So why do we make a mad dash across half of Sicily? Because we have had enough of old stone buildings and new magnolia boxes. Lent is coming and we wanted to have a good old knees-up before calming down for a month, and where better to do that than Acireale on the East Coast. This is the best Carnivale in Sicily and on its day is one of the best in Italy. So Tracy has hosed-down her carnival costume, got her feather boas out of the garage and we are off. It is a shade under a 160 miles drive (250Km) from Agrigento to Taormina via Enna and Cesaro and it took us just under three epic days to complete. Yes I know the gestation period of an elephant is slightly less but we like to be safe and sure.
The first leg from Agrigento to Enna was a bit like the classic Floyd album; ‘Dark Side of The Moon’, starting slowly and building to an epic finale with the lunatics being firmly on the tarmac and not on the grass, unfortunately. From the coast the road climbs over a 1,000 metres to the city of Enna, the highest regional capital in Italy. Why you would want to build a regional capital on somewhere like the top of Snowdon is another question and one not for this forum. The first part of this driving marathon is not too bad with parts of it resembling a dual carriageway and parts resembling a motor-cross circuit. We still can’t work out why you keep getting bits of uncompleted road sections between 2 EU sponsored dual-carriageways. Cynics would think this is to do with corruption and blackmail, but this is Italy, how could this be?
The highlight of this trip is the glimpses one starts to get of Etna, from a distance of 100 miles it starts to appear, this perfectly shaped volcano sits high and proud over its weeny volcanic siblings.
The city of Enna is in two bits with the new part on the valley floor and the old town that sits on its eagle’s nest high up in the clouds. We chose to head for the top and ignoring a ‘closed to vehicles sign’ parked up next to the castle with this view of the snow clad lump. Smoking.
One of the advantages you have when spending a rather long time to get from A-B is you can have a walk about and see more of this stunning island.
Enna is situated near the centre of the island; whence the Roman writer Cicero called it Mediterranea maxime, reporting that it was within a day’s journey of the nearest point on all the three coasts. The peculiar situation of Enna is described by several ancient authors, and is one of the most remarkable in Sicily. The ancient city was placed on the level summit of a gigantic hill, surrounded on all sides with precipitous cliffs almost wholly inaccessible. The few paths were easily defended, and the city was abundantly supplied with water which gushes from the face of the rocks on all sides. With a plain or table land of about 5 km in circumference on the summit, it formed one of the strongest natural fortresses in the world.
We found it mostly shut when we had a walk-round with more to be going on in the University-located valley. Still here are some more pictures available from this citadel in the sky and its amazing 360 views.
Yet to be renovated
Etna and Castle Wall
On leaving Enna the road deteriorates to such a degree our average speed on the leg to Cesaro reduced to a tad under 20 MPH. It was like driving on the back of a never-ending Spiny Dragon. You feel you are following the aftermath of a recent earthquake. The roads have completely collapsed with ridges, pot-holes and whole sections that appear to have slid down a valley. Some of it you think is the result of not building the roads to a proper standard in the first place, where is the Hoggin? My engineer voice shouts. The bits that have been repaired are just as laughable with a sprinkling of sand thrown into holes the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The up-side is you get to see the beauty of the landscape. And the sheep.
Looking back at Enna
At last a decent bit of road
Views to die for
We managed to find a car park opposite a hotel where the locals were having a Poker Stars night. The restaurant was only selling cakes, it rained all night and the town is about as interesting as Corby on a wet Monday. We left early in the morning.
Unfortunately the weather was not the best and all the anticipated views of Etna failed to materialise. The roads did improve once we got to the national park surrounding Europe’s best-loved volcano and made the final part of the journey far easier than the previous couple of days. The other thing that becomes clear as you drive around is there is not just one big vent on the top that is emitting smoke and lava, there are hundreds. Everywhere you see what looks like forest fires with smoke rising from all points on the mountain high and low. Here is a vent we saw close to the road.
In the middle of all of this is the town of Randazzo and dazzo it don’t. Although the Volcano has provided all the building material for the town it has also coated it in ash. Rain does not help but this place would still look grim if it was decked out like a council house at Christmas. Randazzo is the nadir of the entire journey and as soon as you leave you enter the Etna Wine Area and the whole ambience is on an upward spiral to our destination at Taormina.
Love to all
E & T