280 – 286: Sad to leave Sicily & Steep Stilo

280 – Monday 25th January 2016:  Poorly and Hot Bedding

Little activity … K’s cold worsened a little and J has nasal congestion. We did very little other than sit in the sun for a while.  Then we took turns for nanny naps … K’s was a major 2 hours.

Dinner could have been Dan’s Double Delicious Lasagne but we stayed away in case we ‘shared’ our bugs … so dinner was Spanish Pork casserole … Thank goodness for the freezer.


281 – Tuesday 26th January 2016:  Chardonnay Jobs

Another beautifully sunny day, which makes it harder to move off site, but we managed it.  Chard had a proper spit and polish exterior clean at the motorhome jet wash in Sante Croce.  EUR5 bought 10 tokens which bought cycles of shampoo, rinse and self drying polish.  She was cleaned in phases .. the ladder came out again and J did the roof, then one side and the front … about turn and he did the rear and the other side.  K supervised (!) and put the tokens in.  

Not content with that, we emptied the garage and cleaned it.  The major nap, medications & vitamins and the sun have done their work … K feeling MUCH better 🙂  And delighted that the heavy leg stage experienced by others had not materialised.


The weather has been so warm, we have been breakfasting en plein air 🙂

282 -Wednesday 27th January 2016: Packing Up

We investigated if Chardonnay urgently needed cam belt change .. a slight concern at translation issues as a mechanic we approached seemed to think he would need the van for two nights …. but we sleep in it?  You can sleep at the garage?  We extracted ourselves and J spoke to the Fiat dealer in Bristol.  Bear in mind this is the same garage who has sent me two scary emails stating that if we don’t get the cam belt changed, the engine will blow up! The mechanic, at same said dealer, said not to worry until it is 5 years old.  No great urgency after all then!  Cynical marketing by the Fiat dealer?  We had some good advice from people on the site to get it done as soon as we get home and to change things like the water pump too.  Will do.

The rest of the day was spent doing a bit of a tidy and putting the bikes back on the rack etc.

We celebrated our last night with a BBQ, followed by a fire log (with the addition of Magic Flame dust that turned the flames blue, green and purple) under perfect stars.  Way to go.


283 – Thursday 28th January 2016:  Wrenching Away from Punta Braccetto

We have met some really lovely people on the campsite and will definitely stay in touch with Dan, but it was with a renewed sense of adventure that we set off.  We had received an email from Frances and Edward that they planned to head off to Catania today, so we suggested they meet us in Aci Trezza at the harbour (we’ve stayed here a couple of times before).

However, we woke up to discover we had been rumbled by Three, whom both our phones and the wifi are with.  We have been roaming with them for over 10 months and we know of people who had their free roaming switched off after only two months, so we did rather well.  We headed for Aci Trezza via the TIM mobile shop in Ragusa to buy a data only SIM card.  We planned to pay EUR20 for 5gb, which lasts one month.  The girl in the shop was really helpful and suggested a special offer:  EUR39 paid up front for 5gb of data for 6 months.  I know we do not plan to be in Italy for another 6 months, but will be cost efficient as we will be here just over two months.  The problem we will have is that we are used to checking satellite maps to check our route, 30 min FaceTime Calls, reading BBC news and the Irish Times (J only), Facebook (K only!), investigating tourist attractions etc etc.  With only 5 gb / month, we are going to have to show a lot of restraint and hook up with free wifi whenever we can.  James was quick to point out that MacDonalds has free wifi!!!  Could that be justification enough for a regular burger and chips lunch?  The blog will be updated less frequently now, for sure!

Frances and Edward were already installed in the harbour car park … really lovely to see them again.  Real bonus for us, Frances cooked for us and gave us some books and a magazine 🙂  We will definitely be staying in touch with them.  There is a good chance they will overtake our leisurely journey north, which could mean a return meal shared.

One of the books had a lovely inscription on the fly leaf written by Frances:

We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves after a journey through the wilderness, which no-one can make for us, which no-one can spare us.  

For our wisdom is the point of view from which we come, at last, to regard the world.

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One of The Ciclopi from the small harbour

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The harbour in the morning light.


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Something we had not expected to see … just as we’re leaving Sicily, they start to cut back some of the growth that makes a two lane motorway feel like a one laner!


284 – Friday 29th January 2016:  A new country!

K ran … lovely to have a final run along the coast past the Ciclopi rocks to Aci Castello.  Always something to see …

–  Street cleaners using shopping trolleys with a bin bag to collect their sweepings … obviously no municipal issue cleaning carts.

–  An older chap who saw me and promptly started doing press ups on the railings … wearing his buttoned up coat and hood up.

–  A snogging couple, who obviously did not move from my run out to the return leg … her cigarette, lit but unsmoked, had burnt down to the stub with a long curl of ash.

We said au revoir to Frances and Edward and headed to Messina.  We were using both Brad the Sat Nav and Madge (Maps.Me on the iPad).  Incidentally, J’s choice of name, I wanted Janet to fit with Brad … The Rocky Horror Show.  One of the navigation aides (loose term) told us to turn off the motorway, we did.  We should have followed the other navigation aide … we ended up driving through the centre of Messina to the port.  As the passenger, K got to see the Duomo, the university etc.

