Our 2nd Sicily & Stromboli Trip
With our first Sicily trip over Joy and I had 5 days before the second trip would begin. We wanted to use the time just to relax and catch up on laundry and cleaning the motorhome. We headed into Palermo city centre looking for a sosta but could not find one. We stopped in a car park where one was supposed to be located and used our TIM SIM card to locate a local launderette. By now we had worked out the Italian word was lavenderia and there seemed to be three within walking distance. One of the three was closed and the other two were dry cleaners rather than self service launderettes.
Palermo was like any other big city with all the usual frustrations. Both Joy and I decided we did not want to stay in Palermo any longer and so we drove west, finally stopping at an Area Attrezzata on the coast at Castellammare Del Golfo. It was such a contrast to Palermo, we had a view of the deep blue ocean and the area was peaceful, perfect for relaxing. As luck would have it they also had a laundry and so we did not move the entire 5 days, apart from walking into town and getting some groceries.
Once the 5 days were over we left and checked back into Campsite La Playa close to Palermo airport. Elizabeth, Harjit and Mags arrived that evening and we collected them and returned to the campsite before visiting a bar in town for a drink.
Based on our experience of the first trip to Sicily we decided to edit the itinerary slightly and after visiting the local Auchen supermarket we drove to Selinunte to visit the Greek temples. The remains are quite impressive and cover quite a distance but the weather was largely overcast and the lighting too flat for good photographs. Late afternoon we left Selinunte and drove to Agrigento making very sure not to use Camping Valle Dei Templi after the disaster there on the first trip. Instead we checked into Camping Nettuno which seemed to have better drainage and had to added benefit of being on the beach. Sitting in our camping chairs and listening to the sound of the waves really made us feel we were on holiday.
The following morning we visited the temples. Again these were impressive but it was a little annoying to find that after paying your entry fee you were still not allowed inside the most complete temple which had some modern sculptures inside and therefore attracted an extra fee. Being a tourist in Europe can be an expensive thing, Florence especially springs to mind and it’s at these times you realise just how many tourist attractions in London are free or reasonably priced.
With the visit to Agrigento over we headed for Camping Almoetia near Etna, with an unsuccessful stop on route to look for a company who sold a long range Wifi adapter I’d been looking to buy. They had confirmed they stocked the item by email but I only had the street name and not the house number. They did not answer their phone and none of the locals seemed to know where they were. We even attracted the attention of a strange local man who followed us for at least 20 minutes.
On our arrival at Camping Almoetia the owner instantly recognised Joy shouting ‘American’ and hugging her like a long lost friend. Once we were set up we decided to visit the local restaurant by the sea we had been to last time. Unfortunately they were now closed for the season and instead we drove to a nearby one recommended to us by the campsite owners which had an odd Egyptian theme to the decor.
In the morning we headed for Mount Etna, the weather looking very cloudy. At the car park we bought return tickets on the cable car but decided to walk from 2500 metres to the top. Joy decided to check out the craters close to the car park. The overcast conditions we faced earlier vanished as we walked above the clouds and into sunshine. It was much warmer at the top than on my previous visit but we still did not stay long before returning back to the cable car station for a drink before heading back to the car park. On the way back to Camping Almoetia we stopped for at a fish restaurant for our evening meal before bottles of wine and lemoncello where consumed in great quantities back at the campsite.
We said goodbye to the friendly owner of Camping Almoetia the next morning and headed for Taormina. Since Joy had seen it on the last trip she stayed behind in the motorhome whilst the rest of us trudged out in the rain. Harjit had fond memories of the place and a few hours were spent looking around the town and stopping for a bite to eat.
Once back at the motorhome we headed north to Milazzo, again intending to stay at CIrucco Village. On route however we stopped at the Decathlon store in Milazzo to buy a battery operated airbed inflator and new airbed as ours had developed a leak. The lady on reception at the campsite instantly recognised us and within minutes we had everything set up, including another early taxi booking to take us to Stromboli. The group decided to eat at the restaurant at the campsite which had great coastal views. It was almost empty which meant the good looking young waiter was able to give us his undivided attention which the girls seemed to REALLY appreciate.
The weather was not really improving as we dragged ourselves out of bed the following morning. Still sleepy we slumped into the taxi which took us to the port at Milazzo. On arrival at Stromboli we were greeted by a man wearing the same Pippo Navigation T-shirt that was worn by the young man on our last visit. This man turned out to be his father who confirmed we could stay at his home again. Soon after his wife recognised us, warmly greeted Joy and led her by the hand to her home.
There was some doubt about the Stromboli hike at the Magmatrek office due to the wind direction which was coming from the south and apparently could mean having to shield your face from sand at the top. The walk did take place but I decided not to go as I had seen it already and it was not recommended for people wearing contact lenses. Joy joined the group but would split from them at 400 metres to take another path on the other side of the island where a view could be had without such strong winds. Elizabeth, Harjit and Mags returned by 9pm and whilst they had made it to the top the low cloud had meant they could not see any lava explosions.
The next morning we heard from locals that there was some doubt about whether the boat would arrive to take us back. The waves were quite high and there was a good chance Ustica Lines would not risk docking. The conditions were even worse early morning when a competitor company called Siremar bravely docked. We were beginning to wish we’d booked with Siremar as the lady operating the Ustica Lines desk was very unhelpful before closing the office without any advice on whether we would be stranded on the island for another day. Our ferry never arrived but Siremar indicated that they still hoped to operate their later ferry and asked us to check back with them at 3pm. It was a nervous wait but thankfully at 3pm the news was good and we bought new tickets with Siremar and got a refund from Ustica Lines once back in Milazzo.
We stopped for a drink in Milazzo whilst we waited for our bus back to Cirucco Village. Once back at the campsite the girls decided they wanted to eat out at the campsite restaurant for their final night, where once again the young waiter was very attentive.
For the final day we headed towards Palermo stopping briefly at a small town where the only business seemed to be ceramics. Driving to the airport, we said our goodbyes to Elizabeth, Harjit and Mags before making our way to Agira where we finally pulled into a quiet layby for the night.