A few hours later we arrived at Villa San Giovanni, where we took the car ferry to Messina, Sicily. Again, the organization is illogical, but we did find the way to get to the pay toll for the ferry. The seller calculated 2 adults, 1 child and a van. Children be just quiet while we will drive into the ferry’s belly and show the tickets 😉
20 minutes later we reached the island Sicily in the city Messina. Already 10 seconds after the departure we were faced with the crazy traffic and the madness of the drivers. Pablo was sweating and we were happy to finally be in the next village. But it wasn't any better there either. The search for an ATM was difficult, but soon I found one. We had to admit that we couldn't get anywhere on the little village streets and therefor we would only arrive at the destination with a huge headache. We chose the highway. The costs were bearable, 8.40 euros for 190km.
Sicily is wonderful! The island in the very south of Italy is different from the mainland, and different from what the clichés suggest. I never thought how diverse Sicily is, how mountainous, how fertile, how rough and how worth seeing.
We also had one or two internal (or more road traffic) disputes with Sicily. It is not a sweet love at first sight that we feel for the island. It is rather a warm affection full of respect.
San Nicola l’Arena
San Nicola l’Arena is about 32 km from Palermo. In this small fishing village with about 1000 inhabitants, we rented a small house for two weeks through Airbnb. San Nicola is small but pretty. It is also peaceful and calm here. We were the only tourists, so we could watch the everyday life of the locals.
Not far from our village, in the middle of the Pizzo Trigna-Pizzo Cane nature reserve, is the Mazzamuto Cave, one of the largest in this area. It is a cave of considerable size, of historical and paleontological interest, and was inhabited by prehistoric people. It has a rich fossil deposit; the remains of dwarf elephants and hippos have been found there.
The San Nicola shop doesn't always have everything we need. So, the opportunity came to go to Termini Imerese, to visit and to look for a bigger Supermarket. Found a parking space and read and understood the complicated parking signs (we hoped), then we could explore the small town. We immediately liked it. The city has only about 25,000 inhabitants, so it is very assessable and yet it has everything. We found a supermarket. Since Termini is build on a hill, we had then to carry the bought groceries all up the whole mountain back to the car.
On December 6th, just in time for St. Nicholas' Day, we received visitors from Switzerland.
Our landlord is an Austrian guy who was stranded in Sicily more than 12 years ago. He wanted to show us the area around San Nicola. First, he showed us the village of Pollina. It is a pretty little village built on a rock. The museum is the main attraction. It shows how manna is won.
Shortly afterwards we were fed on an agritourism farm located in the area of Mount Madonie.
On the way back we stopped for a little stroll in Cefalù. The city lies at the foot of the Rocca di Cefalù, a 270-meter-high limestone rock. The city is characterized by tourism. Very pretty and ready for the tourists. Back at the car we had our first park fine. ☹
Regardless of whether you visit Palermo with or without children: this city is simply crazy! This is especially true for road traffic, which shapes our first impression, when we headed to the airport of Palermo. This time we visited Palermo by train (the app worked, just need sometimes a bit patience). I did not want Pablo to have a heart attack and visit him in the hospital 😊. Palermo is the capital of Sicily and with almost 700,000 inhabitants also the largest city on the island.
The proximity to Africa is noticeable in the city's history. It was Phoenicians, i.e. ancient North Africans, who founded Palermo almost 3000 years ago. Rulers and occupiers came and went: the Greeks, the Romans, the Vandals.
The city flourished under the Arabs in the early Middle Ages, and many influences in today's cityscape date from this period. At that time only Byzantium (now Istanbul) and Cordoba (in Andalusia) were bigger than Palermo in Europe.
We visited many interesting tourist attractions like; intersection "Quattro Canti, many small palazzi, Palermo Cathedral, the port of Palermo, Teatro Massimo etc. Our highlight was the park with the fig trees that grow not only from the bottom up, but also from the top down. The specimens of the Ficus macrophylla are in the Giardino Garibaldi (Piazza Marina), which is freely accessible. Strolled through the largest market (Market Ballaro), drank coffee here and there in a bar and tried different street foods from Palermo / Sicily. Then stayed until supper time to see the Christmas decoration sparkle in the dark.