We are both very sad to leave Sicily, but it was time.  We’ve spent 83 days in Sicily and once we got used to the driving, we have really enjoyed it.  We still feel there are places we’ve not seen, but we have done the main sights.  The guide books say that Sicily is full of contradictions and the road system is crumbling…. both statements are true – but the scenery is stunning – and the people are lovely – very warm and welcoming – almost three months well spent – we’ll be back…sometime.

K has a flight back to see her Munchkin from Napoli on 17th February and we need to tour around the toe and heel of Italy before returning to the Spartacus Campsite in Pompei. 

The oranges here are just amazing: sweet, large and juicy.  Lots of road side sellers … 24 oranges for EUR5 … under 16 pence each.  Shame I don’t have a juicer….

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We followed the coastal road around the toe.  Immediately we noticed an improvement in the quality of the roads, a lack of crumbling concrete structures and a more ‘normal’ driving style.  We ended up at a super FREE coastal, flat and quiet parking … it even has WC emptying and water.  Now wonder we are one of 20+ vans.  We thought it would mostly be full of Italians, but the Germans are the main indigenous population.  Some seem to be pretty well installed for a longterm stay.


Loads of space, full services and a view of the sea … and free.  What more could we ask for.

285 – Saturday 30th January 2016:  Law-less and Steep Stilo

We completed our services .. I would like to say incident free .. a hole at the base of the tap, which looked as the obvious choice for the WC emptying was apparently not so.  A local motorhomer came over and kindly told us where the correct emptying point was, but by this time it was too late.  Oops – we still got a friendly wave from him as we left.

We stopped at Locri Epizephiri, A Greek archeological site.  We really think we have seen the best of the Greek temples and cities at Paestum, the Valley of the Kings (Agrigento) and Silunente, but this was the first Greek city to have a written code of law 660BC.  Whilst we, obviously mistakenly, thought this worthy of comment, the archaeological site and museum did not mention it at all.  A disappointing visit.  We skipped hilltop Gerace, which sounded interesting, but the roads up also looked ‘interesting’.


Interesting to see the evidence of how much below ground level the Greek remains were … this Olive tree is hundreds of years old.


Doing improvement works such was covering some areas form the weather, but the actual stones are at peril of being lost to view among the long grass and over grown vegetation.


In the museum … Not seen one of these before … a bronze statue’s eyelash!

However, we both really liked Stilo.  Whilst another hilltop town, we had the good sense to park up along the road side as soon as we reached it.  Good call, as the roads were really steep and with lots of tight turns.  It is a lovely old town clinging to a ledge on the mountain, with views out to the sea.  The main attraction is the Cattolica – built in the tenth century by monks in Byzantine style, to celebrate the triumph of christianity over paganism.  It is quite iconic and, even better, FREE.  To get the best views, K clambered up what started as a path with steps then disintegrated into a narrow track – but worth it.


Bus bottoms viewed on our climb up to the town


On the railings … didn’t realise the Fiat Stilo had been around for that many years.


Front of the Cattolica – 5 iconic terracotta domes.



Would that be a young sapling rooted down there?


Rusted to the spot!

 Our night was another very quiet beachside parking.  Actually on the compacted sand and it had water 🙂  Our only ‘disturbance’ was a couple of cars with courting couples … misted windows!  Fabulous stars as virtually no light pollution.


286 – Sunday 31st January 2016:  Driving … What is that Light?

We both ran and K pilates’d on the beach.  Sun getting quite warm – is Spring here yet?  The winter is definitely leaving this area of Italy, we have seen a lot of almond blossom and broad beans have been spotted on a roadside seller’s stall … unfortunately nowhere that we could stop to buy some.  


We had decided not to continue following the eastern coast of the toe up to the instep as a) the coast is flat and samey … long beaches, small towns with the road following the railway and b) the guide books did not inspire us to make any stops.  Our intention accordingly was to get up close to Matera to another beachside parking.  As we were going to be driving for about 5 hours, we followed both Madge and Brad and followed the motorway for a good chunk.  

We had not long swapped drivers when the Engine Management System pinged at us and a warning light came on.  Under bonnet checks did not reveal anything and a Google search implied that the 2012 Euro 5 Ducato engine often has issues with Diesel Particulate Filter sensors.  Being Sunday, we were not going to be able to get a Fiat mechanic on the phone.  We had lunch and set off gingerly again.  Google had informed us of a Fiat concessionaire in Matera … so we stuck with the original plan.  Tomorrow we will drive straight there and make sure we’re up in time to arrive ’subito’.

Again, the beachside parking has a cluster of mostly German ‘vans. 












256-262 : All the S’s … Seccagrande, Sciacca, Selinunte and Sitting Still

256 – Friday 1st January 2016:  Start of the New Year

How about this for a New Year’s thought … this will be my first full calendar year with no work or meetings and it is James’ second such.  And we have been travelling in Europe for 256 days now … just wonderful.

We had a leisurely start, given how much booze and food we had consumed last night, we felt remarkably well!  We said good bye to Frances and Edward, having roped in a passing young lad to take a pix of us all, who then shook us each by the hand and wished us Buon Anno.  We will definitely meet up with F & E again at some point.

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Frances and Edward – our booze partners of the previous two evenings!

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Chardonnay and Frances & Edward’s van in the Porto Empedocles free parking.

