|02-06-2008, 02:38 PM||#91|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Not to Montepulciano
The plan was simple: Ride to Montepulciano (becuase they make an exellent wine there named Vino Nobile di Muntepulciano (Wikipedia), take pictures of the gorgeous town with the surrounding hills, purchase a few bottles, and then wrap it up here. Not.
First of all, due to all sorts of mundane reasons, I was not on my way at seven as I had planned. Then, to add to the pain: The ble sky and Tuscan sun just didn't make it. The weather wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. Go or stay at home (and work) .... hmmmm ....
Montepulciano is situated in the south-east corner of Tuscany while I live (more or less) in north-west. Along the Autostrada it is 180 km (110 miles) or about two hours. Coffee included. But I want to ride through Chianti on my way there, and take the Autostrada back in the afternoon. First stop, as shown on the picture above, is below the small town of San Miniato. The town itself is up there together with the tower (12th centry, destroyed during WW-2, and then rebuilt). As you can see, it is sort of misty.
Chanti starts more or less at San Miniato, and when road works slows down the traffic to walking speed, I turn into the coutryside. It will take me forever to get there on these winding roads, but the view is nice. When I enter Chianti Classico, the plum of Chianti as it were, I stop to take the above picture. Olives on the slopes facing north and grapes on those facing south. I hate weather like this: Not bad enough to just go home, but not good enough to enjoy it. I'll stop at my favorite bar in this area, the one at Monteriggioni just north of Siena.
The old fortress on the small hill always make me feel good. Maybe there will be sun after all? Let's ride over to my favorite bar, which is just below the castle.
As scooters are not only for whimps any more, and even the mayor in town might arrive on a Beverly 500 these days. Don't know what that is? Well here is the first paragraph in the review from Motorccycle.com:
Pornography is a matter of geography, or so they say. Turn on Italian TV at prime time and you'll be showered with a myriad of game shows whose only purpose seems to be showing leggy go-go dancers strut their stuff in borderline X-rated fashion.Eh, ok. But after that little rant he goes on talking about the Beverly 500. Read all about it here. I promise, you can safely open the page also during work hours - pictures only of bikes
In any case - becuase also powerful people might arrive on two wheels, I see more and more of these bike parkings. I like them - makes me feel important.
At these moments, even more than after dinner, I with I hadn't quit smoking. After two hours on the bike there is nothing that gives as much pleasure as a full-bodied sigar together with a full-bodied espresso (well, eh, you get the point).
From Monteriggioni I continue east becuase Montepulciano is still the destination. But after a few minutes I stop, study the steady growing amount of clouds, the cold draft that wasn't here an hour ago. And I give up. I sit by the road for a while (not smoking a sigar), snap a final picture of (what I late found to be) the estate Villa Cerna, in the hart of Chianti Classico. After all, not a bad place to turn around. I have turned around at less interesting places than this one!
I run back to the high way, and follow it north towards Firenze. But before I get there I turn off and stop at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial (wikipedia).
The thing is, a few weeks a go I noticed a thread in Ride Report about war cemeteries. And as there is one just here around the corner, I thought I stop and look around.
Places like these are both depressing (4.402 graves - and that is just here), but on the other hand, since they achieved what they came for, it is also a place for happiness. Well, maybe not happiness, but at least a place one can be grateful. Oh well - I want to keep this thread out of Jo Mamma so I'll leave it for you to contemplate.
On the base of the statue it says:
This figure was formerly part of a monument erected in the Futa Pass by the 361st Infantry 91st divisoin, to honor the memory of the fallen comrades and to commemorate the achievements of the regiment in World War II.I've been to Futa (north of Firenze) twice. When the snow melts up there I'll go back and survey the area.
I tell my Zumo I want to go home, and it takes me into the hills. After a little while I come to a small town, of which there must be thousand just here in Chianti. But this one, for some reason, is "twin city" with Morgan Hill, USA. So if you live in Morgan Hill, wherever that might be in the US, I guess you are welcome here.
You'll find a Google map with all the pictures placed where they were taken here. 265 km (164 miles) on a gray Wedensday.
