|After getting out of bed at 5.45 am in Malta, we took a 90 minute ferry ride to Sicily. As is often the case, the port was nowhere near public transport connections and we were given a “tour” by a taxi driver before finally insisting on being left at the bus stop, as per our initial request. Emily texted at this point and we sent some bus station vocabulary for her to translate. Clearly fluent in Italian, Em promptly informed us that it was a public holiday and that our “blast off” was 6 hours away.When the bus finally arrived we were almost disappointed that it wasn’t a space shuttle, but thrilled to be on our way. Emily, la vostra assistenza molto è stata apprezzata ed il vostro italiano è in secondo luogo a nessun!
We spent one night in Syracusa, staying at a youth hostel. Wow, they’ve changed. Free internet, lovely bar and living area, free coffee and croissants for breakky, and heated towels. This place was great. Syracusa was nice too.
Next, we travelled to Taormina for a couple of days. Jumping on a bus from the train station to the town, we met a lovely bus driver who corrected our Italian in a cockney accent and appeared to be chairing an animated discussion involving most of the passengers. We felt like we were crashing a dinner party. Taormina is a beautiful, hill top town with Roman ruins and views of Mount Etna and the sea. Our plans to climb Etna were sabotaged by smog and cloud but we enjoyed it here anyway.
We then took a ferry out to the Aeloian island of Vulcano, where we climbed the volcano. We also took a dip in the mud baths and smelled like rotten eggs for several days after. Our final days in Sicily were spent in Palermo, with a visit to the cathedral of Monreal as well as the superb Greek ruins at Agrigento. The ruins were accompanied by some amazing sculptures by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj, and the visit far more rewarding as a result.
Leaving Sicily, we flew to Cagliari, the Sardinian capital. We stayed in a B&B in Cagliari’s castle district, relaxed and ate lots. We then hired a little Fiat and drove up the coast to Cala Gonone. Here we stayed on a farm for a couple of days and ate some wonderful feasts in the farm’s restaurant. We also took a cruise down the coast and swam at some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen this trip. After bidding farewell to our new farmer friends, we drove over the mountains to the west coast to visit the old town of Bosa and the city of Alghero. Sardinia operates at a much slower pace than Sicily and has a NSW south coast feel about it. It was a wonderful place to relax and ranks as one of our favourite places on the trip so far.
Apparently, you can’t arrange a visit to Corsica a week before, during the European summer. Our plan to sail from Sardinia to Corsica ended as we discovered most hotels were booked out for 2 months in advance, and those that weren’t cost more than €200 a night. This gave us extra time in Sardinia and allowed us to visit Milan, which we really enjoyed. Our faith in Italian fashion was restored here. We saw no purple, lemon or red pants, and no lace up T shirts, as seen across the rest of Italy! We also spent a day visiting Lake Como, but unfortunately didn’t run into George Clooney while there.
While in Milan we saw the fantastic Da Vinci’s Last Supper, painted between 1494-1499 in a refectory of a monastary. The painting has had a fairly difficult life since. Shortly after its completion, the monks cut a door below it, destroying Jesus’ feet. The building changed hands on several occasions and was used as a fire station and later as a stable by Napoleon. In WWII the roof collapsed after being bombed, and the fresco was exposed to the elements. It’s amazing it’s still in such great condition… and yes Dan Brown, John really does look quite girly.
Volcanoes and mudbaths.
The LOL hostel in Syracusa.
The Sardinian coast line- spectacular.
Sardinian farm stays.
Good wine and coffee. We’ve missed you both terribly!
Pastel coloured pants. Why, oh why, men of Italy?
Compulsory service charges and rude restaurant service. Chicken or egg?
Arriving in a country on a public holiday. Does anyone ever actually read that section of the Lonely Planet?