We did not plan to travel far and nor did we.  Parked in Siculiana and had a quick walk, but decided it was a bit rough looking so we did not even stop for a coffee!  There is a castle there, but since we had no intention of going round, even had it been open …..  We also decided against stopping at Eraclea Minoa.  Apparently it is in a lovely setting, but again it would not have been open and the Valley of the Temples yesterday had given us enough ruin viewing for a few days.

Dan had told us about a wild camp spot in a car park right on the beach at Seccagrande … 4 Italian vans who were just there during daylight and over night it was us and a German.  We basked in the afternoon sun and read … very peaceful with lovely views along the coast.

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257 – Saturday 2nd January 2016:  Sciacca and Pronunciation!

K ran along the beach road and we half breakfasted outside watching two scuba divers.  K made a bacon, vegetable and puy lentil soup for lunch … I love the pressure cooker.  And then we did a clean and hoover.  We passed over EUR5 to the nearby campsite to use the services and drove to Sciacca.  I got the pronunciation all wrong until James helped, with … it rhymes with SHAG HER!  This I can remember!  So the phonetic spelling is Shaka.

We have parked up at the harbour here.  Frances and Edward said there were 11 vans when they were here a few days ago … we are one of 14 and all Italian.  It is so large a parking, that we have been able to park facing some boats and not wedged in by other vans.  

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Again a lovely view.

We wandered around the town with no fixed plan and found lots of steep alleys (of course), churches, a market packing up, the town wall with several gates and lots of Palazzos.  It has an Arab influence which is evident in the architecture.  

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Stairs up ….

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 … up and up!

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Another quirky Christmas Tree … lot of fun in emptying the bottles!

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One of the old town gates with amazingly huge and old wooden doors.

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Yes really??? Cars are coming through this gap!  We still suffer palpitations from us wedging Chardonnay in too tight corners.

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We’d missed a market.  The rubbish they left was stupendous and horrendous …no effort to clear up after themselves …

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… but it looks like Bono of U2 is moonlighting as a street cleaner.

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The Arab influence is strong in this town.

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Part of the town wall.  What you can’t see is the modern blocks of flats built on top of the wall.

We so like the town and our parking (although we have yet to experience how quiet it is at night … I have read about noise from gnats [gormlous noisy adolescent turds] on mopeds on forums), there is a supermarket within 3 mins walk, so we plan to stay here tomorrow too.


258 – Sunday 3rd January 2016:  Sciacca Again

K ran and pilates’d in front of the van until she noticed her audience of local fishermen!  We wandered up to the old town for another walk and an ice-cream.  We both did lots of admin jobs and J started on the dreaded tax return!  Why is is you never quite have all the information you need on the first go.

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Have you ever seen thorns this size?


259 – Monday 4th January 2016: And Again!

J attempted a run only to realise his calf had done no healing … it is going to be a stay still day with ice and heat treatments.  Tax return for J continued.  Rain heavy on and off.  An admin jobs day.   K did a little walk and J joined her for a short walk for some air and a coffee.


260 – Tuesday 5th January 2016:  And off again … Selinunte

We made use of the supermarket and stocked up for the next few days with fruit and veg.  We failed to buy an electric heater for when we are on sites, as our on board heating always trips the site electric.  We did buy a basic set of weighing scales as K has been eating like a horse since the run up to Christmas and needs to scare herself with seeing the kilos pile on … so far the theory is, however, not working!  

Having free camped for 3 days at Sciacca, our black and grey water were pretty full.  Laundry bag full.  K’s hair needed a wash.  Motorhome service areas are pretty thin on the ground so we headed for a campsite near Selinunte.  We booked in for one night, but the washing machine took such a long time to complete a cycle it was night fall before both loads were done.  It rained in the night too, so we had to retrieve all the wet washing and bring it in :(.

BBQ for supper though 🙂


261 – Wednesday 6th January 2016:  Sitting still in Selinunte

Awning out and the two loads of wet laundry dangling under it …. too much to dry off the bike rack and/or in the van, so we were set put for another day.

Rain on and off so we rested J’s leg, did more admin and planning.  Including booking K’s flight back to the UK to see her Munchkin in February half Term :).  We walked to the town in the afternoon for a coffee.  Pretty chilly so the BBQ chicken became chicken cacciatore!


262 – Thursday 7th January 2016:  Selinunte Ruins and Tre Fontane

Packed up and put away nearly all the now dry laundry.  Drove the very short distance to the ruins at Selinunte.  It is a large site with a lot of walking, so K explored alone whilst J rested his calf.  OK, so the Greek Temples in Paestum were the best.  The Valley of Temples was also fairly impressive, but a bit reconstructed and touristy.  But I really liked Selinunte.  It is barely restored, just a couple of semi restored temples. Most of the stones are still on the ground where they have fallen when the city was attacked by Carthage on 409BC or as a result of earth quakes.  This city was not pulled apart, nor stone recycled, for subsequent Roman rulers.  It was a city and a vast city.  As I walked around I could really get the sense of the scale and the importance of it, and in a lovely coastal setting.  As well as the temples, there are the huge fortifications, admin and residential areas.


Temple E 490-480BC: pure Doric style with 68 columns


Temple C 580-550BC:  the oldest and largest in this section


View across to the Acropolis 


View back to Temple E.  Odd stones stick up and a lot of the area is still to be excavated.