Thank you for your attention.
|02-10-2008, 02:26 PM||#92|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Sometimes it becomes evident that more-than-average effort is necessary to get what you want. Yesterday it was made clear
to me that if I wanted to spend the day riding in Toscana, and Capa della Famiglia was to come with me, she needed to be
pleased in general, and have her desires fulfilled in particular. Since riding with her is a different thing all together, I am willing
to go that extra mile to make it happen.
I start the run-up with speghettini con vongole, just the way she likes it - with the right amount of chili pepper, and made with
butter and oil (not just oil). To this I serve a cool (definitely not cold!) Vernaccia di San Gimignano (which is a white wine). Then
some pecorino stagionata con miele.
It is furthermore made quite clear that the mountain of lemons that sits in the kitchen must vanish. A mountain of lemons in the
kitchen in the morning means SHE will have to.... OK, OK, I hear you!
So in the darkness of the night I transform them into (what in August will become) limoncello and jar upon jar of lemon marmelade
(no more than 700 grams of sugar per kilo of lemon - I want it to be a little sweet, but the sweetness must not overpower the lemon).
Watch this space for pictures of breakfast later on - the marmelade you will see on the Tuscan bread will be this one. The picture
shows one of the many batches.
And then there are the nagging needs of the body. As I said, I have to struggle to get what I want (which is to ride with Capa
della Famiglia, in case you got the priorities wrong here!).
When I wake up after a fulfilling night, I open the shutters and look out. In my world, nothing can beat Toscana with it's light-blue sky,
the sun slowing coming into the valley, roofs with old hand-made tiles, the more than 1.200 years old church over at the cemetary,
olive grooves, and on the high hill, the thousand year old fortress La verruca protecting it all. This day has potential to become special.
We're off to a small village in central Toscana. The thing is, I write for a Norwegian magazine. One of the comments to an article
was that I just had to go to this village and see how beautiful it was. I am, as always, happy to oblidge. The readers are Kings in this game.
We ride south into central Toscana, where we stop in Saline di Volterra for cappuccino e svoglia con ricotta. Above average, and
the bar has been carefully noted. The road from Pisa to Saline, the SS 439, is a nice road to ride on a fine Sunday morning. Not just
straight ahead, but not too many twists either. A village here and there, but not too many. Just perfect.
It is when I sit like this on a Sunday morning in the sun, with a cappuccino that a sigar would have added just that little extra touch
to make it unforgettable. But alas....
We continue south, and pass through Pomerance. The valley is full of geo-thermal power-stations. Fat, shiny and ugly pipes that carry
steam zig-zag the fields and forests. I understand the need, I just wish I didn't have to see it on an un-spoiled Sunday morning like this.
If I had remembered how ugly it is I would have taken another road. Now it is too late. On the other hand, as an engineer I find it cool
(if I might use that term here) to see the shiny pipes dive into the ground. Of all dogma, to let form follow function might be the best one.
But it is Ugly As Hell.
We pass through the ubiquitous village Montecastelli. Just as we leave it, and are picking up spead, I see in a glimse a sign-post
out on a field. In Italy, all things are under-wmphasized and under-communicated. So we stop and ride back to see.
It is nothing special, really. Just a 2.700 year old Etruscan tomb carved out of the rock. Inside there is a main room, and four separate
burial chambers, each with a bed (complete with pillow). All carved out of the rock. As I said, nothing out of the ordinary.
By the way, if you look closely at the image you might notice that I am wearing a somewhat striking-coloured safety-west.
Ugly As Hell
We continue though the rolling hills of Toscana, and pass Belforte. It looks as if the road up to Belforte might be worth a try some day.
I make a note of it.
Then we finally spot today's goal: Montalcinello. It looks just like any other hill-top village here in Toscana. A fortress, a church or
two, city wall, splendid view, a few thousand years of history. Nothing special.
Later we learn that the village was mentioned in a document dated 918 (not 1918) and then it had already been there for a long time.
We also do not forget that we are in the midst of the Etruscan "country". A few thousand years is nothing.
We park the bike on the piazza, in front of the little church. It is 13:30 (one thirty), quiet, and exactly as a village in Toscana should be
like at this time on a Sunday morning. Everyone is with the extended family, having pranzo, living life at it should be lived here.
