Book worm book count :28
Departing Palermo was hard – I could have spent a week there but the rest of Sicily was beckoning and so we embarked on our road trip to Taormina.
Collected by our fantastic driver for the next 3 days, Vincenzo, we headed towards Erice (pronounced E-Rechay), a wonderful tiny settlement way up on the top of a mountain. For a country plagued by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes they sure like to build things high up and perched perilously on cliff faces. I guess it speaks to the bigger threat of invasion. Sicily is a magnificent collection of various ruins of civilisations who have battled to own her from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, to the Normans to the Arabs – it seems every one wanted to benefit from the climate and the fertile soil. It means that you can move between cultures easily – too easily if you ask the small person!
Getting around is not as easy as it looks. Transport is, well Italian and worse than that Sicilian, so what looks like a simple 100 km drive can easily take you 3 hours across poorly maintained back roads that were designed for donkeys not cars. Vincenzo was brilliant at both navigating the roads but also guiding us through the history and readjusting my itinerary to take in places that we should not have missed. It was double the price of renting a car and driving ourselves – but absolutely worth it. (www.sicilylife.com)
As we headed out of Palermo, we stopped at Castellammare to admire the view. It was the first of many spectacular stops and views along the way.
After winding up a terrifying road (think Amalfi Coast!) we arrived on top of a mountain and the city of Erice The second benefit of a driver – no parking hassles and we were dropped at the high end of the town, to stroll down to the bottom and be collected there!
Covered in mist and all magical and quiet we wandered from castle ruins at the top all the way through the narrow winding streets to the Bell tower at the bottom. It is just like stepping back in time. As you drive to the city you become wrapped in a forrest with mist swirling all around us.
By the time we descended to the Bell Tower, the mist had cleared and we were able to see Sicily spread out below. Erice is a must see and it was not on my list – thanks Vincenzo!
As we drove back down the mountain we saw the salt lakes of Trapani and the stunning vineyards and olive groves of the Masala region.
Unfortunately none were open on a Sunday so we drove onto Segusta. It is one of many archaeological parks that are scatted all over Sicily. A well preserved Greek temple and theatre in the middle of nowhere – again no parking and getting a shuttle bus to the entrance, instead straight to the front gate.
Charlotte’s tolerance for “loosely arranged piles of rocks” was wearing thin – so it was on to Agrigento , via Scala dei Turchi to see the striking white lime cliffs.
Agrigento was our stop for the night. We were exhausted so chose not to explore the Valley of the Temples till morning, but instead swam in the pool at Villa Athena and gazed up at Concordia (the main temple) before retreating to our room to enjoy the sunset view. You can visit the temple at night. They are all lit up and I think if we had more energy that would have been a unique thing to do.
A dinner on the terrace overlooking them was enough. Tomorrow Syracuse!
Highlights from small heights
I personally was very upset about leaving Puppy Palermo to get into a car and drive for four hours to Agrigento. Well at least Erice and Temple Town delivered.
Erice was awesome as we slowly drove into the fog (well at least Mum says so, my head was in a book) and when we did get out of the car, Dad forgot to take any money (hilarious) so we missed going inside the castle. But despite that we still had plenty of what-Mum-calls-fun. My head was quite literally in the clouds as we wandered aimlessly through streets slowly making our way to the driver.
Next Stop: Temple Town (Segusta.) We went straight to the Temple of something and spent some time walking randomly around it before spotting the perfect spot for lunch (a bench under the trees) and sitting down to eat. Afterwards it was straight to the ice cream shop and then off to the driver. Here I come Agrigento!
Erice fun rating: 8 out of 10.
Improvement tip: Have the castle open and free for all and hmm…ah yes get more clouds, that’ll be interesting.
Temple Town fun rating: 8 out of 10.
Improvement tip: Not sure…maybe become something more than just a TempleTown.
Charlotte’s two top tips: Remember your money (Erice) and don’t stay there long (TempleTown)