A couple of main roads with arterial roads off


Part of the fortification area at the North Gate


An artist’s impression of what the fortifications would have looked like … three floors for the army to shoot out of. 

The whole of the acropolis was built on a massive reinforced stone plinth


We lunched on pea and mint soup in the car park and then drove the short distance to Tre Fontane.  A small seaside town with a long sandy beach; our Swedish neighbours had told us about the free overnight parking here.  The town is pretty deserted, but we found two open cafes.  We are not going to enjoy the beach other than the view (and the pinky grey sunset, as I type) as it is pretty blowy with the odd shower.  We are parked facing the sea and into the wind. I wonder if we will be rocked much in the night?






251 – 255: Modica, Agrigento and New Year

251 – Sunday 27th December 2015:  Modica Steps and Chocolate

Whilst the campsite and the people are lovely, K was starting to feel the effects of cabin fever …. I suppose it comes for being on the move so much and for so long.  When the Aged P’s visited us in Sicily, they commented that we seem so settled in our way of life, they did not see how we could return to a ‘normal’ life.  Since they spend about 6 months each year travelling and are the ONLY people I know of to have visited every State in the USA (except Hawaii), I think I know where I get it from!

Modica is one of the main towns rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake in the Sicilian Baroque style.  It is less well preserved and restored than Noto or Ragusa, but still attractive.  It is also know for its chocolate … of course we had to try and buy.  Shan’t buy again though, as it is tastes pretty rough … dark with the sugar crunchy where it does not dissolve …. CDM (Cadbury Dairy Milk) is MUCH better!


More Sicilian Baroque


And of course, lots more balconies … 




Modica is built in the valleys and hills of two converging rivers.


Lots of steep steps to get to the top of the old town 



More steps up to the Church …


… I don’t know if you can tell, but it is the only church I’ve been in with a seriously sloping floor




Lots of steep steps up to this Church too!

252 – Monday 28th December 2015:  Abortive Blood Test (and Beach!)

We cycled to Santa Croche to try to get J a routine blood test, which we had been told could be done here when we popped in before Christmas …. no, we would have to go to the hospital in Ragusa … ho hum.  We’ll probably leave it till April when we are back home.

Having the rest of the day on our hands, we actually made it onto the beach to sit and read for an hour.  K even got into her cosie, but did not attempt a sea entry!

BBQ for supper as we don’t know when we will be able to BBQ again, as we can’t when wild camping.

253 – Tuesday 29th December 2015:  Litaca

We said au revoir to our new friends on the campsite, but plan to drop by again towards the end of January.  We drove along the coast heading West – we will ‘do’ the SW side of Sicily which we have not yet seen.  We paused to look at the outside of one of that castles perched on the coastal rocks when we had lunch and then drove into Litaca.  We parked up next to the port and walked into the town for a coffee.  Can tell this is off the beaten tourist track … coffees only 80 cents each!  No, I must be wrong, James spotted a tourist train with passengers … it is on the tourist trail after all.

Indifferent night’s sleep as ALL the dogs in the town set off caterwauling (or should that be dogawauling?) most of the night!

254 – Wednesday 30th December 2015:  Agrigento and Porto Empedocle

Only a short drive to check out the coordinates for our night’s free parking by a spit and a beach.  James stepped out of Chardonnay onto a used condom and there was constant flow of single men in cars arriving, turing around and leaving …. can’t think what sort of business goes on here!  So we had a coffee and spotted another port parking about half a kilometre on.  This was perfect and J practiced his Italian to establish there is a bus up Agriegento town … we will keep the Valley of the Temples for tomorrow when we are less tired.

Bus on time and some really helpful locals.  First the chaps who told us where to get the bus.  Secondly, a lady who told us to follow her as she was catching the same bus.  Thirdly, the chap in the bus info office, who gave me timetables and a street map.  Fourthly, a customer (who spoke reasonable English), not only told us how to get to the Duomo, but came out and walked a bit with us so we did not mistake the way.

Agrigento is atop a seriously steep hill and I imagine few tourists make it here, but just visit the Greek temples.  It is literally crumbling away.  An art installation on the steps of the Duomo of multiple plaster feet was to raise awareness that people do care that the cathedral and other buildings are crumbling.  We even saw a For Sale board which advertised that the interior was stable!


The Duomo feet … we could not walk amongst them despite the idea that you should post a selfie of you with your favourite foot to promote awareness of the need for restoration / repair


Seriously crumbling town


And here’s one I made earlier … a Christmas tree out of empty drinks bottles and cling film.




A couple of incongruous modern art installations – juxtaposed with the crumbling old structures.

Whilst we waited for the infrequent bus, we patronised three different bars …. as each brings out nibbles, we did not fancy supper later on.  One bar gave us a local soft bread stuffed with olives, ham and cheese … yummy.  At another we watched a man who bought scratch cards, trade in winning cards for more, pocket some cash and then had over more cash for more cards.  He must have been there for over half an hour – sad.

When we arrived back at our free parking, we had been joined by 3 Italian vans and a British one.  The Brits had parked leaving a gap between us and them, only to have the Italians infill all the gaps … the Italian herd mentality again as it is a large car park.  We knocked on the door to say hello … and Frances and Edward kindly invited us in for drinks later.  One bottle led to another ….