We enter the combined bar and trattoria, and are pleasently surprised to find that is streches through the building with several small
and welcoming room with a few tables in each. We choose a room that is not empty; another couple is eating secondo. After a while,
two elderly couples take the last table - none of us wants to eat in solitude.
We go for gnocchi quattro formaggi (where gnocchi is like a pasta, but made from potatoes. The point is that they hold on to the sauce
better, and tastes more). Then pesce miste fritte (different fishes, fried) with faggioli and insalata mista as contorni. Looking good!
The waiter says that if we want, it being such a nice day and everything, the couco has promised that if anyone wants just gorgonzola
and not all four cheeses that would be no problem. We jump on it! Looking better!
Then, after a few minutes, the waiter comes back and reports that the cook doesn't have enough gnocchi to make two servings. He can
either use a normal pasta (orecchio) with the same sauce, or we can order something different. We go with the pasta - gorgonzola is our favorite.
The sauce is nice and thick, we haev some white wine, fresh bread, and we are happy.
Then the waiter appears (again!). This time with one serving of gnocchi, quoting the cook as to someone has to enjoy the single last
serving. And that is, obviously us. The picture above shows Capa della Famiglia just done with the orecchio con gorgonzola, getting ready
to some gnocchi con gorgonzola. This reminds me that I believe Gorgonzola is a village somewhere near Milano, and that I need to go
there to eat gorgonzola.
Anyway, we are starting to suspect that this this place with this cook might be something worth remembering.
The fish arrives, and it is just excellent. I pour some oil made nearby on the faggioli, and have a jolly good time. Then the couco
himself comes out, asks if everything is in order, and says that if we like onion with the fish he'll run out and slice some for us.
Looking good, well above average!
Now, the problem with Italian lunch is that in general the Italians aren't very good with dolce. Dolce Vita, yes. And svoglie. But aside from tiramisu and a few others, there isn't much to be happy about. I mean, how many times do you want to eat dry and boring torta della nonna? But again Francesco surprises us. He has one last pice of a delishious, soft, humid and excellent cake with a "lid" from cioccolata.
As we are paying, Francesco comes to ask if we liked his food. We did, indeed! So he tells us about the village, the trattoria he is
running here, what he serves, what he can make, and so on. It really requires some effort to explain that the reason we decline his
offer for some grappa is that we are on the bike. We would really like to say yes, but we have had some wine, and enough is enough.
I don't know if he blieves us.
I can recommend La Fattoria di Francesco Nilo. Montalcinello, +39 0577-798057 (+39 340-3122709).
Sorry hat you cant' see the bike on any of these picutes, but I simply couldn't bring it in with us.
We walk the narrow streets of Montalcinello, talking about Life, Universe and Everything. I am thinking about sigars.
It is time to ride back home becuase Capa della Famiglia doesn't like to ride in the dark. We stop below Volterra, at a bar we often use.
The reason is the excellent service.
Someone, not me, prefer tea (give me a break, we're in Italy!) but I am too experienced to say anything. Today the owner gives us a few
home-made dolce made from mandorle. If I ever forget why I come here, remind me that this is why!
226 km (140 miles) on a splendid Sunday.
Thank you for your attention.
tagesk screwed with this post 02-10-2008 at 02:54 PM
|02-11-2008, 10:17 AM||#93|
Joined: Apr 2007
I'm back again, and another great one from Task . As before, nice pictures of the sorroundings, people, food and drinks backed up with great write up
If You wish to be out front,
Then act as if you were behind
|02-11-2008, 01:11 PM||#94|
bada bing, capiche?
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: North Stonington, CT
What an incredible contrast.....so many pics of onion rings, greasy burgers, ketchup-slathered whatever in US ride reports vs. espresso, elegant jams on fresh breads, great Italian reds etc. Everyone needs to visit Europe and sample the great cuisine and terrific dining, not to mention the great riding. It's been over 30 years since my last visit to Italy and your great report brought back a flood of memories.
