You know the feeling, you get behind with something, and the more you get behind, the harder it becomes to catch up. This is exactly where I am with our blog. So to catch up to our current position just south of Salerno and the Amalfi coast, here is a bit of a photo blog of the last six weeks:
Modica, the home of Sicilian Chocolate and part of a collective World Heritage Site of Sicilian Baroque towns. We came here to sleep after our Malta adventures and to explore the small lanes with their copious old Fiat 500s. Now I know why the Italians created such a small car.
Antica Dolceria Bonajuta is the oldest chocolate manufacturer in town and they generously gave us a tasting session of Cannoli, a ricota filled Sicilian treat, and some chocolate liqueur. All very tasty.
This train follows the amazing track from Modica up a 250m climb to another Baroque town, Ragusa. The towns were all built after a disastrous earthquake in the late 17th century. Thousands of people died, and almost all the original buildings were destroyed. We took the train to admire the amazing engineering it took to climb such a height in just 7 kilometres. The feat was achieved by creating a spiral track that passes back over itself higher up the hillside.
The south of Sicily is full of citrus groves and Jerry finally got to pick a lemon. One promise delivered.
Siracusa, home of the Greek Archimedes. We visited a couple of thousand years too late to meet him, but we did enjoy the theatre he may have attended to see performances of Greek tragedies.
The Siclani people that the Greeks chased into the hills created Necropolis in the cliffs surrounding the Valle dell’Anapo. The graves all have very square entrances, and some are so high up from the valley bottom, they left us wondering how they were accessed.
The fish market in Catania is famous for its produce and its atmosphere. Fresh fish caught early in the morning are haggled over in the local Sicilian dialect.
We spent four weeks living and volunteering on the slopes of Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. Having not erupted for eight months, she put on two displays for us. We watched lava fireworks from the safety of our caravan 6 miles away. On a day trip nearer to the erupting crater we were lucky enough to see the red hot lava flow and to witness this rare phenomenon of her producing a smoke ring.
Our work was to construct this wooden roof over our accommodation. Our host intended to help us but unfortunately cut almost the whole way through a thumb with an angle grinder just after we arrived and was incapacitated for the rest of our stay. He did cook us amazing Italian meals still. We enjoyed the challenge of building this with just the two of us.
Back on the road again, and Spring was very much underway. Blossom on the apple and cherry trees, and the verge sides colouring up. Cycling north to Messina, we watched a train bound for Rome being shunted onto a ferry, before taking our own ferry to the ‘toe’ of Italy.
The west Calabria coast was challenging cycling with big climbs and descents, but we were rewarded with green terraces and picturesque fishing villages. This one, Scilla, was shown to us by a Belgium cyclist we met who lives in Calabria.
Less well known than the Amalfi coast, the Basilicata coast was a real delight. Quiet roads, less touristy and stunning cliff views, we lapped up the cycling and the warm weather.
I thought I should include a photo of me. This is at one of the many ‘wild’ campsites we have enjoyed on our way up the boot of Italy. All different and special: a meadow flower filled terrace, behind a radioactivity monitor, squeezed between the Mediterranean and a railway track, at the back of a dune, in a dilapidated picnic site, and in a pine forest.
More Greek temples at Paestum on our only wet day since leaving Etna. I never knew that so much of modern Italy used to be Greek.
All roads lead to Rome and so that is where we are headed now. Just another 450km to go!