Wednesday, 27 August 2014


We left Trapani and headed for Palermo but we weren't looking forward to driving through it. I also wanted to get to Corleone if possible. Palermo was hectic and so we decided to keep on driving straight through it. Traffic came from all directions and the motorway merged with the road that went through the city. We saw the turn off to Corleone but we'd have had to cross two lanes of traffic to get to it and neither of us fancied that much.

In the event, we decided to forget it and keep on towards CefalĂș which is a fashionable beach town but, apparently, not over-developed with tourism. The camp site in my camping guide was easy to find but there was a problem. Cars were not allowed on the site because they lock the gates at 11pm, and we couldn't take our car to camp with our tent so we left to find somewhere else to pitch up. Our tent was just big enough to sleep in so the car was the suitcase, wardrobe, kitchen cupboard and the storeroom so we couldn't do without it.

We didn't drive very far from CefalĂș when we came across the Rais Gerbi down the road at Finale di Pollina. The sites we liked the best during our trip weren't in my camping guide book and this was another little gem that didn't get a mention.

There were shaded terraces for the tents, which were cool and near steps that led down to the sea. We both loved the funky-looking white bungalows pictured above. If we ever make it back there then we might stay in one. They did look very inviting. The campsite was family run by a very friendly group of people. We had a swim in the sea but we didn't stay in long before heading to the bar near to the reception. As we sat in the heat, the owner stopped to chat with us and asked why we weren't down on the beach keeping cool in the sea. We explained that since the jelly fish sting we'd been wary. He told us that they can kill but, of course, this far down south the sea was "entirely safe."

By now, we'd gone from taking a leisurely drive along the coast, staying a few days at a site to see the area around, to a race to get off Sicily and back to the mainland. This was now, effectively, the start of our journey home even though we were still a long way from getting there. There wasn't much else we wanted to see on the island, after missing out both Palermo and Corleone, so we headed straight for Messina and the ferry.

Because we'd gone from camp to camp, and stayed just one night at each place, we hadn't done any washing for a few days. My other half's T shirts were a bit grufty but it was so hot, he decided not to wear one until the next camp when we could get it done.

The temperature was at least 39 degrees so it was with some relief that we stopped at a service station at Acquadolce for a drink and a refresher and to stretch our legs. I really wanted a cup of tea but getting a good one in Italy was always difficult. We did take a big box of Yorkshire Teabags with us but that ran out at Letojanni and since then we'd been buying whatever we could get our hands on but it was in danger of busting our budget at the extra cost of almost £4 euros every other day for a box of 25 Twinings. We're both fussy teapots and the tea has to be good. We tried the slightly cheaper Star brand but it was awful and the lesser expensive Liptons which was a bit better but still didn't give us the hit we needed that only comes from a nice cuppa with plenty of strength.

At various service station stops, I managed to get a decent brew. If they put too much milk in then I'd just get a black cup of tea and mix them, or I'd ask for black tea and then put milk in myself afterwards. My other half long gave up trying and had chosen coke as his drink of choice when on the road. I asked for an English tea at Acquadolce but the abrupt barman said no. "verde e limone" (green and lemon tea) was all they had so I declined and went for water which I don't find as refreshing. Tea lovers know for a fact that tea cools you down when it's hot and warms you up when it's cold. Water is just boring and it warmed too quickly in the heat.

As we pulled in, we noticed a police car parking up. After our drink, we prepared to leave. I made for the toilets and he went to the car. When I came out, the police were walking away from my husband who was putting on his least grufty T shirt that he'd dug out of the washing bag.

"I just got told off and told to put my shirt on by the police," he said.

The officers had approached him and in my absence he had absolutely no idea what they were trying to tell him. One pointed to his shirt and my husband thought he was just showing him his badge. "Very nice." he said, still bare-chested. The other police officer frowned, pointed to his chest and said "shirt - you - shirt."

The penny then dropped and he realised what they were trying to tell him. Perhaps they didn't like his tattoos, or perhaps it's thought to be indecent that men don't wear shirts in public although we'd seen plenty of bare-chested men on beaches and in beach towns so we weren't sure. He did as he was told anyway. Neither of us wanted to fall foul of the law in Italy.

We made it to Messina in good time but finding the embarkation point we needed was another round of madness, reversing, and doing U turns in the road. He'd long since dropped his English attitude to driving. Kids washed the car windscreen whenever we stopped at traffic lights and it got a bit annoying because one after the other, they wanted to be paid. We eventually got to the dock and began to drive down the traffic lane for boarding. My husband stopped and waited when I said that maybe we should check with the ticket office nearby before we got too far into the lane to go back just in case we were in the wrong place because we had a return ticket and couldn't travel with any other ferry company than the one we'd booked with.

As I feared, our tickets weren't valid there and we needed to get out and find the ferry we'd sailed in on. Unfortunately, cars were now starting to come in behind our car so we couldn't get out. He drove over the metal lumps that divided the lanes but didn't tell me until much later, when we were nearly home in fact, that the metal had ripped a chuck out of the car tyre that already had a nail in it and, like the other front tyre, cracked rubber.

We came off the ferry on the mainland at Villa San Giovanni. We didn't know where we wanted to go after that but we followed the boot round the sole and headed for Puglia which has become the new favoutite of the English and I can see why. I loved it.

More to come in tomorrow's blog post about Ostuni, Alberobello, women who line the road between Foggia and Pescara, and the contrasts we found between old Italy and modern Italy living side by side.

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