2010 BMW R1200RT, a sweet scooter for my daily 100 mile commute.
'08 Husqvarna TE-610, sold
waiting till I retire to get a new adv bike. meanwhile........
|02-11-2008, 08:56 PM||#95|
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: San Diego, CA
Citadino di Volterra
For a time I lived just south of you in Volterra. Wonderful memories of Toscana, but having lived for nearly 10 years in Napoli, I could not stay long in Toscana. 'a mozzarella, 'e pizze, e o'mar. Sai? Just like un Toscano can not stay in Campania for too long.
Thanks for your many sacrifices bringing us this passegiata.
Un saluto, e tante belle cose.
2008 KTM Adventure 990 (connecting continents)
--2006 KTM 450 EXC CA Plated (connecting trails)
----Leo Vince (long pipes save wives)
------Rekluse (for the little creep)
|02-12-2008, 07:56 AM||#97|
Joined: May 2005
Location: NOT Brooklyn
Please, God, make it stop.
TaSK - thanks - I spent 2 1/2 glorious days in Tuscany last Sept (stayed in Cortona, visited Siena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, etc.) and wished
1) I'd had another week
2) I was on my GS
Maybe this summer again....
As far as wines, I have not seen any Nobiles imported - Brunellos I can find for $40 - $200 around here, depending on vintage. I had brought home a couple of bottles from Val de Suga, and a smaller place that was across the road, on the hill, that were wonderful, and only cost me €20 a bottle
|02-25-2008, 02:48 AM||#98|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Riding on/in Sicilia
There is much talk about the New Colonies (they took the liberty of calling themselves United, even!), but little talk about the
old ones. This must be rectified.
Sicilia was a colony belogning to the Pisa Maritime Republic from 1030 until 1204. That, I guess, quality as an Old Colony. It is the
colony-part that enables me to document the ride here in Riding in Tuscany - what is 800 years of independence?
BTW: is it "riding ON Sicilia" or "riding IN Sicilia"?
Besides the village of Corleone, I knew nothing about Sicilia. Reading up before departure I found that, by European standards,
it would be a decent country all by it's own with 6 million people. I also quickly realised that our general plan of crusing around
in an unspoiled countryside would not hold up. The island is filled to the brim with historical sites. Complete Baroque cities (not
just a church here and there), huge Greek temples (plural, not singular), Roman ruins, Norman castles, Arabic city centres, and
so on, and so on.
Here we are, ready to go. If you look closely you'll notice I am wearing a safety-west. Ugly, ugly, ugly, but it really
makes people notice us.
But to the important stuff: The riding. I did the 80.000 km service in November and had reached 85.000 as we got
ready to leave. Changed the oil, decided the tires and break pads would hold 4.000 more km. I was right about the
tires (Tourance) but wrong on the pads. One front pad was consumed there was a mere 100 km left before we got home,
and I probably wasted the disk getting home. I used 1 liter of oil, and we were never below 15 km/liter of fuel (and Google tells me
this translates into 35 mpg). The best day we managed 17 km/l (or 40 mpg). That's OK.
We rode 3.450 km (2.150 miles) in 10 days. I'll make 10 posts, one for each day. We have also kept careful notes on
what we ate and drank, and the food is just outstanding!
I hope you will keep us company as I tell about our trip! Here are the links as I manage to document our vacation (all the links
will open in a new window):
Day 1: Pisa - Ceccano is here.
Day 2: Ceccano - Palmi (Calabria) is here.
Day 3: Palmi - Taormina (Sicilia) is here.
Day 4: Taormina - Noto is here.
Day 5: Noto - Agrigento is here.
Day 6: Agrigento - Trapani is here.
Day 7: Trapani - Milazzo is here.
Day 8: Milazzo - Lungro (Calabria) is here.
Days 9 and 10: Lungro (Calabria) - Cerveteri (Lazio) - Home is here.
The map is here.
tagesk screwed with this post 03-08-2008 at 03:24 PM
|02-25-2008, 06:04 AM||#99|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Day 1 Friday; Pisa - Ceccano
(notice the scale in the lower right-hand corner of the map. The maps have different scale (depending on how far we rode) so you'll need the scale for your reference)
The general idea was like this: Ride to Sicilia, tour the island, and ride back. And we did.
