Episode 19 of our European Roadtrip 2020

For those who prefer the vlog, it’s at the bottom (and check out the extra video half way 😉

We continue our search for flying sites on the island, but so far no good. We find places that maybe once were flyable, but now need lot’s of TLC. Sometimes the road is very bad, small or even not accessible anymore because it has become private property with a big fence. And then finally when we find a place that looks okay, the wind is too strong for any safe flying. We got a tip from an English pilot and make contact with a local paragliding pilot who is currently on a flying trip somewhere in northern Italy. So no luck there as well.

But we decide to not make flying our priority. We’re also here to explore Sicily and enjoy beach life. Because it’s the end of summer and most Italians have returned home, the beaches are empty. Almost every day we wild camp at the most amazing beaches on the south side of the island. During two weeks a big storm is hanging around over the sea just south of Sicily but thankfully it leaves us in peace. The seabreeze is very welcome during the hot days, but it abandons us at night which is not very favourable for a good night rest.

Looking for great places to spend the night on or near the beach? Here’s where we stayed:

  • 1. Via Lampedusa, 3, 96017 Calabernardo SR – 36°52’08.7″N 15°08’13.3″E
  • 2. Ponte Tenutella, 93011 Manfria CL – 37°06’24.7″N 14°06’01.8″E
  • 3. Punta Bianca (bad dirt road) – 37°11’52.2″N 13°39’46.4″E
  • 4. Contrada Bertolino, 92013 Menfi AG – 37°32’36.4″N 12°59’07.8″E
  • 5. Kite Laguna, 91025 Marsala, Trapani – 37°53’50.3″N 12°28’06.3″E
  • 6. Isolidda Beach, 91010 San Vito Lo Capo, Trapani – 38°08’39.2″N 12°44’09.3″E

Hidden in the Monti Iblei, not far from Modica, we visited the Cava d’Ispica, a deep gorge of about 13 kilometers long. Water created the gorge and the beautiful landscape. On both sides of the gorge you can find archeological treasures such as prehistorical dead cities (unfortunately quite overgrown), Christian catacombs and caves where hermits dwelled. We wanted to visit the cave houses in the gorge near Modica and stumbled upon a little museum by pure chance. It is called the Museo Cavallo d’Ispica. It is in an old millers house, or better, cave and was in use until the late last century. It has been transformed by the family of the original millers into a museum. The tour starts off with a ‘lecture’ from the millers wife and continues through an audio guide; do pay attention ;-). The rooms (several caves) are full with all kinds of household stuff and millers equipment. You could call them hoarders because there is so much to see. But go find out for yourself.

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When you continue in the gorge towards the north, you find other (empty) caves, some with paintings. And you can visit the archeological parc next to it that apparently is also worth the visit.

Sicily has a lot to offer when it comes to archeological sites. We decide to visit the acropolis in Selinunte where you can easily spend a whole day. It’s a huge area with every impressive remains of a time long gone. Not recommended though at 30 plus degrees or at least take the little shuttle. But then you can cool off at the beach afterwards.

When we continue to the west coast we drive past big salt lakes. An important industry here in Sicily. This is also the area where you find most kite surf schools. As we drive around looking for a place to spend the night we see a kitesurfer with all her gear walking along side the road, far from the beach. She couldn’t make it back, so we stop to take her with us for the last 5 km. After driving through some rough terrain, we drop her of on the beach. The owner of the kite surf school allows us to spend the night there, although it’s normally forbidden in the nature reserve.

On the most northern corner of the Island we encounter a lot of ‘forbidden to camp’ signs; after the first or somethimes the 15th of October it usually is allowed. But, we’re there too soon so we have to find another place. We stay the night at a nice bay where a soap is being recorded. It’s funny to watch how the actors repeatedly play the same scene on the beach. Unfortunately we can’t swim that day so we decide to go into the mountains towards two flying sites. Again we are stunned by the beautiful landscape of Sicily, the horrific roads and the enormous amounts of dumped waste alongside the roads. What a waste in such an amazing island…

When we drive into the town of Marineo we miss a right turn and end up in a very tight street. With less than 5 centimeters on both sides of the truck we find ourselves in a pickle… Luckily Koos steers (back and forth for at least 10 times) steadily past the suprised lady who sees us coming and we can continue towards Bolognetta where we will meet a local pilot the next day for our first flight here in Sicily.

We decide to drive up to the launch under the windmills although the signs are quite clear; forbidden to enter. So after midnight a car stops and a friendly guard tells us to leave with the help of Google Translate. Apparently big brother was watching us and he had to come driving all the way up to send us away. We quickly drive down and spend the remainder of the night in town.

The next day we meet a group a paragliding pilots and they offer to drive us up. As our Italian is hopeless and they don’t speak a lot of English, it’s difficult to get an idea of the XC possibilities. The whole groups flies to the west, but we decide to stay in the valley. As the afternoon progresses the valleywind increases and the thermal activity makes it almost impossible to come down! The landing field is quite steep with trees on two sides, bushes on another and a road with a fence to make things more complicated. It’s a struggle to land but finally we are safe on the ground.

Only one Italian pilot makes it back to cars, the others have landed in the next valley, meaning a one hour drive to pick them up. After all the pilots have been reunited with their cars, we spend the night at a lake.

Flying Bolognetta  – the only paragliding site we flew (and can recommend) is Bolognetta (37.9487, 13.4512). There are two take offs at about 770 m height and with a a height difference of 350 m. You have to drive up from the south side and take the road up (it’s forbidden to drive in, but not for pilots ) to the windmills. The coordinates of the (not very flat but big enough) landing field are 37.9495, 13.4664.

Unfortunately there is no flying in the next days so we decide to visit the Etna one more time. This time from the northern side. This side of the mountain is less popular than the south side, but it has a beautiful forest and picnick areas. After a nice and quiet night we are woken up by the whisteling of sheperds and the bleating of sheep. Etna is covered in dark clouds and all of a sudden a loud roaring begins which lasts at least for half an hour. Is the Enta going to explode? It does sound like thunder but we’ve never heard this kind of thunder. What is going on? And then it starts to rain cats and dogs with hail stones. And as always, after rain the sun comes out again. But not for long, so we decide to go for one more trip to the sea on the peninsula of Milazzo.

No wild camping there, but a very nice campsite with an amazing view of the sea on one side and the island on the other. There even is a little flying site on the west side of the peninsula, but now there is no wind… We spend a couple of days there and Mickey goes on a diet of lizzards… We cycle to Milazzo and go to the market, swim in the sea and then finally, as the storm has reached the island, we go back to northern Italy for some flying action and another meet up with our flying buddies.

So how did we experience Sicily? Unfortunately we don’t understand the habit of dumping rubish everywhere, burning the fields and not maintaining the roads. Our sadest experiences was with two separate salesmen who tried to con us when buying their goods… But overall we had a wonderful 3,5 weeks on this beautiful island, with definitely mostly kind and helpful people and amazing historical cities and archealogical sites.