There she blows!

Posted by on 16, Mar 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Europe, Italy, Tilly the Tandem

There she blows!
Back row seats, Catania Amphitheatre
Not as good as the real deal…
Our Etna wheels…
Always smoking…
Crater hike..
Farewell Catania..
Etna foothills
Stoker’s view!!!
Coastal lunch stop
Goodnight and Goodbye Etna.

Catania is a UNESCO city, obviously not the rubbish filled ghettos, but the gorgeous majestic city centre. The buildings are magnificent and the place is filled with monasteries and tourists and there’s a Dutch chippy!

We did the tourist trail taking in the Cathedral, two Roman Amphitheatres, one of which had been converted to housing then reclaimed, the Odeon and the Roman baths under the cathedral and had a general wander about admiring the grand baroque buildings.

I can’t say I like the city – it never helps when you arrive through such a terrible area as we did –  but the buildings are made from basalt and the place has a dour look with all the grey buildings and roads, it’s almost in black and white!  But it is certainly impressive.

We booked 3 nights here so we could visit Etna!  We wimped out from cycling up so got a land rover tour to 1800m and then a walk up through the snow and on to some of the old volcano vents, which was great.

Linda, who doesn’t like heights or edges had to walk along the slippery snow to the top and wasn’t looking forward to the way back much but the guides took us all on the short cut down, where we all slid down the side of the vent on our bums in the snow, which was great fun and we were very glad we’d had the forethought to wear our waterproof trousers for the hike.

The next day we left the rubbish of Craptania behind and headed up the coast and found out first dedicated cycle path taking us out of the city, well, obviously not out of the city as cars had parked on it so we couldn’t actually go more than 20m without having to get off and squeeze past them.  We’d just found a stretch that had tank traps to stop the idiot car drivers from using it as a car park and some UPS driver suddenly pulled up across the dropped curb as the path met a road so we had to stop again! I’d had it with them and yelled at the guy, and he looked very sheepish and quickly moved his truck!  Well, Linda had expected me to get shot as she’s warned me not to yell at the idiots incase they are the Mafia!

We eventually found our way to the coast and there was a proper protected cycle path with a large mine field protecting it from cars and we wizzed along this by the seaside through some of the most prosperous tidy areas we’ve seen in Sicily. Plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels lined the road and looked not too shabby. It’s not St Tropez though!

This path petered out and shoved us back on to the main road before we slipped off into the countryside for some lovely cycling on back lanes.

But by lunch we’d only managed 23km in 3 hours due to the number of times we had to get off to get past cars, a big hill and photo stops for Etna pics and we still had 36km to go and it was already 13:30. This could be a long day and we were both already a bit tired.

It’s much harder getting on and off Tilly and stopping and starting all the time than just straight cycling and getting your ‘mojo’ , but the afternoon proved much more normal cycling and we managed to make up a bit of time time until we reached the inevitable road closed.

The main roads now are much much busier and we may have mentioned before how f@*!*@ crap the drivers are, so we try to stay off them as much as possible.

This road closed would shove us back on the main road for an extra 5 or 6 km so we chanced it and ignored the signs and ploughed on, literally into the sand.

Adamant were not turning around, we had pushwd and shoved Tilly through about 400m of deep sand, which isn’t easy at the best of times, but today we were both a bit worn out. But on these occasions you have no choice. You just have to get on with it, or sleep on the beach, so we pushed and pulled Tilly across the sand and back onto heavenly tarmac.

A short bit of main road, which was fortunately down hill saw us get to the outskirts of Taormina – a UNESCO hill town, which we’d wisely decided to stay at the bottom of the hill and take the cable car up rather than cycle up to it!

This is apparently where the film stars live, the sea front was full of restaurants and was a small one way street with cars parked on one side and therefore not enough room to squeeze past us… which obviously some still did. Why? The traffic was going the same speed as us most of the time, so why do car drivers absolutely positively need to get infront of you then have to brake or even worse turn of immediately at the next junction.

Anyway, I’d had enough of them and just took up the whole lane and made them wait. I really didn’t care if Don Corleone was behind us anymore… he could bloody well wait!

We climbed again round the headland and hopped off to walk rather than wobble up a main road with a low safety barrier and a steep drop and then came to some traffic light controlled road works at the end of a long fast downhill. We wizzed through the green lights and then climbed again and found that the road works were about 1km in length and we obviously couldn’t get through them as fast as cars so we met all the other traffic coming the other way, who weren’t best pleased to see a tandem coming toward them. But as they really don’t give a flying f@!?# about anyone but themselves, they weren’t about to let us through so, sticking to my guns I took the lane and made ’em wait, which surprisingly they did, but looked mighty annoyed about it.

Still, safely through we came down our last hill and the rear brakes started to sound a bit worn out, time for new pads tomorrow I think and we finally made it to our hotel 90 minutes late for our check in!…

One Comment

  1. Superbly entertaining as always!

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