We had decided that in order to get the most out of the vacation we would start Friday afternoon. Some Google'ing and we found a hotel somewhat south of Roma, in Ceccano. I have never heard of the town, but we called and the lady said we were welcome With safe parking for the bike.
We drove 420 km (260 miles) today. From the ride itself there is nothing to report.
Whenever we called we asked for Safe parking for the bike, heating, and a place to have a proper dinner within walking (!) distance. Without all of them we would find somewhere else.
We didn't get on our way before 15:00, so we took the quick (but boring) route. First the Fi-Pi-Li from Pisa to Firenze, and then the Autodrada della Sole (A1) towards Roma. Passing east of the big city, we arrive in Ceccano at nine in the evening. It is very cold (just above freezing).
When we arrived it turned out that a big company of about 50 men were having dinner in the restaurant, and there was no space for us. As we got ready to go out in the town to find a trattoria, the owner came and said it was a shame to send us out on our own like this. Maybe we would like to eat in the kitchen rather than wandering around in the cold searching for somewhere to eat? In Italy you must be out of your mind to turn down such an offer! Or maybe a tourist, but nevertheless stupid.
The antipasto was warm and cold seafood. Then ravioli della casa with zucchini and gamberetti (this is what I am eating on the picture above).
As secondo a filetto from spigola (a fish) with a purea di patate with safrano and three big scampi.
For the dolce they had two home-made cakes, one traditional torta della nonna and one with cioccolata. Both were just wonderful. With all this we had a bottle of local white and two bottles of water.
It seems as if also Capa della Famiglia enjoys the secondo.
There were countless pots and pans boiling with all sorts of food, so it was really, really humid. Not quite as humid as it seems, but the camera was cold and the humitity formed a mist on the lense. The picture shows one Happy Rider, the Propretaria and her daughter.
The hotel was "Hotel la Villa", via S. Sebastiano 52, 03023 Ceccano. Phone +39 0775600144. They even have their own website here. We paid 110 euro for everything, with excellent service! I highly recommend them! It is only a few km from the A1 and only about 30 minutes south of Roma.
That was the end of the first day of vacation. This is looking good!
Thank you for your attention.
Edit: The map is here. It will be updated as I write more installments.
tagesk screwed with this post 02-25-2008 at 09:58 AM Reason: Added map.
|02-25-2008, 11:24 AM||#100|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Day 2 Saturday; Ceccano - Palmi (Calabria)
Saturday is our second day, and the plan is to ride from Ceccano just outside Roma and down to the Stretto di Messina (separating Sicilia from the mainland). The plan was to arrive in the (late) afternoon, find a place to stay, so that we could take the boat over to Sicilia from Villa di San Giovanni to Messina Sunday morning.
After having settled the (comfortable!) bill at Hotel La Villa in Ceccano, and promised that if we ever passed through again we would stay the night, we fetched the bike from the back yard where it had been safely stored during the night.
The street in front of the hotel had turned into a vegetable marked, and I had to ride the bike through it. Noone seemed to mind, though. We had breakfast on a bar just there, looking at people. A well-made capuccino, a dolce, and we're ready to go. During the night it has been cold and we see white frost on some cars. We ride with prudence!
As we get some distance between us and the town, we see that it is a very cool and typical hill-top town. The GPS (I love my Zumo) took us spot on so we didn't get to see the town during the evening. And now we don't have the time. Argh - next time. We twist along for a while, but soon turn onto the Autostrada del Sole (A1) again. We have to get down to the south and can't spend the day lurking around up here in Lazio.
We ride well east of Napoli. You don't want to go near Napoli at the moment. The garbage-problems are huge, and growing. And the worst is that everyone seems to be very happy with blaming it all on the Mafia. Thus noone in local goverment have to take any responsibility, the national goverment doesn't have anyone to blame, and things will go on undisturbed. With me, the taxpayer, picking up the growing bill. There are many things to be said about this.
The best Autostrada I have seen in Italy is the Roma - Napoli one. As we pass from the productive North to the, well, South, the roads would get better and better, more and more lanes, taller and taller bridges. And it would get less and less expensive to ride on them. The Salerno - Reggio di Calabria is completely free!
