The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

Posted by on 12, Mar 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Europe, Italy, Tilly the Tandem

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…
Our first Etna view
As far as the eye can see..
Enjoying the coastal cycle path
Getting closer..
View from our B&B ????
The usual roadside accompanymemt… ????
Backstreet Catania…
Normal parking!
Parking like the locals!
Central Catania

Wow, we left Syracuse on a beautiful coastal cycle path and got our first glimpse of Etna as we rounded our first corner.  It’s enormous and slightly smoking at the top….or is that the cloud?

The cycle path led us straight into our road through the largest chemical works in Italy handily placed next to the most active volcano in Europe… Err….why?  Maybe it’s a plan to eradicate all the rubbish in one massive fireball when Etna does finally get fed up with all the crap left on its island.

It’s a long slog through the works, which we fortunately tackled on a sunny Saturday so traffic was less.  There’s only really one road and we didn’t venture off to see the nearby Roman remains as it’s right next door to some giant loil tanks.

Naturally it was very windy and got stronger throughout the day.  This wasn’t forecast? Maybe it’s to do with all that snow on top of the smoking volcano? The place stank, and we were pleased to eventually get though and off on to some tiny little roads where when we stopped for our cheese and marmite rolls under a tree in the shade and a guy stopped to give us a lemon!

To get to Catania you end up back on the main road and go over some hills then down on to the plains around Etna and Catania.  The wind now was very strong and we were a bit knackered after pedalling too hard on the main roads (we’ll never learn – we always do that!!). And found ourselves having to pedal down a 5% hill against the wind.  That’s the most annoying thing – you slog up it then don’t get the freebie roll on the other side, fortunately there was a shoulder but Linda was more scared on that road with its steep edges, fast mad Sicilian drivers and howling wind than any other we’ve  been on here and was not happy by the time we got to the bottom ????…

We reached our hotel and found they had given us a room with a fab Etna view, and had a nice meal in the attached restaurant, where as veggies we were offered the options on the children’s menu! Linda still needing a couple of large glasses of vino to steady her nerves after the hill escapade.. not include in the children’s meal deal !

Another windy sunny morning greeted us when we left the next day. and a main road cycle to Catania,.along the way we were overtaken by dozens of lycra clad racer cycling boys (and girls), some of whom only just got past us as we were doing a crazy 22kph to get off the main road quickly.

We made a quick stop at Lidl for restocking our snack supplies and couldn’t get parked in the bicycle parking because of the mopeds. Fair enough, they are 2 wheels I suppose.  As I sat waiting for Linda, 1 of the mopeds left and a car tried to nip in between 2 other mopeds. It was tight and as he reversed for a 2nd attempt a moped nipped in and beat him to it. So he just left his car in the middle of the car park and went shopping. I laughed at this and the moped rider laughed too, shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Sicily’.  That said it all!

We reached the madness and utter shithole that is the outskirts of Catania after leaving Lidl, a more rubbish filled poverty ridden run down depressing place would be hard to imagine. If you took away the cars you could imagine you were in Roman times, with street sellars BBQ’ing everything from fish to vegetables and smoke and smells mixing with the mountains of rubbish.

The buildings were dilapidated, the streets full of groups of men talking and there was a real feeling of neglect and abandonment.  We’ve cycled in many ‘dodgy’ areas over the years and been warned numerous times in the States to avoid certain towns that we obviously couldnt as we were cycling, but this was the first place even I thought, ‘no stopping here.’

And then, around the corner is the castle and the historic centre. You could stand on the ramparts and lob a stone into the ghetto. It’s still the Sicilan shabby that dominates every single building – plaster falling off, no sign of paint anywhere, rebar metal sticking out from walls etc – but the mountains of discarded rubbish are absent in the pristine UNESCO centre and high end stores that lined the main shopping street. Two contrasts couldn’t be more extreme in such close proximity. Our day finished here in a bar that sold Fishers Gin (made in Aldeburgh!) and our first proper Indian meal since we’d arrived in Sicily…????



  1. Great pics and you could try some name dropping for red carpet treatment…. Tony Canning went to Catania for the Customs exchange programme.

    • No!!!! Well the law enforcement people generally do bugger all anywhere round here.

  2. Great to find Fishers Gin! ????

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