255 – Thursday 31st December 2015:  Agrigento Valley of the Temples and Seeing In New Year

We drove via a campsite to empty our full toilet and replenish our water supplies …. EUR8!  Not cheap when being environmental!  Then onto the car park right by the entrance to the Temples.  The usual guides offering their services and a taxi for the lazy or infirm to take you up to the far end of the archeological site.  We are neither so we walked.  A beautifully sunny and warm day.

The Valley of the Temples was founded in 581 BC and has undergone a large number of excavations.  A British army captain who came out for his health built a villa in the middle, having ‘persuaded’ other people to know down their houses that were built up against the temples.  But he was instrumental in a lot of the excavation and the raising of some of the columns.  The temples are not as complete as those at Paestum, but still very impressive.

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So much reconstruction, so trying to do my bit!

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We have FAI membership (It. National Trust) so the Gardens of Kolimbethra were free.  Restored agricultural area with citrus groves and some unusual species.

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Some really old olives trees with wonderfully gnarled trunks …

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… some 400-500 years old.

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Traditional music being played under the Nativity scene.  A sheepskin bagpipe.

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Ancient irrigation supported by … a steel girder!

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Included here as just soooo phallic!

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The ‘new’ town of Agrigento always visible through the fallen stones

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Trying to cover his modesty, but he is just tooooo big!

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In the Archeological Museum there was a section with pottery dating back to15-20 BC, making the Greek Temples seem very modern

Back to the free parking in Porto Empedocle and Frances and Edward joined us for supper.  We saw the New Year in well – several trips to the bottle bank!.  A group of youths kindly put on a firework display in our car park and Frances supplied some sparklers.  Most excellent.

239 – 250: Maddy, a Birthday and Christmas

239 – Tuesday 15th December 2015:  Maddy’s Quick Culinary Experience and Etna

Tim arrived armed with 40 litres of Diesel and workmen’ gloves.  A bargain at EUR1 / litre.  The source: a local fisherman fills his boat at the naval docks in Augusta and brings back jerry cans to sell to the village.  What it is to know people – the right people!

We collected Maddy Munchkin at lunchtime and drove up to Etna.  We know the way pretty well now as we visited with the Aged Ps and Kerstin, but no visit to Sicily is complete without Etna.



Etna dirt


Honest … it has stopped erupting!


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And honest it won’t erupt… this crater goes back to 1988!


Maddy is the master Christmas decorations designer … I’m just the cellotape supplier.


awesome job!

Supper was in the campsite restaurant and Maddy had pizza and a lemon granita (sorbet) … tick and tick off her Sicilian culinary check list.


240 – Wednesday 16th December:  Birthday and Acireale

Maddy had arrived on about 8 hours sleep over the last three nights, so we just had to let her sleep in … which meant we had to too :).  Breakfast and gift opening on a deck, in the sun overlooking the cliffs … just lovely.  I’d bought some supermarket cornetto for Maddy … Nutella filled croissant …. very popular here and delicious, but nothing like as good as the fresh ones.  

James and I even gave the badminton rackets (bought in Slovenia and as yet unused) an airing … whilst Maddy slept … again!

Lunch in Chardonnay and then we walked to Acireale, via a detour to the local town Santa Maria La Scala.  La Scala means steps or stairs …. it was quite a steep walk up to Acireale and a certain young person had leg ache!  Coffee in town and I got to try a boob cake … I’d seen them before …. Saint Agatha had her breast removed by pincers, but the cake was yummy … filled with ricotta cheese.

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For more info:  http://www.goodfoodstories.com/minni-di-virgini/

We wandered around the town, poked our noses into a couple of Churches … Maddy left in a hurry when I pointed out the glass coffin with the embalmed priest!  Unusually, the Duomo has a long meridian line running through the nave.  After a drink and lots of nibbles, we walked back to the campsite for another drink, as restaurants don’t generally open till 8.00.   We then went down to Santa Maria to a trattoria recommended by the campsite.  An interesting experience … we were the only diners.  An elderly lady of about 80 served and cooked.  The menu was antipasto, spaghetti with clams or fish off the chiller counter.  Given how many nibbles we’d eaten earlier we opted for the best caponata yet (J and I)), spaghetti with tomato sauce i.e. no clams for the non seafood lovers, but I had a lovely pan cooked fish … don’t know what.  Some of the family arrived and were eating fresh baked donuts, so we were given some too.  So Maddy’s culinary experience now included a pasta dish.


Drink in town and both on their phones!


Our pitch … a sheer drop the other side of the railings.

241 – Thursday 17th December:  Back to Brucoli

Services sorted and a drive back to the airport to see my Munchkin off.  She was only with us for two nights and it was absolutely bloody wonderful having her here.  By Catania airport is a massive shopping centre.  We bought our Christmas presents to each other … tennis rackets.  We occasionally see courts that we could use and we both used to really enjoy a game.  Then into the massive Auchan … our biggest Euro shopping bill yet …. EUR279, but that included booze and most food to see us through to Christmas.  I also bought sunglasses and a shopping trolley with some birthday money (thank you Bron, Gill and Al).  I had wanted one for a trolley while, as when I use markets, the veggies seem to weigh a ton and it is a very looong walk always back to Chardonnay.  

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We have returned for three nights to the free parking in Broccoli.  