Furthermore, parallell to the existing A3 from Salerno to Reggio di Calabria they are building completely new Autostrada. Almost no cars (I mean, have you ever tried the A1 from Bologna to Milano on a weekday?), and huge roadworks for hundreds of kilometers. I have the feeling that I, the taxpayer, is footing the bill.
We pass Salerno and when we go into the mountains, we turn off the A1 at Lagonegro and head for the coast. There are snow on the peaks and we, for a suitable definition of "we", are afraid it might get even colder. The picture shows Capa della Famiglia enjoying the sun. We're at 800 meters, it is just 10 C, but the sun is nice.
We hit the beach as Tortora. It is a typical summer place, with lots and lots of closed places where you can eat during summer. Finally we find one that is open. We both order the spaghetti con vongole. It is quite good, but I prefer it with a tad of chilipepper to give it "an edge". But nice.
We ride down on the deserted beach. She gets off, and I'll "just" turn around. And I almost, almost get stuck in the sand. You can see the track I made as the rear wheel was slowly sinking as I gave it more and more power. Had it been another 50 cm to solid ground it would have been stuck Getting stuck just as She says "don't ride onto that sand" would have sucked real bad. Almost no traffic so we make good progress.
We stop and fuel, and grab an espresso. No dolce (merenda) after lunch, but they recommend very highly what looks somewhat like a svoglia, but is filled with fresh ricotta. Not too sweet - but we take one and split it, and not two. After all, it will dinner in a few hours, and spoiling it means disaster!
We check out the map, and as the sun is setting, we find it is time to head back to the Autostrada to get deep south quickly.
On random we turn off at Seminaria, abotu 25 km north of Villa di San Giovanni (where the boat will take us to Messina, Sicilia). But there is nowhere to stay (I'll return to this strange phenonomen later). We ask Zumo, but the suggestions he offers are so boring we'll rather ride on to Reggio di Calabria (a real city).
It is getting real cold as we roam around, and stumble over Hotel La Quiete, Localita' Profania, 89015 Palmi (RC), phone +39 096646268. This is our thing: Small, family run, friendly. They ask politely why we are, how it can be that we turn up at their little hotel in the middle of the evening, if the bike is a Ducati (no!), and so on. A friend of a friend has been in Lofoten (that's in Norway): it was beautiful but it was so expensive that noone will ever go there. A dinner would easily run up a bill of 200 euro per person (three courses, a few bottles of water, a bottle or two of wine, some dolce, a grappa or limoncello; here I am so there you are). No so here, they boast boldly.
With the bike safely parked in their garage (and guarded by a dog that didn't look very friendly at all), we head into their restaurant for dinner.
We look cold, and the waiter says that a decent Campari with a (large) dash of gin is just what we need to get the colour back in our cheeks. On an empty stomac it really works, in many ways.
As usual we decline the offer for a menu, and tell him to make us happy. As if the gin + Campari hadn't made us happy already
The cameriere is just as you want one to be far out in the countryside. Interested in who we are, how come we can speak Italian (his English is worse than our Italian), how come we ride on a bike in mid winter, where we come from, where we are going, and so on. We talk, we dine, we drink the wine, and we are very, very happy.
As antipasta he offers warm bread with a chili sauce; we are obviously in Calabria! For primo he serves gnocchi with spek (a combination we hadn't tried before). Secondo was spigola (a fish, just like yesterday) with melanzane with parmeggiano as contorni. For dolce mandarini from the garden. A bottle of local wine on top of the Campari+gin and we were finished.
Next day we found out that a double room, safe parking, Campari+gin and dinner for two was a mere 100 euro. Calabria is a wunderful place to be! But tomorrow we're off to Sicilia!
A total of 579 km.
The map is (still) here.
tagesk screwed with this post 02-25-2008 at 04:02 PM
|02-25-2008, 08:14 PM||#101|
Web Footed Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Moranistan Pacific NorthWet
Simply awesome !
Keep me drooling, why don't you ! ! ! ! !
