We wanted to take one more trip before our time in Europe would be up. We tossed around a few places such as Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Sicily. In deciding where to go we wanted to be able to get to our destination with as little hassle as possible and it should be reasonably priced. Round trip plane tickets to Sicily were $55.00 per person, a short 80 minute flight from Lyon to Palermo, plus food and lodging would be fairly inexpensive. Also my grandparents on my fathers side came from Sortino, Sicily before making the journey to New York around 1914. Visiting the places where they lived was something that has been on my bucket list. So it seemed like the right choice, Sicily here we come!
Our schedule only allowed us a week for this last trip and we knew in advance it is not nearly long enough but we would make the best of it. Renée researched several things that we could do while in Sicily so we took off from Lyon not having any definite schedule. We just knew that Sortino would be on the itinerary. We were taking a late flight to Palermo that has us arriving at 10:20 pm so I wanted our first nights stay to be close to the airport. We found a B&B called Cinsi 89 which is located a few miles from the airport. We were pleasantly surprised to find this as our view from our balcony.
The next day we wanted to spend sometime visiting Palermo and would do this using the Splendid hotel as our base. The splendid is located on the edge of the sea, has a couple of salt water pools and was just right to relax and enjoy ourselves. Next we were off to see as much of Palermo as possible in the shortest amount of time. Renée found the Hop On – Hop Off bus that takes you through different parts of the city, comes with an audio guide and you can get on/off anywhere you like. This was a great way to see the sights before moving on to our next stop. The architecture in Palermo and it’s history was wonderful but the congestion and the trash that seems to be all over the city was a disappointment.
Our next stop would be the seaside village of Cefalu and the route there had us traveling along the coast. The scenery was beautiful and getting out onto the open roads was a treat after the traffic and congestion of Palermo. We visited the downtown areas of Cefalu and would have liked to stay another day but we had already arranged to spend the next two days visiting Mt. Etna.
On route to Mt. Etna, we had lunch in the town of Bronte, know for it’s pistachio nuts. You can enjoy pistachio anyway imaginable, as a nut, candy, spread, cooking oil, ice cream, in pastry and you can even drink it. We stopped at a shop as we entered town and sampled everything that was possible.
We found an old lodge that was located right in the middle of the Mt. Etna National Park and decided this would be a great place to stay in order to experience the park. The location was perfect with views of Mt. Etna in the distance. At first we thought we heard thunder, but it turned out to be Mt. Etna blowing up lava. All day you could see clouds of smoke coming up and once it got dark we were able to see the lava blast coming out.
While staying here were had a nice surprise because the owner invited us to a presentation at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Catania (observatory) which was located at the back end of the property, followed by a gathering back at the lodge. What luck. The presentation was about 3 hours long and we got to see Saturn, Jupiter and several other constellations using their telescopes. We walked back to the lodge where they were cooking Italian Sausage on the grill, Yum. Another great day!
In the morning we arranged a 4×4 guided tour over the lava fields and through the new growth forest. We had an amazing time, hiking over the numerous lava fields, and seeing the destruction that still remains from previous eruptions.
Whenever we are traveling and have the opportunity we always take the roads less traveled. Sicily will not disappoint you. We traveled hundreds of miles on gravel roads that you can barely get two cars to pass safely. this works until it doesn’t. We found ourselves in town and the road kept narrowing until we were unable to pass between two buildings. Women were yelling out of their windows using Italian hand gestures warning us that we should not continue. I am not sure what they were yelling but I think I recognized a few words my father may have said a couple of times. Finally realizing that we were trapped I asked a tour guide that was behind us driving a golf cart for suggestions on how to get out of this mess. He said to drive as far as we could, get out and he would drive the car through. He warned that he would be on the curb on both sides and that we should guide him. Having a sick feeling we decided that this was our only choice, he got in. Jockeying the car back and forth several times and retracting the sideview mirrors he now had a crowd. My Italian is not that great but I think people were placing bets on wether or not he could do it. After a few attempts and with less than 1/2 inch to spare on each side he got through. The crowd started to cheer for our hero. For a while I was thinking that I was glad I took the extra coverage on the rental.
The landscape of Sicily is very diverse with large rocky mountains, the sea, palm trees and a rich agriculture of citrus, olives, cactus, figs and pistachios. It was strange but I felt a connection with Sortino as we walked the city. After a couple of hours we were off to our last two nights of lodging in the village of Canicattini Bagni, not too far from Sortino.
We arrived at our last spot late in the day and thought ahead and grabbed some dinner and drinks to put in our refrigerator. The next morning it was breakfast and we could not wait to jump into the pool. The other resort guests must have planned day trips because we were the only ones at the resort. We spent all day relaxing, enjoying the pool and hiking the grounds. It was a great way to finish this trip.