Today is the anniversary of my best and oldest friend, Nicky, death.  Jimmy was off school and had a Mummy Fun day with Ian, Tracy and the Mums.  Much love xxx


242 – Friday 18th December 2015:  BBQing in Brucoli

We must be relaxing …. a slow start.  A wander around the town.  An ice cream and a coffee …. and that was it for the day.  Tim and Karen shared a BBQ with us early evening.  Tim had combed the beach for wood and built an incinerator fire.  He tells people that when they get cold, he just burns a few boats!  

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TKMax (Tim, Karen and Max the cat, who gets his own chair!

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Nicky had given me sachets of fire magic, which turn the fire blue.

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Tim’s Christmas tree


243 – Saturday 19th December 2015:  Basking in Brucoli

Today followed a very similar pattern: slow start, walk into town, ice creams.  James was, however, moved to run.  Sitting on the beach, and watching the sky change colour with the sun set.    We had a game of backgammon on a lovely inlaid wooden board that Tim and Karen gave us.  James had beginners luck and won!  Kerstin had beginner’s luck and beat me at Cribb!  Am I loosing my knack?

I managed to pay for annual motorhome insurance and paid some other bills.  Amazing how different policies for motorhomes vary; amount of time you can travel, time in Europe, mileage and price …. you have to spend a good long time getting quotes … my excuse for a pretty lazy day.

News flash:  We have been mobbed.  Yesterday morning our pitch comprised Tim and Karen and Andrea and his two dogs.  The motorhome parking at the end of the town had a German small VW and an Italian van.  This afternoon and evening, they have been moving in – in convoys.  The far parking had 12 vans at last count.  A convoy of 4 drove past our pitch to one further around the bay.  But our lovely little community now has 3 other vans – all Italian.  One parked broadside along us, only a foot away.  We don’t like him as he barked at James when our engine was running so James could do the hoovering … this can wait till tomorrow, but he irony of it is, that he had his generator running earlier!  He also came to ask if we could move so he could get in to obtain a sea view …. we didn’t really understand, but told him that tomorrow we will be leaving.  Getano, one of the local chaps, told us it is like this every weekend, but the summer is even worse.  Given that Brucoli is not even in guidebooks, how do they all know about it?  Anyway, we will be off tomorrow.


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244 – Sunday 20th December 2015:  Onto Punta Bracetto

We are winding down for Christmas … so all we did today was fill up with diesel and GPL and drive to our new home for the next week.   We’d booked into a site where there is nest of Brits so we have some company over Christmas.  This site is amazing.  Each pitch has its own private washroom which means you can leave your wash gear in it.  Electricity is included in the rate of all of EUR 12 (5 nights plus).  The bay is super sandy.  It is very quiet.  Rave enough!  

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Consolation for you people under the grey damp skies of Britain, it absolutely poured today as we left Catania.  However, when we arrived in Bracetto, they had only had a light shower.  A German lady said since October it had rained only 3 times.  Apparently it is a little microclimate here and the weather takes it’s lead from Tunisia … should be in for some lovely weather.

We popped into say hello to Dan who had responded to my Wild Camping forum post about ‘anyone in Sicily’, hence our presence here.  He kindly invited us over for supper tomorrow.


245 – Monday 21st December 2015:  Cleaning or Putzen 

We have cleaned Chardonnay on our travels since April, of course we have!  But not a spring clean.  Not a proper one since we left 8 months ago.  After a run along the coast (J did a fast and long one 🙂  ), we hoovered and lifted the carpet … they got a clean and the van got a spring clean.  There is a small tennis court and our mutual Christmas gifts of rackets got their first outing.  We used to play quite regularly, but have not played for about 6 years … it felt really good, but I struggled to hit softly and accurately to get a rally going.  I blamed it on muscle memory!

Over to Dan’s for supper.  His van is sited overlooking the bay …. we watched the sun go down and create amber and pink glows … reckon he has the best pitch, but he is here for a few months and is a regular.  Not only was his ‘signature’ dish of shephard’s pie truly tasty, he brought out cheese followed by a tub of Roses.  Anyone that knows me, knows my weakness for cheese … it goes into a separate stomach.  We wobbled home, full of booze and good food.  Blame the booze, cheese and chocolate combination, but they had a detrimental effect on my sinuses … although I didn’t hear the snores … funny that!

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246 – Tuesday 22nd December 2015:  Cycle to Santa Croce

Another run and my new Pilates mat got its first airing …. can tell it is some months since i did these exercises … ouch!  The nearest main town is only about 5 miles so we cycled past the polytunnels (tomatoes, carnations and aubergine mostly).  Found the medical centre who can do a blood test (routine) for James but not until the 28th – so we will have to stay here until then …. dammit!  Not!  A wander around the town and couple of glasses of vino and an arancini for lunch.  For those not familiar with anranci, they sound gross but are actually very delicious.  A ball of rice will a meat ragu centre, covered in orange crumb and deep fat fried … honest, they are yummy.  Could become addicted.

We BBQ’d for supper, which is something we don’t like to do when wild camping.  Dessert was Pocket Coffee.  Created in Italy, but available in the UK from Amazon.  Dark chocolate with an espresso liquid coffee inside … Dan had introduced us to them and I’d bought some today.  Not sure how long the box will last as they are truly addictive (perhaps I have an addictive personality?!).  And I tried the orange fortified wine which I had bought yesterday from the fruit and veg van that came on site.  Nothing special, but very quaffable …. have I been rambling?  And will my sinuses play up again tonight … ask James tomorrow!