Get your motor runin' . . . . . "Seek an erection for medical help lasting longer than four hours"
" . . . discovery channel has been shit for over a decade . . . this (ADVrider) is actually good." - OldAndBusted
Expect the unexpected! - Skunked & DfunkD
2006 Husky TE 610
2005 Big Strom
|02-26-2008, 03:30 AM||#102|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Day 3 Sunday; Palmi (Calabria) - Taormina (Sicilia!)
Today we are finally going to Sicilia!
We settle the bill. At 100 euro for a room and nice dinner we as OK. The capuccino is nice but the dolce leaves something to be desired. We excuse them, of course, becuase it is early on a Sunday morning. They are so nice! But finally we are ready to ride off.
It is a nice day and we don't get on the Autostrada, but take the old SS18 along the coast towards Villa San Giovanni. The road is really twisty as it passes from village to the next, up and down the cliffs. And then we come around a curve, and we finally see Sicilia! Finally!
Sicilia greets us with the biggest tower I have ever seen. The picture is taken about 6 km away (sorry about the quality). Check out the city below the tower! There is one above us as well, here on the mainland. I guess they have been used, or will be used, to carry cables for electricity across the streight. Surely, a cable under the water will be much less expensive? It is only a few kilometers! This huge tower becomes part of a pattern - I'll return to it later.
In Villa San Giovanni you simply can't fail to locate the ferry - there doesn't seem to be much else going on. We pay 10 euro for two persons and the bike, and roll on. The crossing only takes about 30 minutes.
We are excited as we roll into Messina, and take the old SS114 south. The city never ever ends. Street upon street, not excactly suburbia, but normal streets, traffic lights, traffic, puke.
We turn off and climb a hill to see what it going on. There is a thin line of buildings along the coast, and the SS114 goes in the middle of it all the time. In summer those beaches would probably be filled to the rim of prople. Now we are all alone.
We continue south and reach Taormina. We park by the main city gate, and walk inside. Just to our left is a tiny, narrow street, and we spot a bar. Time for lunch!
We enter Sunrise, in via Zecca 7, phon +39 094224663. Now, Sunrise is a really ugly name for an Italian bar in Italy. But we are in the thickest of the tourist area in Sicilia. Taormina is world famous for it's Greek theater, it's small Roman theater, and everything connected with them. So in some sense we are not any longer in the real Sicilia, but the tourist Sicilia. Another place. One we don't want to be in.
This, by the way, is a general thing: Italy is full of tourists, and what they are offered is in most cases of inferior quality. So, in general, don't visit a bar with a name such as Sunrise. We nevertheless went in, and what a good thing that was! The bar was ordinary. Even though we did not plan to stay in Taormina I asked if the owner happened to have a friend with a B&B. He does indeed, and this, as we wil see, will become a golden pice of information. I don't know I will have breakfast here tomorrow, so we are happy to get out of the touristic place Taormina is.
I have never seen a live vulcano before, and I find Etna to be real cool. Well, it is cold to look at with an elevation of more than 3.000 meters, but there is smoke coming out on the top. So I guess it is not cool at all up there. While I don't smoke a sigar I sit for a long time and look at Etna. I like it!
We ride on, through more streets, more streets, more buildings, more people. Catania is a very large (in size) city.
At about five (sunset is at six) we decide to take our usual approach to find accomodation. We find a town (not just a village, and not a city, but a town) on the map, and ride there. We'll talk to people, and find a cosy place. Well before dark - then everyting becomes difficult.
We choose Lentini. We see the town nicely situated on a hill south-east of Catania, about 10 km from the coast. We estimate it to have 20.000 people. We are, however, going to learn something important about Sicilia. And the temperature is already dropping.
The economy in Sicilia is obviously smaller than in Toscana. The cars are smaller (abundance of Fiat Panda while in Toscana most have upgraded to VW Golf or Toyota), millions of small shops that are quickly disappearing where we live, and so on. This also has consequences for what you do when you visit your family. I can not phantom a town in Toscana with 20.000 people without a single hotel, not a single B&B, not an Albergo, nothing! We ride around in Lentini for almost one hour, talking to ever more people, and they all say that No, there is nowhere here to stay the night. We consult Zumo, and he confirms it.
