We had just left Scopello after a very enjoyable week spent developing software and painting: We wanted more! But it was also time for a change of scene, so we drove on towards San Vito Lo Capo, another town that sounded quite promising.
A short and picturesque drive inland through pretty, rocky mountains, through a rather sad-looking town amusingly called ‘Purgatoria’, and through another deserted seaside tourist town. We followed GPS co-ordinates to a promising-sounding wildcamp that I had found mentioned on a forum: We ended up on the shore of a rocky, sweeping bay surrounded by mountains lightly dusted with dry grassy scrub: A strangely lunar-esque landscape, but a very beautiful one.
We stopped for lunch and a quick walk, but plagued by a low battery and plaintively beeping inverter, and wishing to have operational laptops, we moved on into the town of San Vito Lo Capo, in search of a caravan park.
Unfortunately, all of the caravan parks in the town were prohibitively expensive, unpleasant or closed, so we retreated for the night back to the wildcamp on the beach. We never cease to be astonished by the cost of occupying a few square metres for the night while occasionally using a few tens of watts of electricity! Went to sleep by the sound of waves — very restful — and our stowed satellite dish creaking in the wind — not so restful!
The following day we thought we’d take a quick peek around San Vito Lo Capo, then move on to greener pastures. In the process we spotted a ‘camper service’ sign and followed it to a quite delightful unofficial-looking camper stop — a little area right on the rocky shoreline to the north of the town, walled in with a fence of palm fronds and dotted with ground cover with little purple flowers. We called a phone number on the locked fence, crossing our fingers, and got through to a fellow who told me ‘diche minute!’.
Sure enough, he appeared ten minutes later and let us in and agreed on €10 per night to stay seven days — much more reasonable! I asked about water and he told us the water there wasn’t actually drinkable. Given that we were completely empty, we ummed and ahhed in our separate languages until he decided upon something, and directed us forward to what turned out to be his house! He ran a hose from a tap somewhere out the back and filled us up with drinking water, much to our astonishment and gratefulness.
So, all set up, we settled into our temporary new home, mere metres from the very blue water of the sea and with a grand view of the bay.
We spent the week there, continuing with our separate projects. The days were sunny and warm, although we spent them indoors! The nights were incredibly wild and stormy. The town’s power flickered on and off all night; quite a thing to see the entire town, visible from our bed facing the sea, completely lose power and disappear into the darkness. Lightning blinded us, rain pounded us and wind almost threatened to roll us over! It felt very cosy to lie in bed and watch it all happen outside.
One evening, keen to get a taste of the local cuisine, we wandered the town and found a delightful Arab-esque restaurant in which to try the particular mix of Arabic and Italian cuisine that is the Sicilian specialty. Katherine had a pistachio-encrusted hunk of her new favourite, pesci spada, and I had an interesting vegetable cous-cous, accompanied by an odd soup concoction that presumably was to be poured onto the cous-cous. The sweet mint tea we had after, topped with pine nuts, was particularly good.
For our final day in San Vito Lo Capo, we decided to venture out into the world, and drove the short, windy and spectacular road to the nearby Zingaro National Park. We strapped on our hiking gear and headed out into what turned out to be one of the most spectacular and beautiful places we’ve been on our journey so far. Neon green lizards sprang from the bright ochre pathway through striking dry coastal scrub, overlooking bright turquoise water met by white pebbled beaches. Quite a feast for the eye. At one point, we found a bush being visited by an indigo-coloured bumblebee! Our path ran along the coast, through a lush valley and up a rocky path that led high above the water and along over a number of hilly promontories. Beautiful.
We walked almost back to Scopello, then made our way back along the highland route, crossing comparatively barren hills with, at the latter part of the trek, amazing views over the coast, the soft form of clouds out to sea being reflected in the still ocean in the late afternoon light. Sunset happened around us as we were approaching the end of our trek, casting brilliant pinks and oranges around us, making the orange-coloured dirt path seem luminescent.
We certainly won’t be forgetting Zingaro any time soon!
With our seven days in San Vito Lo Capo behind us, we deemed it time to move on, and headed out towards the medieval mountain town of Erice, mentioned by our one-time French neighbours in Palermo. The drive there wound through the mountains, then met the suburbs by the coast, and finally switchbacked up the mountain upon which the little ancient town sat. With neither of us able to quite remember the directions our French friends gave us, we drove in and found free out-of-season parking, propped off the road into a very pretty wooded area. Opening the door after parking, the waft of crisp, clean wooded mountain air — leaf litter, grass, trees — caused fond memories of our hills home in Belgrave to spring to mind.
We went for a long walk around the town’s ancient cobbled streets and narrow alleyways; we craved pizza, found a pizzeria, and sat down only to find out pizza was off for the day — too bad; we had some quite tasty alternatives. Then more wandering: Derelict, empty houses, doors with colourful faded paint, bright red leaves of ivy climbing a few walls.
We climbed the tiny winding staircase of the bell tower, poking over the town’s roofs beside the church Chiesa Madre, and found our way back around the town by the amazing Castello di Vinere, a.k.a. the Castle of Venus, built over an ancient temple of a cult notorious for ‘sacred prostitution’ (Any excuse…), and now a hulking shape dotted with moss and hanging precipitously over the edge of the mountain. Behind Castello di Vinere squatted the smaller Pepoli Castle, neatly atop a rocky outcrop, a sheer drop beneath each wall. These builders sure liked to make things hard for themselves.
Back to our peaceful little wooded nook for the night, and after a final morning stroll around town we pressed on.
Regrettably, Nigel was up to his tricks again, and rather than take us around the city of Trapani like a good GPS navigator, he took us straight into its maze of narrow, traffic-clogged and confusing one-way streets before dropping out on us entirely due to poor satellite reception. Great. We ended up pointing the wrong way down a one-way street, no way forward, and the way behind us blocked by a stream of traffic. Much sweating, cursing and careful inching backwards later, we managed to reach the turn-off we had missed and continue onwards.
We drove south, turning east near Masala and driving through one of Sicily’s famous wine regions — unfortunately, it was mostly bare soil or dead vines, as it’s not really the right time of year. Having discovered no place to settle, we pulled over on a grotty road in Salemi, jumped online to do some research for our next move. An hour later, we had a decision, and headed south to Selinunte, home of some heartily impressive Greek ruins. Stopped at the caravan park we had identified, winced at the fee but stayed anyway; very tasty and cheap pizza in the attached restaurant.
A day wandering around the archaeological area (the picnic area could’ve been somewhere in Australia, buried among eucalyptus trees). We sat on a fallen chunk of temple column and read (from the Internet on my iPhone — an interesting contrast of old and new) about the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine, fertility and madness, whose ruined temple we sat upon.
We got quite lost heading towards the Acropolis, and took a long detour through some half-excavated plots. Interesting to see behind the scenes a little.
Thought we’d rest overnight in the empty car park, but got moved on by a grumpy official, and found ourselves a less-expensive, less-official but much prettier caravan stop for the night. The best ones are always the unofficial, cheap ones! Every time!
The following day, after doing some much-needed laundry, we headed out east, bound for Mount Etna national park which sounded quite promising. Very pretty rolling hills; raw earth and vines making a patchwork of colours. Evening crept up on us, and on a whim I took a little road off the highway. It led around a hill and we found a spot by the side of the road with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside, shades of purple in the evening light — beautiful, and very peaceful.
So, next stop: Etna.