247 – Wednesday 23rd December 2015:  Pottering

We took the new shopping trolley for a little walk to the local small supermarket and came back with 2 x 6 packs of water.  The water on the site tastes foul so we have resorted to bottled.  Had a coffee and a yummy potato and cheese pastry from the cafe opposite.  The small supermarket is so small it did not have anything I needed, so we had another bike ride into Santa Croce to buy some a few final bits of food.

We took supper over to Dan’s and I certainly drank too much.  James told me that my mannerisms became very animated!


248 – Thursday 24th December 2015:  Cycle to Marina di Ragusa and Campsite Party

We cycled to Marina di Ragusa, only about 9km and pretty flat.  Beautifully sunny and we sat and watched a few families on the beach and a group of men wading in for a swim .. James thought they must be English as not other nationality would be that mad!  We couldn’t find anywhere in the town where we could sit out for lunch and watch the bikes, so we started back.  On the outskirts of the town there was a small cafe bar.  We ordered:  a burger and chips for J and an arancini for me.  The chips arrived, so I helped him out with these …. yummy and can’t remember when we last had chips!  J’s burger arrived so we came to the conclusion my arancini had been forgotten, so I helped out with that too.  Whoops … the arancini arrived …. piping hot and I cycled back with a stitch in my side from over eating!

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Cycle sock and J wobbling over

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The sea was an amazing blue

The campsite put on a little get together:  a drink and a table laden with sweet cakes and pies. As J walked into the room, he just saw a room of old people!  A German gent was playing and electronic keyboard and a couple were determined to skip around the room to it!  We extracated ourselves, but not before having a good chat with our Swedish neighbours.


249 – Friday 25th December 2015:  Christmas Day

I ran and did some Pilates ….J did a mile to test his calf muscle injury.   We had a knock about on the small tennis court using our joint Christmas racket gifts.  Late lunch was a roll of turkey cooked in wine and stock in the slow cooker so it did not dry out.  I even made mushroom and sausage balls, emptying out the meat from proper sausages.  

Great FaceTimes with Maddy as she opened her stocking and with the rest of my family who were having a Baker Christmas … they know how to do it really well.  We even had a conversation about possible being at home to join them next year!


250 – Saturday 26th December 2015:  Boxing Day and Drinks

Another run for K – 6 in a row!!!  A game of tennis … just one set and J won 6-3 … I never win!  Managed to format a hard drive so I could ‘acquire’ some of Dan’s films … including the Peter Wimsey series 🙂

Our Swedish neighbours joined us for drinks and cheese …. it all went really well until I started pouring Sambuca for Yvonne and myself … apparently I passed out when I went to bed and James had to sit on me in order to be able to actually get into bed … I don’t remember any of it, so he must be making it up.

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View over the sand dunes at the end of my run





236 – 238: Puppets and Corpses to Brucoli – the centre of the Universe!

236 – Saturday 12th December 2015:  Corpses and Puppets

We caught the now familiar bus into the centre.  We must be becoming local as there was little need to recourse to the map and by accident we found ourselves in the cafe of yesterday – the phones auto connected to the wifi!

We walked up Corso Vittoria Emanuele and James shopped for enough e vape juice to keep him going for about 3 months.  We poked our noses into the Cathedral again, which we had visited with the Aged P’s … it had not changed … still much more attractive on the outside.

We walked past the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.  A bit too pricey for us to go in, but I reckon we saw the best of it from outside.  It was built in 1132 and is set in a small citrus garden.


San Giovanni degli Eremiti:  The Arab influence is clearly visible in the shape of red domes and cubic forms.

We also balked at the EUR9 each to go into the Capelle Palatine … I know it is supposed to be one of the main sites in Palermo, but we had seen and enjoyed the mosaics of Monreale cathedral and looking at the images in the guide book, the design at the Capelle look very similar.

We continued walking up to the Catacomb dei Cappuccini.  I’d read a bit about this … catacombs with the corpses still there.  We had really enjoyed the catacomb tour in Siracusa where the guide explained about the history and rituals.  Stupidly we expected a similar level of information.  It is a cynical money making exercise.   Most of the corpses have name tags and dates, are dressed, some have embalmed skin and hair.  They were segregated into men, women, virgins (!), children and professionals.  Some were on shelves, but a lot were wired up and hanging in niches.  Some faces were distorted into an Edvard Munch like Scream.  Gruesome.  No information about anything:

  • Why were they here?  We knew from the Siracusa catacombs that Christians started using out of town cemeteries in the 4th century.
  • Why were some up right and others on shelves?
  • Why segregated?
  • What was the embalming process?
James found this info later.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombe_dei_Cappuccini  Interestingly, the Capuchin’s held the deads’ families to ransom … pay up or your dead relatives stay in division 2 shelves.  No photos allowed out of respect, BUT you could buy postcards and TV programs have been in!  So much for the Capuchin philosophy of ‘life was to be one of extreme austerity, simplicity and poverty’. 
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The pix are all easily found on the internet.  
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And we walked and shook off the unpleasantness of the Catacombs to the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette.  This houses puppets from around the world, including shadow and water puppets.  We learnt that the Catanian puppets were bigger 1.4m and heavier so consequently the stages were shallower only allowing for limited movement.  Puppets can weigh as much as 20 kilos.