At 18:30 we realize that we have failed. It is now only 5 C (41F) and we will have to rely on Mr. Zumo. First he takes us to a hotel next to what is called Vilaggio Nato. Sounds nice until we realize it must be spelled as Villaggio NATO. It is an NATO air base. I have nothing against airbases, but staying at a hotel designed for visitors to an airbase - no thanx. The next one Zumo suggests is the Hotel Bianco. Turns out to be a Autostrada Hotel and Conference Center. Rooms at 120 euro, and all information in English. No thanx.
It is now 20:00, it's about zero, and we are getting very, very cold and hungry. I dig out the card I got in the bar in Taormina, call, and we are on our way. We pick the Autostrada and at 150 km/t arrive back in Taormina in 30 minutes. There Enrico meets us, lets us park the GS in his garage next to his brand new BMW K1200RS, and give us an appartment. He runs B&B Fontana Vecchia, via D. H. Lawrence 8, 98039 Taormina (ME), phone +39 094224116, mobile +39 3398142283. Webste here. Very nice indeed.
After having changed we walk back into town. Capa della Famiglia is very, very cold. As expected we can't find anything that even resebles the nice and copy places we prefer. In the end we settle for Terrazza Angela. It even has candles on the tables - one of the most trustworthy signs of a touristic place you can find in Italy.
I had only a risotto with gamberetti and orange (very interesting combination!) and pollo con funghi e panna while She takes a simple pizza. Together a whopping 50 euro. I told you - stay away from those places! Look at the picture and check out how cold She is!
We decided to try to learn something from this experience. First and foremost: We need better planning. This is not Toscana, and we can not expect to find an albergo on every corner. Also, we have underestimated the cold (it is supposed to be warm here, dammit!) so we need to find somewhere to stay well before it gets dark.
As we shall see, during the rest of the trip we succeed!
349 km on a very cold Sunday. Our first day on/in Sicilia. We didn't see anything grand, didn't eat anything worth remembering. Not looking good.
|02-26-2008, 04:30 AM||#103|
Joined: Jul 2006
I'm from Catania, and I must say you made a wrong choice with lentini .
While in eastern Sicily you won't be disappointed with Etna (beautiful tarmac roads till 2000m above sea level, awesome landscapes) and small villages around the mountain (Randazzo, Bronte), you can visit Catania city center (beware of crazy traffic though): piazza Duomo with its Cathedral and the statue of the elaphant in lava stone, piazza università (one the oldest italian universities, founded in 1434), via etnea with its liberty and baroque buildings, the typical fish-market (open only in the morning, beware of pickpockets!).
Going south you don't have to miss Siracusa, the biggest of ancient Greece colonies, a lot of ancient greek ruins to visit (greek theater and beautiful ruins of the ancient town), the city center is on an island (Ortigia) with a lot of small streets and buildings, a beautiful place to walk in the evening and small restaurants where to eat sea-food.
Another village not to miss is Noto, its center is full of baroque buildings as well as Modica city center (famous for its chocolate) and Ragusa Ibla.
You can also visit the natural reserve of Vendicari, Marzamemi a small fisher village and Isola delle Correnti, the southern point of Italy whose latitude is lower than Tunis.
Also in eastern Sicily don't miss "La villa romana del Casale" near Piazza Armerina a very well preserved ancient roman villa, recently discovered, covered with beautiful mosaics.
Catania - Sicily -Italy
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|02-26-2008, 04:40 AM||#104|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
more to come
Teaser: Tomorrow we will go to Siricusa and Noto - wonderful !
Thank you for reading!
|02-26-2008, 04:49 AM||#105|
on a bright side of life
Joined: Aug 2005
Location: in front of Mare Nostrum
Nice trip you had !
tagesk, did u have a look at Giardini Naxos as I told you for an albergo ?
Vicina a Taormina and prices are far better than in Taormina.
Did u ask siciliani on QdE ? they are usually very helpful. A lot of guys are from Sicilia East coast.
Apart from that, there is nothing really to see in GN. Only some remains of the gardens of the greek city of Naxos.
Cold... Ah cold.... so you learn why sicilian are so strong.
you seldom see heater in rooms....
Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile
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