday people. Issy on the other hand could spend her life on a beach and we watched as she visibly grew before our eyes. However, even I have to admit there is something special about waking up and going to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, and the stars were something to behold.
Macari, close to San Vito Lo Copa, is easily in the top 3 places we’ve stayed. It’s a beach overlooked by mountains and is absolutely stunning. We only went to investigate why so many motorhomes were there and 3 days later we were still there. There are no services but for 5€ you can empty the toilet and grey waste top up the water in near by San Vito Lo Copa. Issy spent hours of the day playing in the rock pools and going off on little adventures (or not so little adventures when she disappeared with the handheld 2-way radio).
Alcamo was another favourite. We spent all day watching the locals arrive with a menagerie of kids, dogs and parents and then the horses arrived! 3 lads turned up with what looked like a removal van with 2 horses and galloped them down the beach.
In my opinion, Agrigento, Selinunte and Syracuse all rival Pompeii and Herculaneum in terms of visiting ruins. Due to it’s position, Sicily has some of the finest examples of Greco-Roman architecture in existence today and it’s in remarkably good condition. We had huge fun climbing through the ruins and imagining what life would have been like.
We fell in love with the gorgeous Toarmina. If you come to Sicily, and do nothing else you should visit Toarmina. It has everything; great shops, beautiful beaches, a Greco-Roman amphitheatre with views across to mainland Italy, views over nearby Mount Etna and great food. As a word of warning for anyone in a motorhome, leave it at the bottom (we camped in nearby Guardini Naxos) and catch the bus up.
Syracuse was another of our favourites. It has a very different feel to Toarmina but we loved mooching round the old town. It’s narrow streets suddenly open up into a huge square and we sat in the sun opposite the Ortigia Market listening to our friends Twin Circus busking with a coffee. There are definitely worse ways to spend the day! Also on our top recommendations are the Catacombe di San Giovanni. These were incredible and we wound our way through a sub-terranean world that housed 10,000 tombs.
Piazza Armerina has a beautiful but not motorhome friendly old town as we discovered to our cost. But for the kindness of strangers, our only way out would have been a Police escort and all because we took a wrong turning. If you’ve got anything bigger than a smart car then I would advise it’s one to visit on foot!
You can’t come to Sicily and not visit Mount Etna. A live volcano, she was smoking throughout our visit. There are a plethora of organised tours up to the top but we drove up with the intention of staying on the volcano for the night. It wasn’t to be, a weather alert for snow and heavy snow at 9pm at night saw us heading back down to the lower slopes. When the wind hit at 3am the next morning and we woke up to see how much snow had fallen we were glad we’d made the decision to come down.
We did manage to take a 3km hike around the lower lava fields and came across this stunning little church. If Doug and I were ever to renew our vows this would be a contender.
We discovered San Pietro after a day of frustration trying to find somewhere to park the motor home for the night. This was our sixth attempt! The aires is next to an abandoned church and apart from a small cafe and playground next door the town is practically deserted. However, for us it was perfect.
Having seen a sign warning of snakes, I gave myself the fright of my life when I saw a discarded leather belt in the grass and it’s not often I get to say that I’ve been kept awake all night by the resident owl.
Our journey ended where it started in Palermo as we caught the boat back to Genoa. Little did we know then, what fate had in store for us…read our post When life gives you lemons to find out more.