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This car was as battered on all side.  The interior was just as full, leaving small person shaped gap in the driving seat.



Amazing attention to detail.


Punch and Judy represented in the overseas section

Leaving here, we walked to the puppet street we had seen two days ago to attend the 6.30 pm. show.  Time for a glass of wine and as they brought so many snacks out, we did not need supper later!


The square in front of the Teatro Massimo was buzzing with street performers and a procession … put on for us whilst we enjoyed our wine.


The performance was brilliant.  No other words for it.  A small theatre with a high stage, so all could see.  One man did all the voices, hardly changing his tone, but you know which puppet was talking by their movement.  Movement of the main arm was by a pole, and there were some double jointed arm movements!  Other movements were using the more familiar strings.  The story line is that of the Crusades; Christians defeating the Arabs.  There was a puppet who smoked a cigar and blew real smoke.  A maiden burnt at the stake.  Swashbuckling sword and sabre fights, where limbs and a head flew off.  Just brilliant.  Really brilliant.

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You probably picked up that we walked  a lot today.  James had very sore feet.  I have not yet told him, that we may have done about 15km on hard pavements!

237 – Sunday 13th December 2015:  Brucoli – the Centre of the Universe

With Maddy arriving on Tuesday, we needed to be near Catania airport, so it was another flit across the middle of Sicily on the motorway.  We are getting quite familiar with this route.  We stopped off to do our Christmas shopping at the Outlet Centre.  How times have changed … what use have we of designer brands?  We came away empty handed.

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Excellent views of a now gently smoking Etna as we approach Catania

Closer to Catania, we saw what I initially thought was black smoke, but then it moved … flew.  A flock of birds doing the most amazing formations.  They swarmed up and down and across.  I was driving and so fascinated, I could have added to the Sicilian road stats, had James not reminded me to keep my eyes on the road!

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I only knew what it was as I had seen video footage of the birds over the Somerset Levels

Our desination was Brucoli – not even in the guide book and the internet described it as a small and quiet fishing village.  How wrong!

J here – as we turned down another very small road to identify our overnight parking, I was a little nervous of the passing places…. it got narrower – has our reader heard this before ?  Around one bend – and we were faced with another motorhome coming in our direction – absolutely no millimetres to pass. K gave me directions from the road behind – to retrace my centimetres and allow the other van to pass by – he was in a rush and countered each of K’s moves with – the Sicilian Defence !  All you avid chess players will know that this defence is actually an aggressive attack ! I’m no Grand Master but my dilemma was apparent – following K’s moves – or being outflanked by Boris Karlovski ! (Apologies – I cannot think of the 1970s well known Russian Grand Master who had that legendary battle with his American opponent…). Either way, I was going to be stuffed, so I retreated my pawn en passant to a gateway – Boris shot past without as much as a “Grazi”  He would have been truly “Prego’d” if `i was 50 years younger ! (Was it Fischer the American chess Master – Bobby)?

We retreated to a nice sandy parking – Tim (who with Karen was parked there) helped us navigate a steep step and directed us to the best view – looking out across the bay to Etna and Catania – see K’s photos…..

Intros all around and chats – and Tim made what was to become the quote of the evening “We’re off to the bar !”. Could we resist ? Fat dogs and lino – again, Amelia/Thomas O’Reilly ?  First bar – wine – ok an innocuous start – good. We also had Arancini – Sicilian dumpling/roll filled sometimes with rice, cheese or other delicacy – no need for dinner later…  Second bar – did not stock wine – Aperol for `k and beer for moi – still innocuous…. We had by now met Natale, Francisco and Gaedano – all local friends with wonderful stories and very good English. Gaedano had gone (Tim said) to light his Christmas tree.  We supped – and Gaedano appeared into the bar- wearing his Christmas tree – see photo !  Then Tim said “How about some Sambucca ?”  (The fat dog perked up).  We supped again and chatted….. Then back to the first bar for – you guessed it – Sambucca ! Innoculous ? Inoculated ? Innoculosis ? Something like that….  We eventually strolled back to our Vardonnay… Slept for England and Ireland – a great start to our stay in Brucoli….


The view from the door.  Yes, that is Etna still smoking in the background.  On the right you can just make out the Blackpool / Brucoli Illuminations:  Tim’s tinselled, decorated and lit up Christmas Tree.

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 238 – Monday 14th December 2015:

Leisurely start.  Tried running along the coast, only to be blocked by a large and locked gate.  Nothing for it but to head up the looooong hill up out of the town.  James tells me it is good training!  We pottered and replenished our wine supplies.  Sat on the beach and read and pottered some more.  We eventually made it out for a walk along the coast, for a little way, clambering over rocks.  The path was between the sea and the bottom of some rather nice villas.  We had assumed that the villas were unoccupied in the winter, but barking dogs proved otherwise.  A German Shepard on the way out and three Dobermans, who really looked as if they would hurl themselves off their property walls at us.  Security is obviously taken seriously here, and yet Tim and Karen don’t lock their motorcycle etc.

Later Tim and Karen popped over for a wee drink before supper.  Supper became cheese and biscuits … too late and too pickled to cook the planned risotto!


Looking across to the town of Brucoli


Nestling amongst the fishing boats




Wild orchids growing on a common along the coast