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. 












222 – 226: R, R ‘n R … Resting, Recovering ‘n Ragusa

222 – Saturday 28th November 2015:  Down the coast to Punta Secca

We ran along the deserted beach road – we may have seen one occupied house.  Truly a ghost town, other than the steadily busy bar/cafe next to us.  Where did the customers come from?  

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Having cleaned our muddy walking boots (the outcome of the wet and wild lake), I was then moved to polish all my shoes…  

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We decided to pootle along the coast and not travel too far, passing acre upon acre of Polytunnels.  

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This is Maps view of the area – the blocks are the polytunnels.

We soon arrived at an Agritourism campsite in Punta Secco next to the sea by late lunchtime.  Juicy, the receptionist … yes really, is a wonderfully buxom young lady (sadly we suspect her name is spelt Guice) was incredibly warm and welcoming …. layering up against the cold and showing us our pitch options.  Since there were only 3 other motorhomes on the site and due to the Italian herd mentality, they could have passed the milk between windows, we had a lot of choice.  We opted for a solitary pitch facing the sea.  Juicy said we could always move if the the wind made us bounce too much!!!!    And with a sliding scale on prices … EUR14 for 1 night, EUR13 for 2 nights and EUR12 for 4 nights, although we only plan to stay one night.

IMG 3599James took this pic from a mound of sand by the sea … beautiful isolation.

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K blending with a banana tree on the site.

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Another cracking sunset

We had a jobs afternoon:  cleaning, hoovering and washing … clothes and showering us 🙂  Lovely feeling – all clean 🙂 🙂 🙂  The farm owner walked around the site and gave each of us a bag of his new season tomatoes.  Nice ambiance … think we may stay two nights.

223 – Sunday 29th November 2015:  Punta Secco

A run into the town, past the house that was used in the Inspector Montalbano series (not something we had watched, but people were out taking pix of it) and along the short lungomare.  

When we later walked into the town … there really is not much here. And again, being out of season all the holiday home owners are 90% absent.  Even the little supermarket has gone on its annual holiday. We did, somehow, find a bar and imbibe a leisurely glass of wine as we watched the same cars and people drive / walk past the window doing circuits.

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 Inspector Montalbano’s house, which operates as a B&B in the summer.

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Relaxing … and the owner had told us that we could get a bus up to Ragusa tomorrow.  Oh joy … a hill town we don’t have to drive to and cause mayhem and gridlock in … as it happens, we would have been fine as there were several outside town large parkings.  Might stay another night here!


224 – Monday 30th November 2015:  Ragusa – both of them

As we popped into the office to check where the bus stop was, we were offered a lift up by the owner, as he had business there.  When driving in Chardonnay we are sedate:  slow and cautious due to our size, the pot holes and land slides on the road, and right hand drive.  We are not used to driving in the middle of the road, at speed and the twitching to tuck in or pull out to overtake.  We had googled that it is illegal to use your mobile phone, but is is evidently not enforced.  J took the front seat and witnessed our driver on his phone, searching for something in his pocket, change gear, and then the hand go back to his pocket …. and he was obviously tempering his driving for us.  However, we arrived safely and were dropped at the bus stop.  He had kindly offered us a return lift, but we thought we might need longer so said we would take the bus.  The scenery changed on the way up from the poly tunnels to undulating fields with dry stone walls – mostly cattle.

Ragusa is one of the cleanest towns we have been in.  We quickly found the TIC and obtained a street map and a walking route.  Firstly the new town – new, but constructed after the 1693 earthquake in the Baroque style.  

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The new cathedral …

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… a fine example of Baroque style … a lot of gold leaf and cherubs, but harmonious.

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The Episcopal Palace … and I want that hat!

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… it just won’t quite come free!

Down 340+ steps to Ragusa Ibla where the original town was created in 3BC.  After the earthquake the residents, mostly the old feudal nobles, refused to move to the new town and rebuilt in situ.  Again, lots of REALLY narrow streets, which are mostly pedestrianised, but every now and again a very small Fiat or moped would zip up and we flattened ourselves against walls…. and had a flash back to our ‘incident’ earlier in the week in the hill town.

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Looking down and across to the ‘old’ town Ragusa Ibla.

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Know which REAL man I want to take home!

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Great quirky statues around a bar … J did not emulate this one for good reasons!

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Old town Duomo, sadly all shut up.

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Lovely sunny day, even though the temperature was 4C lower than on the coast.  We thought a bottle of vino would go down well at lunchtime … but were put off by the stupid tourist prices they would have charged.  Sober, we had our non-alcoholic picnic at the gardens at the end, although we moved to a more public area as some ‘unsavouries’ plonked themselves a little too close.  And this was even after I had pulled out my cook’s knife to open my soup carton.  Not sure if they were more interested in the knife than J’s camera?  

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Not fancying the 340+ steps back up to the new town and then the walk to bus stop, we caught the local bus.  It was only when J tried to pay and was waved on, that I remembered that we should have bought tickets from the tobacconist – having been a little confused as I knew we could buy the Ragusa / Punta Secco tickets on the bus.  This is another reminder of the contradiction that is Sicily:  rules made to broken and not enforced at the unwitting tourist’s expense.  Having enjoyed the free ride, we splashed out on a coffee whist we waited for our bus back to Punta Secco.  Too late to move on, so another night here.


225 – Tuesday 1st December 2015:  Christmas Planned

We were very conscious, since we will not be with family, Christmas could be a very damp squib.  I had posted on a couple of Motorhome forums that we could still be in Sicily for Christmas, was anyone around.  Dan had got in touch – he, and about 8-10 other Brits, would be on a site for Christmas … and wait for this … their site was only 3 miles from where we are currently.  A few emails later and after our run, we cycled over.  Really friendly people … we will try to book tomorrow for a week over Christmas.  And thanks Dan for the wind up … we have checked and the 5th gear problem is on old Fiats that had a poorly made 5th gear bolted onto the 4 gears … we have a newer version:  6 gears!  Although we had thought we would go to Modica today, we came back on site for lunch and jobs, such as oiling bike chains, emptying the toilet cassette, laundry and J repaired my foxtrot uncle non-repair (where I made the original problem 1000x worse) on two door handles!  OK, so we made 4 nights and got the 4 night discount 🙂

226 – Wednesday 2nd December 2015:  Shopping and on the Move

Despite best intentions, we overslept and it was 9.38 precisely when we awoke… too late for a run.  After breakfast and packing up we headed over to the Brit’s Campsite and have booked in for a week from the 20th December.  We had been told about a Decathlon sports shop in a retail park outside Ragusa.  Since it was on our route we stopped off and managed to buy a basket of ‘necessary’ items we really could not do with out.  We did manage to walk by the body boards, dinghies and tennis rackets :(.   An iper shop at the Iper-Coop, so we are now fully stocked for Kerstin’s visit, including hearty bread!  Kerstin arrive tomorrow for 4 days …. really looking forward to seeing her.  An easy drive to a light house point just north of Augusta, which included a short detour to prevent us getting wedged under a low bridge.